31 January 2011

My Beautiful Launderette

I have always wanted to go to a launderette. I think they would be the perfect setting for a play, or a film short. Whirring sound, smell of soap powder, sitting with strangers watching laundry go round and round.

Hanif Kureishi and Stephen Frears knew the potential of launderettes. Lovely film.

Richard Thompson also knew. 'And I fell in love with a laundry girl who was working next to me. Oh she was a rare thing, fine as a bee's wing'. I heart Beeswing. 'There was animal in her eyes'.

Anyway, I have now been to a launderette. The sharpness of soap powder got up my nose. But it was warm, and the noises were comforting, and the drums were huge, and we were high. Reading
Alice in Wonderland in a launderette on Green Lanes. Dive into the drum, rather than a rabbit hole, and fall through laundry world, where the odd socks go.

We took the enormous bag back along the road between us, our hands plunged into the hot clothes, the way Amelie does with barrels of beans at the market.
Made the house smell of clean.

27 January 2011



The following is a transcript of an email I received at work yesterday. I was writing out the same marketing spiel over and over by hand in biro, the words lodging themselves fast. This was my rescue:

- Return to the Sea

Preamble: Once upon a time there was a band called the Unicorns. They lived in Montreal, Canada, and were very happy. They wrote and sung songs about death. Of note, and worth a quick glance before we embark on Islands, is a little look at the lyrics of the final track of their only album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We Die?. The song is called Ready to Die and the lyrics are as follows:

I woke up thirsty on an island in the sea
I woke up hungry with hungry cougars surrounding me

I hit the soft spot on the soft spot on my head
It made me tired so I sung from my bed

I'm ready to die [x4]
A sword, a switchblade, any way you cut it
I'm not afraid, I know I'm going to get it

Oh maker! (of such fine products
As palm trees, and the dead sea)
Don't pardon me, there's nothing rude
Things conclude, things conclude

As I slurred that chorus, the ghosts got bigger
Small sounds like a drill
The death sweats suit me
A death threat provides a thrill

I've seen the world, kissed all the pretty girls
I've said my goodbyes and now I'm ready to die.

They broke up and then a few days later a few them got together as Islands and put out the album we're about to listen to, which is a cracker. It's called Return To The Sea and starts 'I woke up thirsty the day I died'. It's very good.
(Hit Play All and give me a heads up when you're ready)


23 January 2011

700 Penguins

I have joined the Poetry Library. 5th floor, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank. Small but perfect. It houses reference and loan copies of poetry from 1912 onwards. The librarians are mostly lovely inoffensively-attractive males. There are even big bright floor cushions in a corner for children, where they can sit and read, or be read to by their parents.

A section of the shelving is movable, adjustable. There are big wheels and a lock system on the side of them. There are notices up reminding browsers to check that there is no-one between the shelves before they start moving them together. I can imagine having a romantic tryst with some young, bespectacled, tentatively-bearded poet amid these claustrophobic shelves, our hands touching as we both reach for Ted Hughes.

It's not love's letter that poetry holds,
but the charm of the love that drew it forth
from the silence...

I try to get lost in this library. Or at least in the words in this library. I try. I succeed in getting lost in the 700 Penguin covers. The 700 book-worlds that were a gift and make me stare and stare and escape.

20 January 2011

Root Canals

I remember once in London the realisation coming over me, of the whole of its inhabitants lying horizontal a hundred years hence - Tennyson, quoted in Audrey Tennyson's notebook.

We finally did it. We ventured out for a Sunday walk. New River Walk. London Canal Walk. Joining the two. Breakfast in a Turkish caff in Turnpike Lane, along the Harringay Passage, New River (neither new, nor a river) to Islington, following the canal all the way to Victoria Park, mugs of hot chocolate in Hackney Wick. Nine miles.

Mud and empty cans of special brew and old bras and condom wrappers to begin. Then smooth paths without barriers by the waterside, and not a soul passing that didn't either jog or cycle. Boards that showed routes and painted leaves punctuating length of London. Cold hands, bumping bags, rain mists. My hair was rats tails, my feet sighed when de-socked.

And then we'll sit
in the shadowy spruce
and pick the bones
of careless mice,

and spitwipe the blood from your chin
and fingerpluck the sleep from my eye.

15 January 2011

Photos by Alice

An 83 year old lady went on holiday to Gibraltar with her middle-aged son who has Downs syndrome. She went to the casino, gambled like there was no tomorrow, and they disco-danced together. That night she had an asthma attack, was able to call for help, then died. I think this is the way to go. It was the night of September 10th, 2001.

I am back on the 236. I love this route. Through Finsbury Park, Stoke Newington, London Fields. I love to go to Yasar Halim in Green Lanes, buy pastries and bread stuffed with spinach, or feta, or sesame paste, go get the bus and and eat from my paper bag all the way home. A satisfying kind of queasy. Heady.

9 January 2011

Peeling dried PVA off fingers, waiting for ripened brie to run down the side and into our mouths, making sound effects in throats following frittata, and actually having a PROPER SUNDAY. This is life after essay. So long Sharon Olds, farewell Anne Sexton, you wonderful double images. Hello lovely brunches, how-do-you-do pub in the afternoon.

4 January 2011

New huge woolen cardigan from a Hexham charity shop, red trousers, red tights, red smarties that turn my lips red.

And I've read my blank pages of unwritten essay so many times that I make poems instead.

You are all nose, child, now that you are man.

More bone than soft edges, you have grown.

You like that you can count your ribs today.

All I see is nose, the nose that leads you.

It is Roman, like the obverse of a coin.

More Hadrian than Nero. Please.

Build walls tomorrow. Don’t let them burn.

2 January 2011

Weekend of a beginning

Pretty much the last thing I did in 2010 was fall down the stairs on the bus. Top to bottom. I was on the phone, and the person on the other end was still talking talking as if I had not just tumbled into mortification, tumbled into a very bruised knee.
I took my bruised knee to the Worcestershire countryside. Art on white walls, mirrors everywhere, the land outside still recovering from snow, a dog named Lola, a cat named Tatiana, and lovely people, old and new, welcoming. A night out on the tiles in Pershore, with real ale (Ale Mary), requests to be less rowdy, free buffet, bringing in the new year down on the decking at the bottom of the pub garden by the river Avon. Tankards were thrown into the dark waters, pub signs were very nearly stolen, the boy travelled home in the car boot and warmed his hands on other people's faces. I said no to Moet. Projectile vomit across the room, red from wine, hitting my handbag, rubbing his back. Mopping at after three in the morning. A New Year's Day of Dr Who, putting mobile phones in the washing machine, tentative walks, competitive Articulate and the Best Tart Ever. A thick wodge of Christmas cake to send us on our way a day later. Tasty January. I hope it will taste of fresh air and toothpaste. Brushing my teeth always makes me feel better.