I keep my quill concealed in my boot, just as villains do their daggers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.