Sunday, 30 September 2012

Could Be Verse

Struggling a bit with everything really, at the moment. So forgive lack of anything. It feels likely I will have to return to some sort of medication for my stupid head, which appears to be broken. Anyway, I owe you a poem. This concludes the Comfort trilogy. I will try to avoid writing a Discomfort trilogy.

The Comfort of Strangers III

Bubble-wrapped in half a yard of space,
passing souls in anonymity.
The city saraband without a face;
we dance untouched in equanimity.

And into windows I will gently stare,
to learn the secrets of normality;
a matchgirl almost happy with a share
of someone else’s warm reality.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Digging It

You lucky, lucky people might get two poems tonight because, while you are all out being the very life and soul and blood and bones of your particular town or city,  I am keeping an eye on things back here.  Somebody has to.

One day, hopefully soon, I'll feel well enough in myself to go out and flash the natives and perhaps vomit in a convenient doorway.  Until then, you get to read all my stuff.

Every morning I walk the same way to work and the very inappropriately-named Rue de la Paix is a little piece of hell that has to be negotiated.  I'm sure it will be nice when they stop fucking digging it up all the time.

Rue de la Paix

There is a shrug about the travaux,
a big-arsed digger swinging its rump,
distant memories of pavement, zombies
intent on espresso salsa out the way.

In the evening do not disturb.  The beast
rests, knuckle down on a pile of mortar,
little shanty bridges over earthworks,
to shops that carry on with bravado.

Every day the streetscape changes. 
I do not think there is a plan.  Boys
on the beach digging against the sea.
Sanctified in tape of red and white.

(I took this picture.  I started taking a picture each day and then got really bored.  When you walk the same way you kind of run out things to photograph unless you have an exceptionally good camera.  Mine doesn't do focus, in any meaningful way).

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Comfort of Strangers II

Barely human, on the loo pre-dawn
hearing the incidental theme of a movie
where the protagonist is the perp.
Someone’s fucking alarm on snooze,
the someone who lows with ecstasy
on Saturday mornings probably.

The giddy 08:00 tap dance staircase
of lawyers and MEP assistants
crashing the cracked frost glass 
wrought iron front door so stroppily,
is balm to me.
                       Voices cable-knit
on the stairs, purling laughter.

Disclaimer:  these are not my stairs.  I have stair envy.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Rodent's Return

If any of you were still holding to the tenuous belief that I am not proper mental, be prepared to let go of that.

Last night I decided that actually I would like the Tiny Plastic Hamster.  If it was still there in the morning I would gather it up and rehome it.  I can remember feeling this way about random lonely nameless (i.e., not a Sindy, or Patch) dolls in the Blue Shop or the Post Office.  I would take them home and give them a family and love.  Don't tell anyone that I used to leave them all night in the garden if they were naughty.

Anyway, Tiny Plastic Hamster was gone this morning.  So, assuming a grown-up face, I hoped a kind and sticky small-handed person had found him.  Walking the same way tonight, I thought well I'll just check on the ground even so.  And there he was, where I found him last night, about 25ft from the electric thing.

I don't believe in luck, or charms, or amulets, or any superstitious shite.  But I do believe in Small Plastic Hamsters.  He is staying here now.  Here is a photo.  And yes, it's fairly obvious to anyone with an eye that it's a bloody Guinea Pig.  That isn't Guinea Pig shit next to him, it's a bread crumb.  Tiny Guinea Pig is about 2cm long, hence the rubbish photo.

And here is today's poem.  You didn't think I'd forgotten, surely?

The Comfort of Strangers

Our fire escape falls a broken ringlet in window panes.

Quiet shoulders get to their day, heaped over phones and keys.
Silhouettes wander away, heads down, unknown business;
others framed, elbows candidly raised in surrender, or tedium.
Intense profiles with taut beards or chignons.  A sandwich.
Lives different and the same.  People I will never know,
daily furnishing the view, are comfort nonetheless.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Goddess of Small Things

Today was mainly Autumn coming in and messing things up like a toddler and people saying "Oh! Look at the rain!".  I have to be quiet and not say how much I like the rain.  On the way home I saw a small plastic hamster.  So small I thought it was a weird seed but it was plastic and painted with hamster markings.  I would have brought it home, but what need have I for a small plastic hamster?  I left it on one of those electric container things that rear up in the street. 

It interrupted what I was writing in my head.  This is a bit of a showy-off poetry form derived from the sestina, and is a tritina.  Which sounds a bit like someone who should run a nail bar.  So bear with me and my showing-off.  It's good for my brain to engage with these different forms.

Tritina:  Bones

This is the story.  These are the bones
that grew in the shade, but still grew up;
that never were seen but witnessed all,

became a fortress and a cage, but all
that might couldn’t break these bones,
though made sure they were quite fucked-up.

So from this point there’s only really up.
I’m giving it a shot, a once and all.
I’ve got some stock; I’ll make no bones:

These bones are up to win the set, love-all.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Autumn Sonnet

I've always loved writing sonnets.  The structure makes you work twice as hard.  In fact one day I might conduct my entire life in sonnets.  It suits maudlin wanky subjects but I've also written them in deep anger before.  You do not want to piss off a sonneteer.  This one is neither maudlin nor angry, just a bit moody.  I didn't manage to take a picture for this one so have used google.

A Sonnet for the Haunted

The streets still dry and seedy wait for rain,
pale lights behind IKEA muslin flare,
the shingly trees heave deeply, heave again,
woodsmoke instead of charred meat in the air.

I dreamed of you last night, not once but twice,
trying to get in or to get out
of memory, of burial in ice,
camped in my sleep, a lone nocturnal scout.

I've often wondered if a sudden shock
would pull you out: a deadened greyish tooth.
A whiplash or a choreographed knock,
a smack across the face with blatant truth.

But everyone we love, though they are lost,
retain; no chance of giving up the ghost.


Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Truth About Trees

Root and Branch

The magnolia moved from the sycamore’s lee,
a concrete and crazy-paved back yard
where the edge of a drowned pram breaches
the mortar, where neighbours get the washing

in the silence of forgotten pregnant slights;
and is now grown a monster, leafing
out the view from the second floor in
my second city, until winter brings again

the amber windows quick with arms and legs.
It bats awkwardly at the window, offering
out of season blush and brown flowers,
offering one day, then, and now.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Tacking About

In internet terms, that was what you'd call a "flounce". 

The stopping was for all sorts of reasons; the re-starting is for one: to do something different.

Instead of a confessional, from now on you get a daily picture and a poem, both by me.  Same yacht, different tack.

Babysitting in Schaerbeek

From deep in the ganglia
rises to the skin a carer
chatting animated English
attempting broken infant German.

Then I'm left to Simon Armitage,
the television that two remotes fail,
the sewing that I'll never do;
der private modus browsing that I will.

The clean, twist-and-clipped tidy
silence of grateful absence.
Loud neighbourhood ghosts pass
in boots and exclamation.

A round baby raises a tower of lights.
In darkness I stopper his cries
with a luminous dummy
and he goes back down, down, down.

Drooping now over pages,
dreaming in Yorkshire dialect,
I click up, awake,
with and like the homecoming latch.


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Getting Out

As I write, the tents and elephants and sequins are being packed into pantechnicons and driven away to another town.  The carnival, my dear friends, is over.  I so wanted to end this blog in Hollywood style, but I never even got to show you Gent.  Perhaps I can ask you to imagine that I woke from a dream, and you were there, and you were there, and you were there.

Whatever happens next, well, I'm not sure.  I'm neither sure what happens next nor how to process it.

This has all been so much, much harder than I anticipated.  Yet I look around at the transplanted Euro-seedlings that make up the population of this city and everyone else seems to be ok.  

Time isn't linear, of that I'm certain.  If it were, I would have arrived in Brussels with my grown-up social skills relatively undented by the short journey.  Instead I am the girl of twenty who could barely speak, and who did not think anyone would want to know her.  This is a cruel trick.  I should smack Time's arse for that one.

It will get better, I know.  It has before, and it will again.

If any of you want to keep in touch, my email address is on my profile.  It would be lovely to hear from you.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Backing Up

Wearing a backpack is a very secure feeling.  I can only think it reminds me of being strapped in my pushchair.  Sadly my pushchair was crushed under the wheels of a reversing lorry whilst I walked down Chiswick Common Road with my mum and sister.  Since then I've had to walk everywhere.

I bought the backpack with the carte cadeau which was the leaving present from my old work in the UK, so it is as if I carry their good wishes with me always.  Well something like that anyway.  What I'm getting round to is that baggage goes with you. 

People often talk of moving abroad to start a new life, or something like that.  But this isn't a list in a Word document, and you can't choose to restart the numbering where you wish.  We are all gypsies in that wherever we end up, we unpack all our good and bad crap and set up camp.  Whatever you were really rubbish at back home, you'll be really rubbish at here.  Similarly whatever you excelled in, carry on excelling here.  Or there.

Long, long before Brussels was definite, I had this image.  It was me, somewhere foreign, good haircut, rather fine pair of boots, taking a measured Sunday stroll then dropping in at a neighbourhood bar to drink some sort of pale aperitif.  Slightly portly gentlemen looked past their wives at me.  After a while the fine boots would take me back to an elegant apartment where some beef slow-cooked itself among chestnuts and beer.  Perhaps a new twinkly friend would come round to share it.

It is good to keep images like this as reference, although we all know Sundays are more likely about going down the bottle bank and rushing to Carrefour before it shuts.  Catching up on the X Factor, messing about on the internet and not sewing up the hem of my trousers.

I really should at least go to Gent for the day.  Without the backpack.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Not Today

And so I have an appointment to see a Doctor (possibly not a Timelord, though that would be quite amusing) at the community help place, and we'll take it from there.

I did not attend the auditions for Calendar Girls - it's best I don't commit to anything at the moment in case rehearsals clash with appointments or minor headfucks.  My feeling is that this blog is coming to an end soon.  I could go on until the Germans find the bookcase and uncover the annex but perhaps it's best not.

For one thing, it is not that hard now to connect the me who writes this occasionally entertaining diary to the me who works for a fairly high-profile organisation.  That makes me a little uncomfortable.  But more than that; it doesn't feel like I'm dancing in an empty room any more.  Perhaps it never was like that, but it seemed so.  Now I'm dancing with concerned or outraged or slightly horrified eyes on me.  Which, if you've seen me dancing, is probably not that unusual. 

In an ideal world, this blog would end with me finding a lovely, kind, insouciantly muscular chap who doesn't mind about the slight mentalness; and I'd put all my books on shelves in a spacious, elegant flat, then turn to him with a smile.

Of course that's all bollocks, and it will no doubt end something like this.  But not today.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Mary Poppins Redux

Tonight I did a little emergency pick up for my old family, in a very literal sense.  H is now at school, so I collected her from the garderie.  She was so exhausted she sprang up into my arms, as I was simultaneously protesting "I can't carry you!" and fell promptly asleep.  A sleeping 15 kilo child over one and a half kilometres, in the most slippery afternoon heat.  My arms have not stopped shaking yet.  I just kept breathing and telling myself thank goodness you're fit, thank goodness you're fit, thank goodness you're fit...

Baby C, who is barely a baby now, was all delighted and crazy again, doing turnovers backwards off my knees and then carefully enunciating "More".  I had to physically prise her off when I left.  I suspect she would have been quite happy to get in my backpack and come to my house, as long as there was pasta when she got here.

It's way too hot for September, enough now.  I'd like not to have sodden hair roots by the time I get to work, and attractive bubbles of sweat on my cheeks.  Such a good look.  Talking of good looks, my daughter and I were childishly amused by this in Paris at the weekend:

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Silence Is Not Golden

I have worried people; for this I apologise.

This may not have been the best place to write the things I have written, but at the time it seemed like a safe place.  This choice has been challenged - why did I not just write it down for myself at home.  Why did I not just talk to my family. 

Well writing it down just for myself means it is still there orbiting my head and the reality is still true only for me.  As far as discussing it with family goes - how do you bring up this sort of thing, and with whom?  There is no way to slip it into conversation, or to explain what it feels like that I'm reading from a different history.  The communications I have now had with close family members indicate that it is something they want left in the past and not disclosed to anyone.

Anyway, I've contacted a place about talking this through privately.  Silence isn't really an option.

Hopefully we'll be back to me talking inconsequential shit before you know it.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Rock or Roll

And then it all went very wrong. 

I have to be very careful what I say; basically a close family member objects in very strong terms to what I've been writing.  It has been requested that I shut the fuck up, to put it bluntly.

When a child witnesses extreme domestic violence over a number of years, it does not go away because you become an adult.  The effects reach far and deep.  And yet it has gone away - it has been expunged from family history.  It remains only and very clearly in me.  It occurred to me yesterday that I've carried the burden of this knowledge and experience and abuse - for it is abuse - on behalf of the whole family.  Nobody else was there for the whole show, forced to witness such awful violence for years.   So not only have I carried this for the family, enabling them not to know, or to forget, or to pretend it was nothing, now I have been told to stay silent about it because it will upset the family.  I think this is quite common where one person has been regularly subject to something like this.  That person becomes the problem in the family because they rock the boat and everyone else quite likes the boat being still.

So I have the options either to brick myself up inside silence, to save everyone but myself, or to continue to speak the truth when necessary.  Neither option is easy.  But this is my life, my blog, my increasingly tenuous sanity.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


For those of you who have never experienced depression, explaining it is like trying to describe to someone else a colour outside the known spectrum. For those of you who have, well, it might not be the same colour.

It's come and gone all my life and I have no idea if it's endogenous, or the result of an unremarkable but not very pleasant childhood, or both, or something else. There's definitely a very melancholic gene in this family.

Moving to another country was always going to be risky. You leave behind family and long friendships and the framework of your life in which it is more or less accepted who you are, and you come to a place where nobody knows you. Everything depends on who you are today. Over time it becomes clear that some old friendships are not going to stand the separation. I believe that there are people I will never see again, and it feels like they died.
Removed from the framework of all that is usual and normal and accepted, life does snake-like things. The Doctor said that rather than being linear, time is "more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly...timey-wimey...stuff". I couldn't have put it better myself. Things that happened 40 years ago feel suddenly as fresh as if they are happening now.

Should it really still hurt this much, stuff that happened then? Should it still feel like there is a size 12 boot on my face (that looks like his face, and makes me want to claw it off every day) making sure I do not try to be ok? God knows. I'm going to have to work through this one, because these are not good days.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Slave to the Rhythm

It may not be obvious to the casual blogreader but I have not really had a holiday this year.  There were a bunch of luxurious half-days when one family was away and then the other, but apart from that it's been pretty flat out since January. 

In my childhood, when everything was in black and white and you wore jumpers all year round, holidays were not all that, anyway.  We had that two weeks every year, last week in July, first week in August, when we went unbooked to some seaside and drove round the coast until finally finding a B&B with a vacancy.  This was one of the few times my mother would use my father's first name.  You'd be surprised how much irritation, despair and contempt one word could express.

Holidays were the only time they really spent together and they were mostly characterised by embarrassment and a sort of public hissing.  And loathsome Victorian toilets on another floor.  Although Dorset was really nice.  Except when I thought I'd lost them at Chapman's Pool and caused a small landslip by screaming.  And that time when I was put in an attic room and everything rattled so much in the wind I started screaming.

This lack of holiday must be cream-crackering on some level though.  At weekends I just sleeeeep.  It seems a mournful waste of weekend but this creaky old body is telling me something. 

Anyway, in your first year of employment in Belgium, you don't get holiday pay.  I will however be taking a day off in October for The Big Family Wedding in Yorkshire.  It will be my first time staying in a Travelodge.