27 December 2011


I read a borrowed 1950's Penguin paperback copy of 'The Blessing' by Nancy Mitford on my bus journey back home for Christmas. Towards the end a glamorous, powdered, female French aristocrat throws a party in Paris. The theme is famous parents and famous children, with guests having to bring along a trussed up son, daughter, neice or nephew. Never before had children been at such a premium...legal adoptions were hurried through at a rate never previously known in the department of the Seine.

The party becomes the talk of the town, and the upper crust turns up fully kitted out. Very soon the famous parents dumped their famous offspring at the buffet and left them there while they went off to dance, flirt, gamble, or gossip with other famous parents. The children happily stuffed away with cream and cake and champagne, all of which very soon combined with the lateness of the hour to produce a drowsy numbness. Every available sofa, chair, and settee now bore its load of sleeping babies; they lay on the floor round the edges of the rooms, under the buffet, and behind the window curtains. The grown-ups, all set for jolly evening, waltzed carelessly among their bodies. The party doesn't end until 6am.

Ingleside doesn't have parties like that (well, only on very special occasions...) but it does have ALL the food, ALL the booze, and all the waterfalls on very rainy, very beautiful Christmas day walks. A brother and I had been to pick up the meat from the butchers. SO MUCH MEAT. We had a sword fight with the obscene sausagemeat batons, and dripped blood all over the table. I didn't get the meat sweats as I am a vegetarian, but I did get the rich trimmings sweats. And the red wine sweats. Dad went on a booze cruise (in his car to Majestic Wine) so we will be able to deck out a whole Cathedral with stunning wine and champagne stained windows using the shattered glass of our empty bottles. These tasty panes may even keep the howling winds out. As we sang the nine lessons in carols inside our ancient Abbey on Christmas Eve we heard the winter weather circling the towers, haunting the rafters, heralding the onslaught of chocolate coin showers, epic cooked breakfasts, and sweet mullings of spiced alcohol.

The most hilarious present of Christmas day was a tile bearing the legend 'Home is where the heart is!' - the exclamation mark is the best bit. Perfect to hang above Ingleside's Aga. And I have my new Angel of the North mug to take down South, reminding me of my roots, cheering me with his open wings, looking like a big old dirty flasher. I love Geordies. I am the only true one in my family, having been born in Newcastle. Aye man. But instead of drinking Newcastle Brown, I'm drinking raspberry beer and reading new poetry from Alice Oswald. She writes of dead heroes in her version of The Iliad, and she is my heroine. Her book is the colour of Christmas - bright red, with 'Memorial' picked out in green. I'm so greedy for her words. And greedy for enargeia. Ancient critics praised The Iliad for its enargeia, which translates as 'bright unbearable reality'. This version, trying to retrieve the poem's enargeia, takes away its narrative, as you might lift the roof off a church in order to remember what you're worshipping.

11 December 2011

Artist, Shaman, Witch Doctor

I was in The Dover Bookshop in Covent Garden again this weekend. It sells copyright-free images. Nobody owns these images anymore so now people like me can buy them. There are images of every conceivable thing, as well as collections of beautiful illustrations by the likes of Arthur Rackham and Aubrey Beardsley. While I was pawing the cover of a Gustave Dore illustrated edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a white-haired man also stroked the title page. He asked me if I knew it, referring to the poem. O Coleridge! I wittered that I had studied it and loved it. He told me that it was the first book he ever bought when young, though the copy was not half as beautiful as the one before us. He was a very smiley man. The agonised soul with the albatross around his neck between the Dore-embellished pages may be rightly placed in this shop, as Dover Publications (who produce most of the items at the bookshop) is owned by a printing company which, among other things, prints Gideon Bibles. Trivia.

I have been in Covent Garden quite a bit of late, enjoying a very well-attended and cosy anthology launch at the Poetry Cafe and having a late dinner out at The Ballerina with my mother. I love that little Italian, with its hanging ballet shoes and hot ricotta pancakes and tiny tables so perfect for a gossip. We had also been to the Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum that day. The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman. I wanted to touch everything, all of it so tactile, colourful, ugly and beautiful. A man-sized visual feast of a ship was strewn and studded with casts of many objects from the museum, collected from many countries and eras, created by many unknown hands. It made mum cry. I was very struck by the little love tokens too. They are small silver discs, about the size of a coin, and bear engraved words and pictures of arrow-struck hearts. 'No heart so thru as mine to you'. 'By hammer and hand all arts doth stand'.

My notes from the day
This past week I happened to watch a TV show in which a delight of a stoned young woman headily remarks that 'there's this pollen in the air that smells like kissing'. This made me giggle then swoon a little. I also discovered a saying: 'kissing is in season when gorse is in bloom'. Well, one can always find some flowering gorse. It is getting colder and there is not a whole lot of pollen about, so we may have to make do with snatched mistletoe smooches and Eskimo kisses.

3 December 2011

New Project

So it's not quite frosty yet, but I have a perpetually split lip that floods and crusts with blood and red wine in equal measure as this season's festivities start to kick in. And I'm clumsier than ever; crashing into things, tripping over the edges of rugs, falling over my own feet. Yes, my own feet. The greatest irony of my life is that my first name apparently means grace (though I think more in the religious sense), and I was born on a Tuesday so should really be full of grace. The stars must have skewed their alignment or something as I emerged into the world with my foot all twisted up and awkward. A sign of things to come.

However clumsy and cold it gets outside, we have a thing of humming pleasure in the house. A projector lives in the attic bedroom. The attic is deep red with one white-papered end; the whole wall a screen for whatever we fancy. We lie on the comfiest floor-mattress ever and look up. We are in the scenes of what we watch.

We watched Pina, a film by Wim Wenders about the choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch. Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost. Dance for love. Dance for love. She danced as though she had a hole in her tummy. What treasure lies within our bodies, to be able to express itself without words, and how many stories can be told without saying a single sentence. The music and the physicality of this film, with its dance sequences so varied, so wild and quiet and loud and mesmeric, is all-consuming when viewed real close and big in a bedroom. It wasn't in 3D, but we were right there, wide-eyed.

We watched Alien. I had never seen it before, a sacrilegious admission, and this had to be rectified. Ripley and her heroics are fierce, she is role-model material, constructed from steel and sense. The darkness and fire made for nail-biting viewing, and though we were lying against pillows, we were really in the spaceship being voyeuristic members of the Nostromo crew. The alien was a disappointment I must say. From some angles it is a cross between a house plant and a dolphin. I like the cat. It is a survivor.

We watched sections of The Endless Summer, a 1966 documentary about surfing (surfumentary?). Two wholesome sun-tanned young American men chase an endless summer around the globe on a quest for the best waves. The cheeky-chap narration is hilarious. A woman's green bikini top is referred to as a 'chest protector'. Watching scenes from this sunny, bluesky, bluesea, golden sand film will stave off winter blues for sure.

Another use of the projector is to be a LAD and play video games. Play them noisy and really, really big. I tried to be a LAD for a bit, but ended up reading Vogue instead. Which is something I never do. But it was given to me so I didn't have to pay the extortionate retail price, and it had Tilda Swinton and Miranda July tucked between the gazillion adverts. It reeks of mixed perfumes and is about as heavy as the textbook copy of Chaucer's works I used to lug around. Well, almost.

I'm told that porn is pretty intense on the projector too.

23 November 2011

Charles Lamb once told Coleridge he was especially fond of books containing traces of buttered muffins.

The literary quarterly magazine I work for (the one seven floors up with the panoramic skyscape of London's landmarks and an office dog with a better hairdo than any human I have ever seen) had a readers' day at the lovely Art Workers Guild in the heart of Bloomsbury on Saturday. The building is run by a woman in a matronly smock who is the spitting image of Clarissa Dickson Wright, though, I think, rather more attentive and with a shinier, healthier glow. Almost one hundred subscribers, white of hair and keen of mind, flocked to be shown where to put their coats and where the loos were by a rather excitable me. I had got the bus in first thing with my eyes all swollen and uglified, which was so not cool for the likes of Penelope Lively and her distinctive specs. I thought I may look pained and fragile, which would be appropriate for the talk on the Romantics later. But it turned out that Sue Gee was rather in awe of my outfit, using hand gestures and open-mouthed silent expressions to make this known to me at the sidelines of the Great Hall. She asked where I had got such such pretty things, to which I was forced to admit in mumbles that all items were from charity shops...

The day was a success of lots of tea cups and copious hot tea, overcoming dodgy slides of beautiful wood engravings that illustrate Victorian classics, the Romantics abroad with their reveries in Lake Geneva, perching on steps at the edges of a very red room plastered to the rafters with portraits of the great and good, anecdotes aplenty about all of Graham Greene's fascinating relatives, and the most amazing cakes piles high on a gingham tablecloth. Oh my, the cakes.

Frances Donnelly is a writer, an expert on the aforementioned Greene, a contributor to the quarterly review and works for BBC Radio 4 (!). She also happens to make beautiful, rustic, masterpieces of cakes by the delicious, and hefty, batch. She loaded the heaving table with coffee and walnut rounds, Victoria sponges sandwiched with fresh home-made raspberry jam, chocolate buttercream slabs, apple crumble wedges, gluten-free orange slices, a monstrous four-tiered lemon curd cake and sugar-dusted lemon drizzle squares while wearing her pinny, covered in icing sugar, hair wild and eyes bright. Then she removed the pinny, put on her spectacles, and sat down with her notes to prepare the rather compelling talk she was going to give to the seated mass. She is a dream wonderwoman. And she smiles. I want to be her when I grow up.

The metaphorical cherry on the top. Masterpiece.

16 November 2011

Not only was it Observer Food Monthly this weekend just gone, which is a joy in itself, but it was Observer Food Monthly CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. So great. Salivate. Sunday is my favourite day, made all the better by food porn. And Nigel Slater included a mustard-heavy recipe. I love mustard more than most. And this recipe is the bomb because it doesn't involve many ingredients or much effort. I don't really do cooking, so this is my kind of thing. It is just butternut squash, onion, a pint of double cream, salt, pepper, and four heaped tablespoons of wholegrain mustard, baked for ninety minutes so it is all gloopy, with a slight crust, and seriously mustardy. Total drool. Thanks Nige.

This girl is a winner

Mustard is so dreamy, though not in a soppy dreamboat kind of way, as it has bite. Bite, not pep, because pep sounds way too American cheerleader, which mustard is not. Me and him got through two large jars in a month. And that is not unusual. When we have roast dinners (or, indeed, any dinner) at home, I always have both wholegrain and dijon in dollops, and your run-of-the-mill-though-still-sensational English stuff too obviously, if there's any going. A guy I knew once bought a big tin of the powdered stuff which he would mix up into a paste. I think he only bought it because the make was the same as his sur-name. I saw a list of the world's oddest, most niche museums in a paper the other day. There is a mustard museum in Norwich. I do not think this is odd, I think it is a Grand Day Out. I of course checked out the Colmans Mustard Museum online. Visitors can 'discover beautiful and historical mustard items'. Intriguing. They can 'find out how Jeremiah Colman started his mustard empire'. Educational, and also brilliant that Mr Colman's first name is Jeremiah, a fine name for a mustard. And they can 'sample a range of delicious mustards'. Which is the whole point, I would say, of going to such a place. Whenever I have been to Norwich it has always been really sunny. Without fail. Now I know that it's because they have a big old yellow mustard sun shining over it all the live-long day. Yum, mustard sun.

12 November 2011

A whole month has passed and I have been quite out of the norm and right into a loch. Turns out my Great Uncle Michael counts bats. And sometimes newts. So going off to count birds was pretty much inevitable. Genetically speaking. We arrived in the very middle of the night, in fact just after, with loud suitcases and torches that probably woke the whole farm with light in windows and made birds make screaming haunting sounds. We fished the key from a moss-covered fairy tree-stump outside the front door. I thought there could be someone in the other bedroom because there was a toothbrush already in the bathroom. So I whispered while we opened wine and toasted the beginning of Operation Scottish Adventure. I was less stupid in daylight. Toothbrush mystery remains unsolved however.

A lot happened in the quickest month of my life, and I don't want to be a borelord, so I did some journal trawling and picked out little passages. I've added authentic and genuine photo evidence so it's clear I'm not making the whole thing up. SO...

Where we were
Bogbean, bruised knees, blue lips, hot hot baths.
Reading Anais Nin erotica all the time, and Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach in one evening on the sofa.
ELUSIVE BITTERN (that we failed to see - I don't think it was elusive, rather a phantom)
Home from home - the flat has Pride and Prejudice on VHS. White shirted Darcy all wet from the lake. And Emma. And Persuasion. And A Little Princess (!!). PERIOD DRAMA.
Faffing with the cairn as the ducks laugh.
In a canoe on the loch, pulling up reeds by the root. Boat of vegetation. Cold wet hands in workman's gloves. Wading in water, getting stuck in mud, weird to walk on land again. Splashing water over dry-suits and hang them on the line in the dark ducket, heavy feet swaying. So creepy.

Cold Comfort Farm characters, but with Scottish accents.
I have bruises where my kneecaps used to be. Purple, stormy and tender.
Bogbean sounds like something out of Roald Dahl. No beans but sometimes flowers and always tentacles.
Lapwings sound like tuning a radio, like interference.
Peeing in a stream then eating sandwiches sitting on a wall by a bridge in Kirkton of Kingoldrum. The best sandwiches - brown bread sliced thick, cheese, lettuce and so much mustard.
Neeps and tatties and vegetarian haggis with mini bottles of red wine at The Three Bellies Bray on a Friday night.
Haggis, neeps and tatties
Scrambled batter with damson jam for breakfast.
Mink Raft Day is the wettest. Clay and droppings and so much rain. One thigh prickled from nettle stings, the other from a barbed-wire scratch. Fingers crossed for no tetanus. My bones wet and shaking. Then both thighs prickle from heat: heater right up close blowing hot air. Cider With Rosie, smell of very old paperback, eating malt loaf, a ginger nut and a clementine in bed. I feel like Chistmas. It is still raining.
Grilled cheese and mustard and beans on toast, tumblers of whisky. My cardigan has yellow wool flecks in amongst the green that look like mustard splodges. This has been a week of yellow mustard that bites at my nose.
STELLA FOR £2.20!! A WHOLE PINT. A Stella and a Snickers is the most amazing thing.

Hobgoblin and Stella
Wearing dry-suits is like being a Power Ranger.
Clearing away mermaid hair. Silver fishes in the tangles. Uncombed mermaid hair clogging the loch plug. Takes too many throws of the grapple, so we wade through plaited mass, undo the braids.
Torso deep in swamp and weeds/lying in a hot bubble bath, getting all clean and listening to The Velvet Underground's Femme Fatale.
He made gratin in ramekins - ramekin gratin ramekin gratin.

Exploring is the Best Thing. Wake to wind and rain in the dark then it's dry-suits in bogs and swamps, finding dead cygnets and wood all bitten by beavers. Up to our ribcages in swamp and rain and mud and mist.
Hanging binoculars hammer my bladder.
Dry-suit slung over a rake handle and held between us like the fruits of a day's hunt, like stag or boar, or a person if we were cannibals. We hid it under an upturned wheelbarrow under a bridge, the feet sticking out like a dumped dead body.
A dark walk home after getting drunk and the English aristocrat who thought we were roe deer. 'I saw legs'. He didn't invite us to his manor to drink brandy.

'The terrible truth is I think we're coming down with colds' and the pheasants shrieked.
Corduroy hands. We are forever making corduroy hands. Skin printed from being pressed in legs.
BRAVEHEART. A Mel Gibson production with bad hair and blood. They may take our lives but they will never take our freedom. Watching William Wallace hung, drawn and quartered while eating chocolate raisins. Hollywood Scotland. I wanted something epic with our lentil soup.
Rigor mortis rabbit with jaws clamped around a root, and an ice cream sundae as big as my head on Halloween.
Peach Melba
The kettle is boiling a lot quicker here than in Scotland which is kind of blowing my mind along with making my tea more promptly.  


9 November 2011

In bed with Laurie Lee

'She was, after all, a country girl; disordered, hysterical, loving. She was muddled and mischievous as a chimney-jackdaw, she made her nest of rags and jewels, was happy in the sunlight, squawked loudly at danger, pried and was insatiably curious, forgot when to eat or ate all day, and sang when sunsets were red. She lived the easy laws of the hedgerow, loved the world and made no plans, had a quick holy eye for natural wonders and couldn't have kept a neat house for her life'  - Laurie Lee's mother in Cider With Rosie

'Then she took off her boots and stuffed them with flowers. She did the same with mine. Her parched voice crackled like flames in my ears. More fires were started. I drank more cider. Rosie told me outrageous fantasies... For a long time we sat with our mouths very close, breathing the same hot air. We kissed, once only, so dry and shy, it was like two leaves colliding in air' - Rosie and Laurie in Cider With Rosie

Warm afternoon wrapped in my dad-sized wool cardigan and elephant bed-spread I'd brought with me from home, after being soaked to the bone while out checking mink rafts floating in burns and barbed wire slicing my thigh. SO COMFORTABLE despite the stinging. Delicious orange Autumn, citrus, butter and ginger.

6 October 2011

Orange Everything

PROPER AUTUMN at last. We now have an October without the Indian Summer. Piles of leaves and new brown Doc Martin loafers with yellow and black striped laces. And I made the perfect Autumn dinner dish. A Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall recipe and so so rich. Orange sweet potato gratin with crunchy peanut butter. Layered creamy garlicky ten-pence-piece-thick slices, with dollops of peanut butter mixed with lime juice and a dash of oil running through the middle, all heated up in our oven that howls and whistles when the grill is on. Melty velvet and the most comforting thing. I think someone like Martha Stewart would approve. She has a magazine dedicated to Halloween which has a picture of a girl with home-crafted butterflies attached to the corners of her eyes on the cover. A Martha Stewart Halloween, what a wonderful thing. This is one of the costumes:

Bee Hive Plaits
We have been eating a lot of honey that came from rooftop hives in Clerkenwell, mostly in hot water or lemon and ginger tea. Staving of illness with sweet and runny honey that has hints of citrus fruit. But I'm soon headed for Scottish midges rather than Clerkenwell bees. And for wetland birds more than anything. Living by the Loch of Kinnordy for a month. Me, him, the birds and October.

28 September 2011

NEW HOUSE. A perfect house with wooden floors and so much space and so much lovely old furniture and crockery. It has a name not a number, and crawling vines, ivy leaves, orange-coloured pear tree seen through my window, overgrown garden that we will hang lanterns in. I have a four poster bed with pink and yellow drapes (so high and with two mattresses like the princess and the pea) and a closet as big as my old room I swear. He has fairy light lips above his bed that take up the whole wall in one big smooch. Piano/guitar/singing filters down through the house. Turkish flatbreads and hummus and supersized cans of chickpeas from across the road whenever we want, which is always. Triple-stacked slabs of gingerbread tied up in bags, a cross between bread and cake and excellent for breakfast. Doughboys cooked in stews and rollies and beer and mismatched chairs in kitchenSLASHdining-room. We move mattresses up and down stairs, in and out of attics, and belly-flop onto them. On a final visit to the old flat I buy an outfit for £2.50 from a Hackney charity shop called 'The Charity Shop'. We go on a group trip to an intimate acoustic FUR gig in Kennington for Ethio-jazz and cello and words that rhyme, innit. Woah, such quick, awesome words. And we have an Autumn that thinks it is Summer. But it is still Autumn in the mornings.

I finally watch Twin Peaks (!!). Audrey's sweaters and, good God, the lined up doughnuts.

21 September 2011

'It is her name I have sung'

Fox and 'follow your heart'
MOVING HOUSE. So I'm picking at blu-tak in my blue box with its bright light and flying daddy long legs (plural). I find my ACDC t-shirt and a 3D flamenco dancer postcard sent from Spain over a year ago. The three of us roomies have pink fizz and too many cookies and brownies, taking a breather from cramming cardboard.

Clearing up and clearing out. There is a hummus explosion in my bag. They'd said my new phone shouldn't even be near water vapour (that's what killed the last one, apparently) so thank goodness my umbrella bares the brunt. That and my library copy of Lachlan Mackinnon's Small Hours. Thick chickpea paste between pages. I won't be able to look the sweet beardy Poetry Library man in the eye when I return it. Though maybe I'll pay to keep the copy. It is so good.

Part two of Small Hours is the Book of Emma. Prose poems with no commas that remember dead Emma, a girl he went to university with. They attended modern poetry lectures together. She left an impression that he turns into ink. Full of coffee, wine, books, the Bodlein library, her novel under her bed, thinking of her 'vanishing for whole days to blaze away' on her unfinished masterpiece. 'She was brilliant'. That is how the book begins. It ends with this:

So little book go tell them all.
Oh Emma

So Chaucerian. But Oh Lachlan too, as it is as much his book as it is Emma's. 'As a courtly lover Troilus becomes a better person because of his love for Criseyde. It was like that but without desire. Oh lucky poet.'

A lucky poet he is indeed, with his links to Woolf and Lowell. And the own links he makes to Hardy and Graves. A lucky poet, but a good one too...
'We saw the outside of Monk's House then went to the field my distant cousin Virginia Woolf walked through on her way to drown herself in the River Ouse... Her novels have always quickened claustrophobia within me.'
'Robert Graves had the lyric poet's habit of falling in love. It seems he truly believed that each girl was a literal incarnation of his muse. Poets have believed madder things.'
(And on Hardy) 'Overcome with grief he wrote the Poems of 1912-13 which are his great achievement. In them he talks to a ghost. Her name was Emma. Emma Lavinia Gifford. Your name was Emma Smith.' He then talks to Lowell about Hardy's women.

'I fell in love. Moonstruck. Mooncalf.' he writes about another girl. He is not in love with Emma. She is different, on another plane.

Emma is as follows: 'A nunnish ardent mind perhaps. Indeed she looked quite like Anna Akhmatova as her lover painted her. Aloof and tall. Half nun half whore Zhdanov screamed. Emma had lovers but she was not promiscuous.'

'Like some weird elementary particle you flicker in and out of some being. You are given and you are taken away. You are not named. Emma.'

She fell off Lundy island. He names her. She is remembered. 'You are an open wound in me'.

While packing up my life into boxes and bags I finished the new Hollinghurst tome. It is all about poets and legacy and biography. It was heavy and awkward to carry around. Interestingly these things don't get lighter the more I read.

14 September 2011

Life Drawing

Held in an arts factory that looked like a church crayoned in primary colours. Run by a cliche of a lovely woman in black clothes and eyeliner, with scarves in her hair and 'statement' necklaces hanging in her bosom. All eyes on the shaky man who either chose bizarre strenuous poses or looked like he'd fancy a nap. Made me wonder about him - where does he live, who are his friends, does he have any friends, is he a middle-aged cat man, why does he do this, does he model for the money or to get out for an evening or for the good of aiding the arts scene of north London or for the thrill of being watched naked? He had an interesting body. He shut his eyes and I thought about what he might be thinking. I got a bit bored so started to add words to my sketches, along his pencilled outlines.

Thanks to work for the borrowed pencil, and to the guy who did energetic charcoal drawings for the big sheets of paper.

8 September 2011

...A poem unfurled from you
Like a loose frond of hair from your nape
To be clipped and kept in a book. What would stern
Dour Emily have made of your frisky glances
And your huge hope?  

Wuthering Heights, Ted Hughes

...The one upright
Among all horizontals. 

Wuthering Heights, Sylvia Plath

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath

Bright Star, John Keats

6 September 2011

Rambling Man


 FRENCH WEDDING. Red wine out of tumblers while sitting on my parents' bed. The best hangover-cure home-made yogurt for breakfast with a rainbow of such jammy conserves at our B&B with window shutters. Visiting marshlands that weren't 'marshy' enough, and a cathedral with a shrine of tiny shoes, and a market made up of rotisseries - turning, browning, mini-chickens. A charmingly drunk 80 year old maitre d' who was an expert on chicory (endives) and pushed champagne like it was going out of fashion. A woman named the little-girl-romantic Delphine. Pungent goats cheese piped into plastic shot glasses. Feather wedding dresses, marshmallow kisses between men, desserts in a dozen flavours of delicious eaten crosslegged on the lawn so I flashed my pants, perfect figs - 'the food of the gods'. Nine hour party of feasting, drinking, dancing and the macarena. French sweets, a different kind for each table, Carambar nostalgia and filling his pockets with pear-flavoured lozenges as we left. I kept my freshblood-red high-heels on ALL NIGHT, the blooms of rose clusters hiding my blooming, swelling, red toes. Kicked them off and slept like a log at four in the morning.

WELCOME to the beginning of the End of the Road

We travelled to the END OF THE ROAD. Four days of sleeping on slopes and mulching grass. Such good song-writing - Laura Marling, Emmy the Great, Allo Darlin'. The enigma that is Bob Log III: a man in a helmet, wearing a blue velour jumpsuit, using stolen telephones as microphones, getting people pregnant with his guitar tracks, requesting girls to sit on his knee, and making fun infectious, so joyously pleased with himself. Jessica Larrabee of She Keeps Bees playing as if she really was playing for herself, for the exhileration of it, so like Patti Smith. The Growlers taking me to Californian beaches and into a Hunter S Thompson novel. Frozen yogurt infused with elderflower and honey, burritos, nachos, potato wedges, soup heated on the stove between tents, GIN, wine-bag babies, so much warm flat beer from cans we drank all day everyday. Rolling tobacco, zipping sleeping bags, putting up tents in the dark and being prickled by stinging nettles. Fainting in the sun while listening to tUnE-YarDs, hitting my head, being carried by two boys either side who entered my dreams as if they were men I didn't know, feeling so heavy I thought I really best wake up and help them carry my dead-weight body. Sitting in warm hay as we all talked and talked and drank hot brandy cider. Fairy-lights and lanterns and paper birds strewn in woods, discovering a dreamland at night with Midsummer Night's Dream people-visions hanging and lying and sitting in every bower and nook and glade. An Oxfam stall on site - it was that kind of festival. A sunburnt/blushed face and patches of peeling skin now I'm home. And Bloody Marys for vitamins in the pub where Virginia Woolf used to drink to celebrate the end of my dissertation.


20 August 2011

'Now a major motion picture'

For two days I was a cliche. I was a woman reading David Nicholl's bestselling 'One Day' on London public transport. It made me really self-conscious. But then I got into the novel, and all I could think was 'I must read and read and not stop until I finish'. A guy at the back of an empty no. 30 on Thursday night tapped and tapped my chair saying 'Excuse me' for a good long while before I realised he was part of reality and I was too and that he was trying to ask me the time.

In my defense, I needed narrative after Stevie Smith's 'Novel on Yellow Paper', a novel so evidently written by a poet...

But now I've finished 'One Day'. Phew. I finished it all alone in my flat, a snivelling wreck, a tear stained mess in pyjama bottoms and my UCL hoodie now dyed pink in the wash. I have the flat to myself and have so far: drunk down a bottle of pear cider in five minutes last night, eaten cereal out of mugs, listened to the cool neighbour's music come through both my window and the gap under the front door - summer classics that deny the rain, well and truly sustained my Pepsi Max addiction... I rashly bought 12 cans the other day, thinking this would save me money as I buy at least a can a day anyway. But it means I guzzle it pretty much continuously. I may make things out of the empty cans: a truck, a dress, a rehab centre for those who abuse caffeine, phenylalanine and fizz, my DISSERTATION.

15 August 2011

Scotch, Pipe and Slippers...

The high point of my Dream Weekend (Isle of Wight whisky grins, a golden 57% straight from the cask, tastings by the sea, ginger ale and whisky cocktails on a catamaran, free umbrellas/scarves/hip flasks/radio ear pieces, stolen whisky glasses, quail eggs thrown from canapes, a perfect firework display launched from a barge only metres away, hot toddies with cloves, mugs of tea and crosswords after midnight, cake straight from the oven for guests no matter what the time, wandering along Keats Avenue and past Rivendell where Tolkien wrote his trilogy, sea winds, Kevin Spacey being all kingly and captivating, hokey-pokey ice cream in little tubs, Lebanese food in Marylebone, bites of baklava, Sunday morning flower markets and chai tea lattes while walking through the park) was a Friday night drive from the harbour to his home. Roof down, blanket on my knees, dark night, over 80 mph, hair flying and knotted, head back and eyes watering, looking up to the stars and shouting loudly along to John's '8os Mega Mix'. Power ballads at the top of our lungs.

7 August 2011

Dream bedroom
After going to see Harry Potter at the local cinema then eating pizza and drinking beer and chatting with my parents, I went to bed and instead of trawling the internet for pre-sleep entertainment, as is my habit of recent times, I read until I dosed off. In my childhood bed with its elephant bedspread and pillows piled high. I read The Virgin Suicides, having dug it out from my bookshelves that I stocked through my teenage years. I didn't quite finish it so had it in my bag on the train this morning, but that's where it remained. I just stared and stared out of the window as I hadn't got to bed until after 4.30am and more than a dozen superstrength cocktails, pre- and post-lash lasagne made by a best friend and a nostalgia playlist on a loop. I did not want to be the virgin suicide girl in amongst the crowd of very young Scottish men who crashed my solitary seating arrangement and who were dealing with their hangovers in a much more chirpy way.

A week of books and my queen-size bed. Stevie Smith Penguin paperbacks and strawberries. It turns out that Stevie attended the same sanatorium in Kent as my mother did. They were both seven when they were sent there, but in different eras of course. It was where they both developed an obsession with death. My mum had a pair of her knickers stolen by another girl. This is still a sore point.

My bedroom shelves are crammed with Judy Blume. I loved her, and got stupidly excited when I discovered that there is girl band called 'Judy and the Blumes', kicking myself that I didn't think of it first. Are You there God? It's me, Margaret is a particular favourite novel. A friend was convinced it was called Mister God, this is Anna, which I found weird and hilarious, and she was immediately chastised for such an error. HOWEVER, it turns out the book does exist. It's by Sydney Hopkins and on the first page it states:

"At five years Anna knew absolutely the purpose of being, knew the meaning of love and was a personal friend and helper of Mister God. At six Anna was a theologian, mathematician, philosopher, poet and gardener. If you asked her a question you would always find an answer."

I think I'm going to have to track down a copy.

This week has been books and many many cans of Stella. Which is rather lovely, as there has been an awful lot about Stella Gibbons in the literary news of late. There's nothing nasty in the woodshed round these parts, but there are very loud woodpigeons. I've learnt to drown them out while reading, just about...

2 August 2011

Home-made hummus and so much garlic bread

Brie as big as my head
I say I look like a middle-aged male American tourist. My father says I look Pre-Raphaelite, but the morning after. Rough round the edges.

I walk downstairs and there's a man I've never met in the kitchen. My mother says 'This is Anna. She doesn't always look like a bag lady. She's locked in her room writing her dissertation'. The thing is, I do always look like this.

I drink Stella and sit in gazebos that we gradually turn into a Bohemian den. My brother wears a poncho following a diet of too many spaghetti westerns and an overdeveloped Clint-lust.

We use whole bulbs of garlic for a feast. Anti-Vampiric with health benefits.

I eat leftover trifle for lunch in front of my computer screen and say aarrrrggghhh. I say it, not quite screaming. Yet.

I actually buy blue suede shoes. For reals. They are little boots with embroidery on the outside and a check-print inside. Not really quiff and snake-hip shoes, but blue suede nonetheless. Don't you step on 'em.

I am told that relationship equilibrium is getting a cleaner. This is both decadent and dull. No equilibrium for me just yet, hence too much diet coke, procrastination, panic, sleeplessness, back-ache, red wine and watching Benedict Cumberbatch on Terence Rattigan when I should be doing pretty much anything else. But equilibrium is for squares, yes? I'm a bit too skewiff.

28 July 2011

I had planned to listen to Elliott Smith all evening long. Instead I watched a BBC4 documentary on the WI and looked and looked at the photographs on this beautiful website and made some Virginia Woolf notes in the margins of notes that make up all notes of my dissertation. I could build a tent out of my notes and sit inside it happily. Quite, quite happily not turning my tent into a thesis. I'd rather gawp at the next episode of The Hour (my mobile phone now knows the word 'Whishaw' through so much over-use). I imagine/HOPE Anna Chancellor is my namesake - wearing wide-legged trousers, producing whisky and cigarettes for her friends after a hard day on a 1950's newsroom set. And, of course, she did play Caroline Bingley to perfection.

This evening I plan to PACK. Packing up my notes and hardback library books so I can pitch my tent in my Northumberland bedroom.

25 July 2011

Scrubbing meat trays on a Monday morning

I love Rosamund Lehmann. A friend who also loves her, and who thinks Rosamund writes the insides of girls' heads (thus mine and my friend's head) in a spot on, pitch-perfect stream of consciousness despite us now being twenty-two and twenty-three years old, tracked down the sequel to the beloved Invitation to the Waltz in a second-hand bookshop. I got a text from her the other day saying 'the weather in the streets is brilliant but sad'. It was pouring with rain at the time, the worst my uncle from New Zealand had ever seen in London. I thought at first my friend was being deep and poetic in regards to the state of the weather. Of course she was actually referring to the novel The Weather in the Streets. I am now taking longer, more meandering bus routes in order to read the novel as much as possible. The term 'sparkling dialogue' gets bandied around far too often. But the dialogue...it really does sparkle.

And so I turn from the cerebral to the flesh. We have so much meat in our freezer. Absolutely stuffed, barely room for peas. It is all from a Sussex farm, animals reared by flatmate's parents. It is not long until we have to move out, so we must eat the meat. And I am a vegetarian. Kelis sang 'My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard' on the radio as pork cooked in our oven. 

We had a roast last night, with yoghurty minted peas, green beans in mustard vinaigrette, rich potato dauphinoise, pillow squares of Yorkshire pudding and red wine. I'd bought Cava, which we drank with strawberries fizzing in glasses (a Smarties mug for me as we've broken one too many wine glasses...) alongside our dessert of burnt butter sponge cake with strawberries, jam, butter icing and melted white chocolate drizzled over the whole summer cake mountain. Our kitchen is small so we filled it with extra chairs, the heat of the oven, music, the smell of  garlic and pork, and our best 'grown-up talk'. We drank to the chef, summer and us. Though, awfully, in hindsight, we should have drank to Norway, to Somalia, to the end of all this weekend's horrors.

14 July 2011

Ellipses, exclamation marks, and cantilevered similes

I was introduced to the American poet Chelsey Minnis this week. Not personally, rather to her poetry. A whole host of local and local-ish poets gathered in the Betsey Trotwood this Sunday just gone, and one section of the day's readings was inspired by Minnis. She is a big fan of exclamation marks and ellipses. As am I. She writes in a surreal and personal and entirely compelling way. Lines like:

If anyone tries to comfort me I will vomit on the balustrade.

I want to put makeup on people's eyes so they can look like damned darlings...

It is sad like a pentacle when I see you. 

Read more of her here.

I've also been reading lots of Toby Martinez de las Rivas. Man, he uses such good words. He's rather the talk of the town at the moment, but I feel drawn to him as, after studying at Durham University, he moved to my own Northumberland. Northern soul right there.

So new poetry and speed-reading 'Norwegian Wood' and watching The Night Watch in the dead of night before falling asleep. On top of spicy Bloody Marys while doing an alphabetic poetry quiz, discussing drunken wedding behaviour over Italian hot chocolate, necking pints of Sam Smith's lager with a friend returned from gay Paris, and so many left over delegate sandwiches in the office I think I may have a yeast-brain. I also wrote a review of a poetry collection that I started out hating but then kind of liked for Eyewear. (Kirk on Fried, ha!). I wrote it instead of doing real work, which ironically is a whole lot less serious than the review really. Oh, and I had the best 'afternoon tea' ever. My flatmate baked scones, produced honey from her mother's bees, along with home-made strawberry jam (also courtesy of her mother) and clotted cream (courtesy of a supermarket) and made raspberry coulis with home-picked raspberries. I supplied the red wine (in place of strong-brewed tea) and chose the malformed scone to start our night-time lesson in etiquette. Such ladies.

Next, I'm going to the zoo for a Friday evening of boozy picnicking. And yeah, I'll probably just hang out with these guys the rest of the time. Same old.

7 July 2011

Tyskie and Diaghilev

My new Pink Floyd t-shirt makes me smile. Pleased as punch. Worn with my orange check-print culottes with an elasticated high waist that I got in a Hexham charity shop for a pound.
Meeting Ali Smith with her wee Scottish brogue in an Exmouth Market bookshop on a rainy/humid night is lovely and amazing.
Working on my poems about Chaucer and Dian Fossey and Janet & John is good and frustrating.
Watching documentaries about Diaghilev and drinking Tyskie is necessary.
And information about the birds of the Loch of Kinnordy in autumn reads like a poem:

Lower water levels provide ideal feeding opportunities for migrating wading birds such as greenshanks, snipe and ruffs. Wintering populations of whooper swans, pink-footed and greylag geese return from their northern breeding grounds. Mixed flocks of tits, goldcrests and treecreepers can be seen along the reserve trails. Winter thrushes such as fieldfares and redwings can be seen feasting on rowan trees along the reserve trails.

So council tax and water bills and pay-as-you-go electricity are simply peripheral nonsense.
I have no ID at all right now. No identity. I won't need it in wetlands. Our birdswamp.

4 July 2011

Hop Farm/Little London

The best thing ever. Patti Smith performed a perfect acoustic set, accompanied by Patrick Wolf on violin and harp. She sang GLORIA out into the sun. The song that we would wake to most mornings last year. Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine as I rolled out of bed and sleepwalked on autopilot the ten minutes back to my house for a shower.

And Lou Reed put on an epic Ecstasy, but it was the slowed-down acoustic Sunday Morning and Femme Fatale that restored my faith in him. I wish he'd written the latter for me. I have been played a version on the ukulele in a Tufnell Park attic room however, so maybe I'm halfway there.

So Patti and Lou and a glam, glitzy Morrissey, and dog tired limbs as I'd woken with swollen eyelids before 6am. But then mountains of pillows, clean sheets, pancake breakfast with their own honey, a bonkers pack of dogs, hammocks, sunset-coloured rice, the most enormous summer cake, and picking, picking, picking raspberries like we suffered from idyllic OCD.

But now I need a new alarm clock as my phone is gone, along with everything else in my stolen bag. Along with my mind. I wish Patti could sing me awake every morning. I'd be in such a good mood.

25 June 2011


In another room they were baking, mulling wine.
I was warm with cloves, melting butter, demerara,
and wearing your pyjamas.

I have been reading through the archives of  Julia Darling's blog. It is heartbreaking. But also full of beans. Beans and personality and the odd typo. It makes me think that the internet can be used for good things. Julia actually writes (in 2002) that 'apparently this kind of a diary is called a BLOG... derived from web logs. Mmmm'.

I was directed to it by my tutor as we were discussing my dissertation - illness, women, poetry. I knew the name Julia Darling from somewhere, but only in a vague kind of way. She was a novelist, playwright and poet. I say 'was' as she died in April 2005 of breast cancer. The blog is the diary of her final three years, and she documents her writing and her changing body and the people around her and the many projects she enthused about.

I read and read and read it through straight after my tutorial. And lo and behold, she lived in Newcastle. She was at the centre of the whole North East writing scene. She talks of all the theatres, art galleries, streets and hospitals that I know oh so well. She mentions people I am familiar with, and the town I grew up in. It turns out my mother met her more than once, and she was very good friends with friends of ours. This makes it so much more real, the tragedy more cutting... Mum can picture her in the Queen's Hall Arts Centre wearing a turban and chatting away to the arty types of Hexham. Full of energy and getting stuck in to the last. The blog is brimming with people, more than just the characters Julia created in her writing. She left school young and writes from not a formal but an intuitive background. She tries to 'go into the space where poems are made every day' and enters 'that pleasurable made up world that I control absolutely'. She gets to the truth of  a thing.

'The streets in the real world are much colder than in my made up one'

18 June 2011

Studious as a butterfly in a parking lot

My, my, and only part way in to a fully-booked poetry fortnight...

Tuesday was a sweaty workshop after a busy day working in a sixth floor greenhouse that grows books and books. I was introduced to some mind-bending new stuff by a UCL alumnus, a tour de force of a young poet who has a voice I would love to hear read the shipping forecast, or even the dictionary. A John Ashbury opening, then Timothy Donnelly* providing the delicious meat of the language sandwich, and finishing with an ekphrastic poem by Brenda Shaughnessy...

Would I dance with you? Both forever and rather die.
It would be like dying, yes. Yes I would.

Then off to the post-workshop pub, where I chatted about the Unthanks with the girl who had charted the whole of the folk music movement, plotting it along her bedroom wall. I admitted my poet girl-crush, and listened to Kelly Clarkson belting out a song I seemed to know the words to.

Wednesday saw the Eric Gregory Award winners reading at the Betsey Trotwood, a favourite old ale pub that draws in poets. I bumped into the tiny oh-so-connected online magazine editor who studies T. S. Eliot and Renaissance drama at PhD level, who is the girl who published me first (the poem of he previous post...ahem) and who loves Barbara Trapido as much as I do and will get to chat to Zadie Smith any day. Roddy Lumsden, our host, was chuffed, nay - made up!, over a Scot winning the prize for the first time in seventeen long years. The two toasted this with scotch just before the wee poet had to read his set. One winner had just got back from his honeymoon, and two others are engaged. Everybody is getting married. The Scot is tying the knot in three weeks which has brought about a bout of death poems. I sat with a short American with a trust fund who flies from programme to programme (literature, painting, poetry), country to country, and said he'd take me to New York in his suitcase. I think he curls his eyelashes. He recently broke off his engagement to a girl who was at least a foot taller than him. They had been seeing each other for seven years. He gave her New York; he has the rest of the world (though he hates Paris, thinking it barbaric. Apparently there is more culture in Cornwall). He never reads his poetry out to anyone, and he doesn't want to publish anymore. He claims to have no ambition. He is on an endless quest for beauty, seeking all things beautiful. He effused that men are wholly inferior; all he does is to worship women. As we parted, he told me he'll see me in heaven. Or hell.

Then it was a Thursday ZINE launch. The zine is a visual masterpiece, in colour or black and white or any way one cares to eat it up. We sellotaped poppies into the introduction; they are now caught between pages and re-printed over and over. Familiar faces read, and the beautiful tattooed lesbian rapped in a knowing middle-class way that blurted quite beautifully. A cold pint, free of charge and all the more satisfying for it, kicked off the evening.

He had the final lines of Dover Beach running through his head all yesterday, as I had a book drop down on my head. My face is now scarred by book spine. Today I drank hot chocolate and tried not to cry as I read of Elizabeth Barrett Browning dying in Robert's arms.

...from Browning some 'Pomegranate', which, if cut deep down the middle,
Shows a heart within blood-tinctured, of a veined humanity.

* By God, 'Pansies Under Monkshood: A Folly' is the biggest treat. the moist / rot monitored with heart... And the most intelligent thing - you don't even realise it's ABABABCC. Then you spy it, and are like 'Whoooaaah!'.

15 June 2011

Unpacking the MPDG

“That bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations
of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life
and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

The above describes the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Kooky and quirky and oh so pukey. This is pretty much the best Wikipedia entry I've come across on anything ever. And everyone should definitely watch this video.

So even our offbeat role models live purely "to lift a gloomy male protagonist out of the doldrums, not to pursue her own happiness.” Great.

9 June 2011

What came out of the Dordogne

A woman with the loveliest name made me rose and violet creams for my birthday. Chocolate-coated crystals of over-the-top Romantic perfumed confectionery that should be eaten whilst reading novels and lounging in a silk kimono. The unusually-named woman and I had chatted about this sugared symbol of high romance in the past and she had remembered my gushes. Plucking them from the fridge on a hot day at work before meeting my parents in the evening for a warm drunken night put me in mind of an old poem. A poem that I wrote years ago when I was brimful of fancy. I read it now and scream inside my head: 'Edit! Edit! Cringe... EDIT!'. Here are the opening lines:

Veils in parade, each clutching rosary beads,
Rubbed between fingers like strings of pomegranate seeds.

Then this is the section where I was obviously dosed up to the eyeballs on sugar and escapism and 1920s glamour that I had only read about:

Both chocolates and kisses are exchanged by flush-faced girls,
Rose creams and violet creams and hazelnut whirls.
The lipstick prints left hanging in the air beside rouged cheeks
Linger like faint perfume of female mystique.

Other choice lines are:

Mata Hari dances wild, in her robes of gypsy russet.
Men glimpse flashes of gold, flashes of gusset.

The decorated mime artist, with cuffs and collar frilly,
Deeply downs champagne from the trumpet of a lily.           

And then towards the end comes the height of excessive, pretentious poesy. I use French and everything. For goodness' sake:
They laugh at others en francais, monsieur et mademoiselle,
Judging if each debutante resembles bĂȘte ou belle.
The party is invaded, by barbarians vain and louche,
Starved for entertainment, guzzling amuse bouche.

And I hadn't even read any Ronald Firbank or Zelda Fitzgerald at this point. They were to come later, and they did actually starkly expose the absurdity of such a sense of whimsy. I still adore them both of course.

I wrote this poem one summer on the car journey back from the Dordogne, where I had been holidaying with my family (and a boy named Budzak). The holiday was filled with devouring a biography of Lydia Lopokova (the Bloomsbury Ballerina who danced with the Ballet Russes and ended up living across the street from where I lived for my first year in London), smoking weed with teenage boys, sour expressions from my hollowed cheeks, a skinny love for everything I ate up with my eyes, delicious lychee liqueur, reading Middlemarch in hammocks, and being wedged in the back of the car on the way home with my youngest brother feeling delirious and silly and happy and half-asleep-dreamy. That's when I wrote a first draft of this long spiralling flight of fancy in clumsy couplets. I can't believe it was all the way back in 2008. It is so cringe. But was, and still is, so entirely me with my head in the highly scented pink clouds.

1 June 2011

I think the most absurd yet useful thing I can come up with is having a tattoo of a moustache beautifully inked along the inside of my index finger so I could put it up to my philtrum and be moustached just like that. Ta da.

I had bottled Crabbies and his special quesadillas for my pre-birthday feast after a day inside the colours of Miro.

My Great Aunt sent a card for a twenty-one year old boy. But I bought yet another thrifted 90s shift dress for my collection, and spent a day with poets. The gloriously intimidating and glorious editor of The Poetry Review gave me postcards and past copies. I bumped into our rather sun-leathered former Poet Laureate as I walked through Bloomsbury and chatted about his trip to Korea and him meeting his wife's aunts and uncles.

Pints of Czech lager, halves of strawberry beer, chatting politics and Dr Who in a Shoreditch pub where an elfin girl with a black woolly hat served us. Then a brick cave of a gig venue, where smoke, laser lights, and LOUD swallowed us. Three Trapped Tigers. Every mortal should be made to see their drummer play live. Such FEATS he pulls off. Mystifying. A gin and tonic for 'the birthday girl' then hummus pitta with two forks on the bus back home. Biting the end off the big green pickled chili and spraying the insides. We went a bit mad with the lemon, but after the gin it was pretty perfect.

You peel my eyes.
You flay my heart
as we shed our skin
and make dust.

And now it is the first day of summer (well, close as damn it), and I ate surprise chocolate cake and have a mini bottle of pink cava chilling in the fridge. And I am unwrapping butterflies.

28 May 2011

Bracelets of thy hair, rings, gawds, conceits, knacks, trifles, nosegays, sweetmeats

Earlier in the week I want to see a Shakespearean COMEDY. At a secondary school up at Edgeware Road, Year Seven performed A Midsummer Night's Dream

There was tissue paper and glitter everywhere, and a whole tree crafted from cardboard and sparkles and streamers and probably a tonne of pva glue. It was seriously beautiful. The children had created the set, played the specially written score, made their costumes (or asked their parents to make their costumes), and learnt the whole unabridged wonder of a play. 

I have been to countless countless productions of this most popular of Shakespeares, and I wrote an English A level coursework essay on 'the dark side of A Midsummer Night's Dream' (thinking I was edgy and controversial. Or something). This was probably the best I have seen. I literally cried with laughter at one point. An actual tear ran down my cheek as I watched Thisbe swoon. I hooted so loud the little girl in front swivelled in her chair and stared at me fixedly for the following two scenes. The kids threw themselves into it, crying 'You cankerblossom!' and injecting the two couples with the adolescent energy they should exude. Hermia was unbelievably pretty, and understood every word she was saying, delighting in 'Thoughts and dreams and sighs / Wishes and tears...' 

The glitter encrusted 'love in idleness' was rather phallic, secreting liquid over eyes, I totally coveted the tweed and woolen outfit Peter Quince was wearing, and a few fairies stomped rather than floated, being twelve-year-olds with changing bodies. Puck looked about four, light as feather, and face painted all splendid. The strong London accents, often going at quite a pace, rapped rather lyrically. The fairy glade was sublime and I want to hang out there. There may be a 'dark side' to the play, but the kids were blissfully innocent, and I laughed like a foghorn.

25 May 2011

It has taken me until this week just gone to get my Holga colour films developed and scanned. I took the photos last summer.

Hampstead Heath / LRB cake (with The Guardian) / Brighton Station / Tufnell Park bedroom

And now it is pretty much this summer, and it is odd to look back to these months last year and think that it was not so long ago. And odd that normality is now bagels and bagels and a Pepsi Max a day habit (though sometimes Apple Tango) and using ee cummings as a verb. I must cummings some poems. And also write some questions to a poet who loves much that I love, so I'm using this project as an excuse to daydream about the bleached film palette and adolescent summer of The Virgin Suicides, and lots of other awesome girl things.


23 May 2011

We never should have walked across the heath to Keats’ house.
You never should have read his letter to his star while breathing next to me.
We never should have bought two winter postcards, I his watercoloured frail face,
you his sweetheart silhouette.

Now I watch you sleep I see a death mask.
I watch you hard enough I fancy life.

16 May 2011

O for a beaker full of the warm South!

A week of champagne flutes and popping corks.

Pink fizz at a book launch in the book-crammed downstairs of a West London second-hand bookshop. Bottle drained into my glass over and over. Followed by a fancy dinner I don't really remember apart from hot and delicious, hiccups, and lovely company. Then the worst hangover of my life the next morning. A curled up in a tight ball on my bed with my hair still soaking from a rather shaky shower kind of hangover.

Glasses of prosecco for a birthday after work and before I read at the poetry evening I'd been waiting for, held in the upstairs of a tavern. I was one of six children, reading with my five 'siblings' and our 'father'. The 'father' who used to teach me about homosexuality in British and American poetry of the 19th and 20th century. Now he has a Faber collection the colour of mint choc-chip icecream. My face burned to match my red trousers as I read, and I was told later that I was dressed like Katherine Hepburn. Audrey was always the Hepburn I was drawn to, but Katherine has a sharper tongue, and I'm starting to wish I was more like her; all barbed for protection and witty as hell. So my face was red, and my hand was blue, darker at the nails, stained by diluted biro ink from earlier in the day. Godiva Blue as the South African said. Well, I'm no naked woman on horseback, but I think I know what he was getting at. Romantic tragic heroine, with death at her fingertips. 

Champagne after a confirmation, the service taking place in a school chapel in Brighton. The choir in school uniform, proud mothers in Hobbs and Boden. A sermon mostly about sheep, and I holding back as the congregation took communion. All the wine that has been blessed must be drunk, so the chaplain downed the last of it. I was shown around the old school, all grand and flash where robes would fit right in. Giant paintings of past headmasters lining the dinner hall, especially commissioned and bright, surreal, bold, reminiscent of those Soviat realism portraits. Then drinks on the lawn back at the house, with grandmothers in resplendent purple velvet, a salmon platter, so much asparagus, tomato garlic basil, pavlova, apricot cake, almond maccaroons, the richest chill-set biscuit and dried fruit dark chocolate cake that rivals my mother's chocolate mousse, and food babies. Gin o'clock and dozing to Countryfile with Matt Baker. 

Boozy week.

8 May 2011

Eat the Music

I've been reading Rosamund Lehmann over the past week - a romantic name to suit her romantic works. Her first novel, Dusty Answer, is written from the perspective of young, passionate, ever-so-slightly absurd Judith Earle who comes out with gushings like 'Oh how ridiculous, how sad, to have made one person into all poetry!' and 'You might write a book now, and make him one of the characters; or take up music seriously; or kill yourself'. She has, of course, large dark eyes, is incredibly studious, and loves to swim naked under moonlight. She falls in love a lot. But I'm sure she's every girl who reads the novel.

I'm also reading 'Birthday Letters' by Ted Hughes, despite the embarrassing effect of it bringing me to tears in public. But the more remarkable birthday thing of note is that Kate Bush is releasing her new album this month. My birthday month. I don't have a girl crush on Kate, rather I love her. This may sound like Judith Earle, but the thing is Kate is totally awesome. I heard her on Front Row a few days ago, and she is so straightforward, so matter of fact and the opposite of flighty when it comes to her work. And she loves her family and home life more than any music melodrama. And she's using the prose of Joyce in one of her songs. I love her unexpected accent (south England all over) and that she was known as 'Ee-ee' in her karate class because of her squeaky war cry. I could go on and on about all her lyrics, melodies, music videos, record sleeves, outfits, her whole art... I want to be her, let's leave it at that.