Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Little Tale of a Sunny Day.

It was shining brightly with sunshine today - I was sat in the park wishing myself into an early grave. My winter misery had been augmented by the arrival of spring.

I spent the whole of the grey, drizzly Manchester wintertime feeling melancholic - with good reason.

Now that the sunshine is here, I have no reason, and it’s really galling. Men are waltzing around with no t-shirts on, women are hoiking up their strapless tops while running away from wasps and everyone is happily scampering around. It is awful.

To be honest, I was getting on for being suicidal.  I can nay say better than most, yet nay saying isn’t welcome in this kind of weather, people think you’re a kill joy. So I turned it in on myself. I decided to give up. ‘I’ve had enough’ I thought. Still I have no money, no prospects, no job, no garden, no yacht, no nothing*. How can happiness exist in such a world as this? Life is one disappointment after the next and I’m done with it.

Well, I lay there on a wall, warming my back against the sun soaked stone. I tilted my head away from the glare of the sun and I saw a funny thing. There was a man in the distance hopping up and down one of the steps that lead to a walled garden. He’d step up and then step down, but he wasn’t going anywhere. Each time he took a step he looked all unbalanced. It looked like he had never come across steps before.

Then I realised what was going on. He had a gammy leg. Maybe he’d been in a car accident. Maybe he’d gotten attacked by a shark or fallen off a roof or been bitten by an angry dog. I wanted to go up to him and ask him “what’s going on with that leg and why are you hopping up and down that step in such a fashion” but I realised that, as I am no longer a five year old girl, it is not socially acceptable for me to ask such personal questions to a stranger in England.

I trailed off into deep thought on the matter. I wondered what had happened to him. Either way, it was clear that he was working hard on his recovery.  With each step he struggled and wobbled, and he was clearly fighting through some kind of pain barrier. I can’t imagine he was doing it just for fun, he was doing it because it benefited him – maybe in six months time he will once again be able to get up the flight of stairs in his own home. I don’t know, he might live in a bungalow, but you see my point.

Well, this little serendipitous scene inspired me. I reflected upon my defeated, miserable attitude and I decided to go and see two friends and have a walk with them in the sunshine. And it was lovely.

* n.b This is a phrase used by the majority of people, however, it is grammatically incorrect. It ACTUALLY means the opposite of what people use it to mean. Having “no nothing” implies that one has some of something

Friday, 27 January 2012

Insomnia Ecomomica.

Let’s get a bit of sense on the go. Firstly, let me state that I am not a scholar in the field of fiscal affairs.

Everyone is going on about the economy. Apparently, it’s all gone a bit off piste and despite all the ideas and analyses being bounded around by people in the know, no one seems to have a clue what is happening.

Here is the basic understanding I have on the matter…

-       There were billionaires. They are now millionaires
-       Entire nations are sliding into disarray
-       Some people have been fiddling their taxes
-       Debt is worth lots of money, but it is risky
-       Piranhas are eating all the bank notes
-       The metal in a five pence coin is set to change in order for their manufacture to be cheaper
-       When a footsy goes up a stocking market comes down
-       Tights are more expensive than ever so everyone is getting cold feet and this means that the markets aren’t growing up

I might have gotten a few of my facts wrong but in general I’d say I'm bang on the mark.

Back in the day we used to swap, say, a cart of carrots for a pig's leg and everyone would be happy with that. If you didn’t want carrots, then you could ask someone else to give you something else for your pig’s leg.

Other people started to interfere. They decided that there needed to be a SCALE against which we could value things. They decided upon GOLD.

So then everything was measured against GOLD. But it turned out that gold was too valuable to be glibly passed around amongst common folk in return for pigs and carrots. And anyway, people were starting to get tricky… filing their golden coins, keeping the gold dust and pretending to swap more gold that they actually were. And then they all wanted flat screen tellies. People, it seemed, were not to be trusted…

So a substitute arrived. Coins made of less valuable metals. They looked like gold. Then of course, somehow it ended up that you needed more and more coins for less and less pig’s leg, and then we had to have notes.

And of course people then started to nick notes off each other. So we decided to keep the notes safe. Henceforth, banks started up. Putting your notes in a bank was safer than hoarding them under the mattress. 

But it then turned out that if you have lots of notes, they give birth to more notes… so the banks wanted to “look after” as many notes as possible. That way, they could keep all the note babies themselves.

But the banks got all confused by all their notes. They decided that could just let people know how many notes they had by representing the notes in the form of a number. They gave everyone a card, and these cards acted like keys with which to access this valuable information.

Now then, it is more complicated nowadays. If you owe the bank a big number, but then manage to give them back that big number… and you do this regularly… then they decide that you are good with numbers and if you want to borrow any numbers off them then they would probably like to lend you some numbers because this means that in the end all the numbers will be happy. But numbers are worth different amounts according to the way the wind is blowing.

As you can see, I have much light to shed upon this subject.

However, whilst all of this has been going on, there are a lot of people who have no pig’s leg OR carrots - and they are starving.

So why don’t we all agree that this thing has gotten ahead of us. Why can’t we just admit that it’s all become rather stupid. Let’s wipe the slate clean and get back to zero.

All human beings are equal. It’s simplistic but it is an unequivocal fact which we so often lose sight of.

Look, I don’t often get political. I like to let them get on with it and watch them making a mess of it from the sidelines. I feel sorry for them… there’s a lot of pressure in a job like that, and they get all the blame. In fact, I don’t blame them. This is why I stay out of it.

Regarding politicians, I would say one thing. I hope that at least one person with a genuine wish for the wellbeing of other people, the integrity to see it through and the strength of character to remain undefeated will decided to pursue a career in politics. This is my hope. 

(I've also got large hopes for the music industry but that's a whole blog in itself... that's my field, you see)

Our lives are finite. We might have 80 years is we are lucky. I feel it is wrong that someone should struggle for food, water and basic comfort because of the greed and stupidity that have, up until now, been the defining aspects of this age.

And while we’re at it, do we really need those nuclear missiles? It’s a f*cking embarrassment.

So, with grating insomnia buzzing in my brain, I sit here and I ask myself ‘what am I doing with my 80 or so years?’ I’m probably well more than a third of the way through it already.

Anyway, I should probably try and sleep before I do anything else.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Hour Before Dawn.

The whole of phenomena seems to take on a particular feeling in the hour before dawn, and this is the hour in which I’m writing now. The temperature of the day is at its lowest and, even in tropical places, the air feels alive and new on your skin.

I am not in a tropical place now. I am in Manchester. However, it is here that I find the pre dawn hour most beguiling. Maybe it is because it is the hour of the day which I experience the least. If I am awake, it usually means that I’m a.) travelling b). not been to bed due to some adventure or other or c.) gotten so carried away by some creative endeavour that I’ve forgotten all about the normality of sleeping at night. In short, for me, being awake just before dawn usually means a break from the routine, and I love a break from the routine.

When I was in my early teens, I had a funny fortnight or two. It was during the springtime. I set my alarm to wake me early. I would climb up onto the rooftops, where I would station myself facing east. I could hear a milk float stopping and starting, clicking it’s brake on and off and quietly whirring its way around the streets below. This was the soundtrack to my waiting for the sunrise.

The mortar in the brickwork of the chimney stacks would slowly take on a radiant light as breaking of sunlight drew closer. Collared doves would, every now and then, purr and coo their unmistakable Morse code. Cu cooooooooo cu. Cu cooooooooo cu.

The light of the day would creep over the rooftops like water running off a mountain until it was finally daytime. Then I would climb back to earth, climb back into bed and fall back to sleep. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Comet Point.

As I passed a graveyard that sat between two forks of the road, I wanted to stop. I wanted to sit down and rest and look at the graves with their little engravings of Jesus and Mary, the candles that burned quietly and all the flowers that decorated the place. They make a big deal out of death in Mexico. It was a severely wonderful place, that graveyard.

Nevertheless, time was marching on and I had to reach Punta Cometa before the sun sank into the sea. Punta Cometa – what a lovely name.

I get quite taken by names. I especially love the names of places I’ve never been to. I think that maybe this is because once I visit a place it rarely lives up to what I imagined it could be. Punta Cometa, a beach on the south coast of Mexico, does not fall into that category. I had few positive expectations, so it easily exceeded all of them. I don’t think I should ever like to return, however.

It is an outcrop of land, covered in cacti and finished off with rocks. The very tail end of the rocks forms the shape of a hand with index finger outstretched as if pointing south. If a crow flew out from that rocky finger and travelled straight, as crows apparently do, then it would not see land until it reached the Antarctic.

It had taken me about an hour to find the place and I’d almost gone the wrong way several times.

When I finally got there, I could see the whole ocean. I could see all the way south, as well as east and west. The sun was nearing the horizon so I found myself a westward facing mound of sand to sit on.

Now I must mention my hatred of sentimentality. Anything that may be deemed to be beautiful and romantic I try and ruin, in the same way that I always start swearing when I’m at a dinner party.

I sat there for a time, waiting for the sun to disappear - I wondered why I’d bothered. The only other people in the vicinity were a couple who were somewhere down the other end of the beach from me. They were obviously ‘in love’ and the fact that they were sharing a romantic moment with the sunset made me want to die. Although I was trying to enjoy the wonder of sunset (an act which does require some degree of the poetic spirit) I felt smug in my pragmatism as I forsaw a day when that couple’s love would fall apart and render this moment meaningless for them.

Well, I sat there on my own watching crabs burrowing their holes in the sand. The wind was blowing oceanic waves towards me and the air was fresh in my nostrils. The colour of the sky was amazing. I was impatient for the sun to get on with it so I could go for a drink. I felt so irritated by the whole beautiful thing that I would have left pre-sundown if I hadn’t have worked up such a sweat getting there.

I decided I would wait it out. I would wait for the bloody sunset then get off back to the bar for a beer. It was the waiting that did it. It cracked my little heart open. I was waiting for the sun and it wasn’t rushing on my account.

The Sun does not rush and the Earth does not rush. No matter if I railed against it or not, the sun was sinking, unhurried, and a few hours later it would be setting somewhere else. The sun is always setting somewhere. In the same way, it is always rising. Sunsets are remarkable because they do not last forever. The sun is constantly creating scenes of unsurpassed splendour and this is the case whether a person trying to deny its beauty is watching it, or not. I sat there on my sandy mound and I felt apologetic towards myself.

As the orange sphere turned into a semi circle and the semi circle got smaller and lower, I felt a melancholy feeling in my chest until finally the last slither of sunlight disappeared like a match being extinguished by the sea water.

A grainy dusk descended and it was time to leave the beach, back up the hill that lay overhead, back past the candles that burned for the dead then a few more beers before going to bed. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Airport Anonymity.


Years ago, the month of March, alone. I remember sitting in the airport somewhere in the middle east. I was waiting for a connecting flight, watching the lights on the runway move in and out of my vision as aeroplanes heaved their way into the sky and off to their various destinations. The darkness of the night stretched out beyond, blowing past the fluorescent windsocks and off into a place I could not imagine.

At that moment, the world that had been comfortably holding me in its palm since birth stretched out its fingers and flicked me off into an abyss. I was staring at a deep loneliness that was to become more familiar to me than my own feet. 

Since then, airports have always had a weird effect on me. I find them to be lonely places. I suppose this is because I hardly ever run into anyone I know at an airport, and I usually travel on my own.  At airports, everyone is going somewhere but no one is on the same trip that you’re on. I don’t see how that is different to life in general, but it’s more pronounced at an airport. They are fascinating and slightly enchanting places. They’re like portals; where time, as we know it, doesn’t really exist. You can board a flight at say, 3pm, fly for 9 hours and arrive somewhere at the same 3pm you set off at. 

(Ironically, time is more important than anything in airports, because if you miss your flight due to philosophizing about the nature of time, then you won’t get to where you need to go. In light of that, I am always astounded by the lack of clocks in airports. There are an array of screens telling you when you need to be at what place to get to where you need to go, but there are not that many clocks to give any indication as to how long it is until that crucial moment arrives. This is why I always wear a watch)

I think there is a part of us humans that simply cannot comprehend the notion of flight. We’ve not had time to factor it into our evolution. Yes, we might have reasoned it out with ourselves and reached an intellectual understanding, but at the core of it, I think we have trouble getting our heads around the whole business. I’m not saying that is a good or a bad thing, and I try not to let the issue plague me. However, if what I say is on any level correct then it would more than account for the d├ęcor and musac that spreads its hospital like hubbub around all the paraphernalia of plane travel....  

....The airport doth protest too much that “EVERYTHING IS OK!!!”, me thinks. Vivaldi and white walls, major keyed announcement chimes, big yellow arrows and those flat escalator things that make you feel like you’re walking really quickly when in fact you’re walking really slowly. There is nothing to indicate that what you’re about to do (i.e defy gravity) in any way runs contrary to what your distant AND close ancestors knew to be possible and safe.  I have, on occasion, spotted signs in airport lounges that say things along the lines of “sit back and relax. Let us take care of you”. You can purchase a new lipstick or drink a nice bottle of wine, you could enjoy a croissant or look at pictures of shoes in a magazine, but whatever you do, do NOT think about your own mortality. Do not look at the abyss that is represented by the notion of death. Do not think about that. Everything is OK - the 20% off signs in the window of tie rack say it is so. Sit back and relax.

Having said all of that, I’m not at all frightened of flying. It goes against all of my intrinsic survival instincts, but I know that I’m probably more likely to choke on an olive stone at home on my own than I am to die in a plane crash. I don’t even think that I’m massively worried about dying in general (although I would like to outlive my parents to avoid the heartache they would feel if I didn’t). 

I did once have a panic attack on a plane, but I think this was more due to the fact that I’d been upgraded to business class than it was the fear of imminent death. I felt hugely out of my comfort zone sat amongst all those moneyed men in suits and it made me feel all agitated.

I like flying and I like airports. I like the fact that no one knows me at an airport. I like it because the daily frames of reference by which I understand my reality are all turned upside down and inside out, and there is no one to question where I’m going or why.

When I’m at an airport, I am just passing through a portal. Everywhere leads to anywhere, nothing is normal, time moves back and forth and nobody is waiting for you on the other end. This is what I would say if I ever wanted to become and airhostess and got asked, “Why did you decide to apply for this job?” in the interview.  I don’t think I’d get the job.

Once I’d spent enough time in airports to realize that perusing eye shadows and chocolate can get tiresome, I started going to the prayer rooms. I like watching people pray. You have to do it subtly or people get upset. I wonder if you can get chucked out of an airport prayer room for staring at the praying people? If this were to happen to me, I would tell the security officer that voyeurism is my religion and that to deny me of that would be an infringement of my human rights and may also bring about the apocalypse. 

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Serendipia de el Ciudad.

“Well, fancy that” thought I, as I happened upon Diego for the second time. Since then I’ve googled “Mexico City. Population.” To find out that around 9 million people inhabit the place. It is truly immense in size. I’m not one for mumbo jumbo but this was rather serendipitous.   

I was sat there eating a taco at a street stall. I was wondering if the extra hot chilli sauce might play havoc with my insides when I spotted him. He was sitting at the table next to me. I almost chocked on my guacamole.

Two weeks previous to this near death taco eating event, I’d played a gig in a posh place somewhere in the east side of the city, I don’t know where, the taxi driver confused and overcharged me and the place had a long and complicated name.

There had been this man in the audience, sketching. I sidled up to him after the gig, and peered over his shoulder. His drawing was really good. Turned out he spoke English, and he liked my music as much as I liked his drawing so we chatted. He didn’t stay for long. I thought “what a nice fella”. That fella was Diego, and I didn’t expect to ever see him again.

The day after that gig, I left the city for the coast, spent a bit of time in the surf, returned to the city, played some more gigs, left the city again, watched the sun set behind a volcano and all of that kind of stuff. Then I returned to the city for the final time.

And there he was, two weeks later - the opposite side of the city, but the same Diego. As I feasted on the delicious taco, our eyes met over the coriander. I lost control of myself and nearly fell victim to avocado induced asphyxiation.  Chance is a funny thing. I think I’m going to ask him to draw my next album cover or something… something more has to come out of my bumping into the same person twice out possible 9 million people.


My wardrobe is bursting. Granted, it’s not a very big piece of furniture, it’s a children’s wardrobe from Ikea. This has led to my clothing spilling out into my bedroom. I hang my favourite garments from hook on the walls, and use them as interior decoration as well as adorning my body with them. My general feeling toward clothing is love but also hate.

Clothes, for a woman in this modern, western world, are not merely for keeping one’s organs at the ideal temperature for sustaining life (which incidentally, is about 34 degrees Celsius), or simply for protecting one’s skin from the elements. Clothes give an indication as to the character of the person wearing them. You can usually tell a person’s life choices by the clothes that they are wearing. You can easily make a judgement on a person’s values by the way they do their hair, and how well ironed their garments are (n.b. I do not own an iron).

If I were suddenly released from the feeling of social pressure that I have created for myself over the course of my adulthood, then I’d certainly own nothing but the following…

A small but practical collection of underwear and socks
1 pair of sturdy boots
1 pair of practical sandals
1 pair of multipurpose, non descript black pumps (if I were feeling exuberant)
1 pair of loose fitting jeans
1 pair of standard shorts
1 dress for special occasions
2 shirts
2 vests
1 full set of thermals
1 cagoule
1 pair of waterproof trousers
1 boiler suit

I sometimes wonder if things would have been easier if I’d have been born a man. Nevertheless, I have, in this lifetime, assumed the form of a woman and I choose to dress accordingly. 

I’ve got medium sized heeled shoes in most colours of the rainbow (high heels are just a step to far – no pun intended - I’ve got one pair and they give me the feeling that I’m some kind of con artist whenever I wear them). I’ve got cardigans in most hues and an array of dresses. They are all different lengths; different shapes and not all dresses match up with all cardigans. Sometimes I wear denim and sometimes I’m seen in a chequered number. I’ve got acrylic jumpers and I’ve got woollen things, and many lacy tops. I’ve got tulip skirts and a-line ones. It is really important not to match one’s garments incorrectly, as doing so will make one look like an explosion in a textile factory and you could also risk looking like your thighs are fatter than they are, or such like. This is something you do not want to do.

Like I said, I think I would much prefer to have a life with a small, practical smattering of garments… I would choose loose, comfortable jeans, but they wouldn’t be so loose that I trip over the hems, like do when I’m sporting my 70’s style bell bottoms.

My 70’s style bell bottomed jeans always trip me up. Furthermore, when it rains (which is does a lot in Manchester) they drag through puddles and soak muddy water up to the knees. In turn, the water then drips onto my shoes. Hence, the general outcome of wearing my 70’s style bell bottomed jeans in Manchester is a constant threat of trench foot.  I’m pretty sure they also create some ambiguity as to the size of my calves, which I’m not sure is a good thing or a bad thing. I’ve not worn them for a while… it’s too stressful.

Sometimes I feel like I am a trendy son of a gun, and sometimes I feel all mumsy. Sometimes I feel glamorous and sometimes I feel round and clumsy. Sometimes I feel like I’m a youthful, flowery sweet thing and sometimes I feel like a mature, wise woman of the world. I have a pair of fake spectacles for the days when I feel bookish. (N.b. feeling booking had nothing to do with the reading of books. In fact, I often read books whilst wearing a shift dress and boots, and that is not a bookish look.)

Some days I wake up and I don’t want to wear any of my clothing. Nothing feels quite right. Some days, I suppose, I just don’t know who I am, or who I want to be. Those are the days when I wish I could be invisible. Walking around in the nude is not legal, socially acceptable or warm enough, so that is not a solution to the problem.

I adore camping more than anything. I like kayaking and I like hill walking and I like climbing, although I admit that these pursuits are more ideas of hobbies than things I actually do frequently. I like camping and hill walking and kayaking and climbing because you just can not be expected to wear high heels when engaging in any of them. The length of your pencil skirt is not an issue that needs consideration when you’re clinging onto a rock face, trying to scale a mountain.

Cats have no idea how fortunate they are to have no choice in their own style. For a tortoise shell furry cat, you're a tortoise shell furry cat , and that’s an end to it.

I envisage a day when I will snap, burn all of my shoes and throw my clothes into a skip. From the outside, this might look like the actions of someone who has lost the plot. On that day, I will be freed from this daily torrent of ‘character representation decision-making’, and I will live on a canal boat, wearing thermal leggings, surrounded by lucky ducks who don’t have to worry about the colour of their feathers clashing with the colour of their beaks.