Sunday, 28 October 2012

Tap 'n' Unwrap

Today I finally got on with months of accreted admin.  The grown-up has crawled back out from under the bed.  From silly little things like writing to the UK Blood Service to tell them I don't live there any more to far, far bigger things like writing to my landlord to give notice.  That is going registered post tomorrow, and is very sobering.

It may seem like a small thing after moving countries but no.  When I gave notice on my flat in the UK I had somewhere lined up to move to, temporarily.  I was also blessed with naivety about the whole thing and it lay ahead like a yet unopened chocolate orange.  Tomorrow I give notice and have nowhere to go; and three months to change that.  It certainly sharpens one's focus.

The other sobering thing today was finally reading my home insurance policy and realising it doesn't cover theft.  Even if it did, the claim would not be valid because the outside and inside doors have no safety locks.  I think this is technically known as a bummer.  My landlord is not the most favourite person right now.

This has been quite a year so far.  It would be nice if I could be in Gent by my anniversary, 4 January.  Let's aim for that.  And then at the end of January is the Festival of Lights.  I'd like to show that to you.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Going Gently

I've been to Gent/Ghent/Gand to look at a house.  OK, let's settle on the spelling "Gent". 

I was prepared: train times, bus times, walky mappy things.  As tends to happen though, on arrival in Gent I found half the bus station had disappeared.  The first thing one discovers about Gent is that it's a bit like a 1960s jet-setting film set in some undefined but faintly glamorous location.  Everyone speaks perfect and charming English and is helpful.  Having been directed to the displaced parts of the erased bus station, I decided to get a taxi. 

The house was, in short, gorgeous.  It stands at the end of a little paved alley, and has three floors.  All exposed brick and loveliness.  Good secure front door (although the lady who lived there said Gent wasn't like Brussels), little back yard, lovely.  Lovely lovely.  Three floors for €615 a month.  However.  The toilet is on the ground floor and the bedroom is up two very steep flights of stairs.  Now, like most women, I like my toilet quite nearby.  The idea of abseiling down two floors in the middle of the night would be enough to make one buy a potty.  Also the idea of those stairs first thing in the morning is a little off-putting.  You really would need a harness.

The house felt a bit far away from stuff, too.  I don't know how I can substantiate that claim, seeing as it was my first hour in Gent, but there you go.  So, as is traditional, I then wandered off and got lost for an hour.

Well not lost as such.  I knew I was in Gent.  I knew the number 4 tram went to the station.  Only it didn't.  I was starting to get a bit upset, so I couldn't ask anyone (stupid I know but it was dark, I was tired, and hungry and needing a wee).  In the end I did what any sensible scout would do and followed the tram tracks.  Then discovered what the issue was.  A huge chunk of route had been ripped out to renew some tracks or something.  Picking my way over the man-size Brio set, I finally disovered with a little whoop the tram going to the station.  Which then quietly left without me.

First impressions:  I like Gent a lot.  It is classy, beautiful, slightly funky.  Nice and flat for the bike types.  I'm seeing another house on Monday, nearer the centre.  Everything crossed.  I shall try not to get lost this time.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Raveled Sleave

This sort of paralysis continues.  At work I'm Madame C, excellent PA.  At home I'm just sort of sitting, smelling like soup.  Before 6 November I have to decide if I'm moving because three months' notice is required.  I cannot decide.  I can't think or do anything personally administrative at the moment either.    Perhaps it's an attempt to recreate some safety.  If I do nothing and be very quiet no-one can hurt me.  Old messages.

I've never wanted to be rescued.  Chances are the rescuer would just want a shag, or I would get impatient with the rubbish rescuing and grab the horse.  Right now though I'd like it if someone could say this is what you are going to do, and this is how you are going to do it, and I'm going to help you.  Realistically that person is going to be me, but there is just no fuel in the tank.

The idea of moving yet again (the third move in a year) is exhausting.  Last time I moved this much (three times between becoming pregnant and my daughter being seven months old) was half a life ago, and I was driven by the fierce urge to find a nest for us.  Now, I'd quite like to go and lie under the bed with the plastic boxes of sheets and towels.  I just want to sleep, and sleep, and sleep and then wake up in a nice apartment.  I bet in Hollywood you can actually do that.  I bet they Propofol you out and shift you to another house, unpack all your stuff and then prop you up at the table with a coffee and your laptop.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Wooden It Be Nice

I don't really have a lot of words in my head at the moment.  I suppose I'm trying to process what has happened in my flat, which is essentially the rupture of a safe bubble of existence (without being melodramatic).  Outwardly everything is fine; inwardly there is a deep bruise and deep deep disappointment.  I don't want to believe there are people like that, who would take away so much without the slightest concern. 

There is this weird sleep thing which I've had for some time which expresses anxiety neatly.  It manifests in different ways.  Last night I kept dreaming that colleagues were waking me up to tell me things I had to remember when I woke up but I was too tired to remember them, and they kept waking me up to tell me other things.  That's one way.  The more common way is that I fall asleep and wake up in the wrong way.  Don't ask me what the hell that means, my brain tells me this.  Waking up in the wrong way or at the wrong time can be fatal.  Don't ask me why, my brain tells me this.  I will either go blind or die or something very bad will happen.

So a decent refreshing sleep would be great.  I have a sophisticated security measure installed downstairs - one flat piece of wood on the floor between the door and the sofabed, and another jammed under the lock and against the sofabed.  The sofabed has the qualities of the stone that sealed Jesus's tomb and I would be very surprised if anyone could move it.  If they do get past this sophisticated measure, I have the sophisticated carving knife nearby.

Monday, 15 October 2012

In Out In Out

The burglary, and then a lovely but exhausting weekend in Yorkshire (for a lovely family wedding in the middle of nowhere) has left me with few words to string together.  Mind you I always say that don't I, and then go on to write screeds.

At the moment I'm about 80% certain I want to move, and am starting to make noises in that direction.  I keep expecting to come home and find they've been in again, although there is nothing much to take.  There are other things bothering me - the washing machine, with its attendant fetid lake in the cellar, has now stopped working completely, and nearly ate my clothes.  I had to use my keys to get the washing machine door open.  And four large things that I am expecting in the post have all not turned up.  This, along with my front door which apparently is made of FAIL, goes to make up a feeling of real malaise and general shitness.

Still, Yorkshire was absolutely gorgeous and if I ever get the urge to return to England, Yorkshire it will be.  The scenery, the people, it was all lovely.  I did nearly kill a dog, but it was all right.  The dog was lying in a bar of sunshine, which was also shining in my eyes, and I was concentrating on the tray of coffee I was carrying.  The rest is comedy platinum. 

Having your stuff and your peace of mind nicked is never a good thing, but it's worked like sort of adrenalin on a stopped heart.  The shock of it has made me want to be out there, not in here.  In here is not my sanctuary any more.  We'll see how that pans out. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


I received a call from my landlord this afternoon which was 95% incomprehensible.  I understood that someone was coming to my flat at 7pm.  On returning home I found the lock on my apartment door had been prised off and entry effected, effectively.  I went in, in shock.  You've seen it on the telly but in your own flat it's just horrible.  They took all my jewellery that my daughter had bought me and that I had bought me, over the last ten or so years, and my dad's watch, and my camera.  Fortunately my computer is a fat fuck and they left it. 

They have been in my knickers, on my bed, in all my private things. 

Whoever got in managed it without forcing the street door, which is worrying.  It means they could come back and do it again.  It also means that my little nest, halfway up a building, which felt so safe, is nothing like it.  My only refuge has been broken into and pawed over by ugly, vile people.  I will have to move, to somewhere safer, wherever that might be.  If indeed there is anywhere.  (Ironically, London was safe compared to this.)  Somewhere with codes, big keys, ferocious salivating hounds of hell.  How I'm going to sleep until that time, I don't know.  I'm going down the cellar to find something to jam against the door at night.  I have a new door lock, that was what was coming at 7pm.

I'm taking a big fucking knife to bed.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Making Good

When you have a broken head, you tend to think only something big can fix it, if at all.  (There is also simultaneously a claustrophobic sense that nobody has ever experienced this thing and it's unfixable).   Big things like daily medication, therapy; things that cut into your life and refuse to leave until there is a change.  Small things seem silly.  Like throwing tiny stones at an Easter Island statue.

But it's the accumulation of the small things that have made a broken head in the first place.  So surely an accumulation of small things can, if not reverse that, then fill it with spackle.  Sorry for the Americanism, but I love the word spackle.

Those small things cannot be reassuringly prescribed, or reassuringly expensive.  They will be different for everyone.  So in the spirit of collecting small things to spackle my head, I mean to do the following:

  • Eat decent food.  I just had porridge with chopped apple, sugar and raspberry coulis.  Nice.  Woman cannot exist on bread and cheese alone, although I've given it a good try.

  • Get a decent amount of sleep.  Going off at 2 and an alarm at 6 is not doing anyone any favours.

  • Gradually create an environment that looks loved.  This is the hardest one for me, as I tend to let my place become the portrait in the attic; all the shit inside projected.

  • Let go.  Forgive.  Oooh.  That's not small, is it.  That one slipped in unnoticed.

  • Be patient and kind to myself if the first four things on this list sometimes seem impossible.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Got Faith?

Losing my Religion

One night in the nineteen seventies,
I invited Jesus into my frost-brown heart,
but I think the invitation still stands
stiffly on his heavenly mantelpiece.

It seems he just wasn’t that into me,
even though I’d given everything up;
all the atheism and the not believing
in resurrection and his body and blood.

One night in the nineteen nineties,
I started chanting like Tina Turner,
scrubbing toilets to transform my life,
making causes to change effects

of causes made in other lives or this.
And now I just have relics. A museum
of faith. I stand guard now, wistfully
handling the exhibits sometimes.

yup it's a very young Michael Stipe.

Friday, 5 October 2012

How It Happens

Well, since you ask (no I know, actually you didn't), what happens is this. It's a bit like having a fever or wanting a poo. Images come at you and hang around like flies until you do something with them and they just won't bloody go away. And then it's all a bit like childbirth on a small scale; or pooing. This thing has to come out one way or another, flies and all. And that, for me, is what writing a poem is like.  I'm sure Philip Larkin would say exactly this.


Listening to Tracey Thorn,
with that fruitless yearning
for a fruit to fill this maw,

looking for a thing unborn,
unfertilised, the burning
of a sun neither here nor

there, ever. Ever love-lorn
for new actors learning
one role, evermore,

like Eastenders. Worn
tracks always returning
me to you, or him. Or him. Or.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Squaring the Circle

I don't normally get scared in taxis, but when the driver goes so fast over bumps you nearly choke on your own spit, and then drives up on the pavement shouting COUILLON at the person who had stopped in front of us, well, I may have got slightly anxious. 

Anyway.  I don't have a lot to say at the moment.  On a paint chart life would be a sort of indeterminate porridge colour.  I'm working on being a nicer shade.  I'm working on being who I can be, and not this bloody reject.  But it's not very interesting work and the hours are shit.  Let me tell you instead about Flagey.

It's not often I do the frite thing, but with an hour to spare I went down the best fritkot in town (allegedly) and shouted my order like a local.  With a cornet of chips and a cold Fanta, I straddled one of the long benches that surround Place Flagey.  On the surface, it's just like they had a lot of spare paving stones and went a bit mad.  But this grey place is truly the local heart.  Watching one courageous child running in and out of the fountains coming from blow-holes in the paving; youths playing some sort of football; people crossing the square rapidly, aiming at buses; the Flagey centre rearing like an ocean liner over CafĂ© Belga, I remembered it was nearly a year ago that I was first there, and it seemed improbable that this was now home.

On a speculative weekend jaunt to look at flats, I had wandered downhill into Flagey having no idea about it but getting the sense it was somewhere.  Now, sitting there greasy with beef fat, I realised that the trajectory of each bus and tram in view was known to me.  I've had three dates in the immediate area.  I use all the supermarkets.  However, the market still remains a bit of a mystery.  It appears each morning and evaporates in the afternoon, the only sign of it being stacked barriers. 

Aside from IKEA, and football, it occurred to me what a unifying experience the fritkot was.  Nobody is too grand for a frite.  Nobody looks great eating them and yet there we sit, grazing blithely from paper cones.  I am part of Flagey, and Ixelles, and Brussels, because I am here, doing unobtrusively what other people do, and living the slightly fritey life. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Suburban Dreams


To IKEA via Jacques Brel; Bizet,
out on the Ring,
a place that never thought of feet.

Trolleys scrumming by the Metro;
shoals of cars
feed on lone pedestrians.

couples have Pinteresque rows
in tousled bedroom sets.

I sweat at the nape,
stuck in meubles de rangement,
trying to remember the word for shelf.