Friday, 28 February 2014

Lemon Girl & Rose

(NB. To be read as poetry to be performed as dialogue)

Lemon: I didn’t expect to see you here.

Rose: Why would you say that? Of course I’m here.

Lemon: Merry Christmas by the way.

Rose: Ok, and same to you.

Lemon: And a happy new year.


Rose: It’s already spring, let’s forget the festivities.

Lemon: Like you forget about those around you?

Rose: No I never.

Lemon: Whatever, you’re a hussy and you know it. Fleeting and always chasing the dream.

Rose: Why are you like this? Couldn’t we be nice to each other like it was in our childhood? Remember the honeycakes and morning dew?

Lemon: You need to stop hitting the bottle. You’re drunk.

Rose: Stop it. It was better then. We Got On.

Lemon: We never Got On.

Rose: Well I still love you.


Lemon: Just so you know. I never loved you.

Rose: That’s fine.

Lemon: No it’s not. Love can’t be a one-sided affair. If you say you love me but I don’t return it then it basically annuls your love and transforms it in to obsession.

Rose: I’m ok with that. I still love you. Always will.

Lemon: Then Fuck Off.


Rose: I brought flowers.

Lemon: I can see.

Rose: Which one’s his grave?

Lemon: Guess.

Rose: That one?

Lemon: No.

Rose: That one?

Lemon: No.

Rose: That one?

Lemon: No.

Rose: That one?


Rose: I know he meant a lot to you.

Lemon: Do you really?

Rose: Yes. He was your friend I know.

Lemon: Like a brother.

Rose: And your lover.

Lemon: Like a soul-mate.

Rose: So I am sorry.

Lemon: Hated fire.

Rose: For your loss.

Lemon: Feared water.

Rose: So it is a shame.

Lemon: A shame to whom I wonder? To me sure, to the neighbours, slightly, and to a non-existent famous friend like you, well it can’t even work itself up to be a shame can it? Just a passing message your agent’s assistant picked up and threw your way.

Rose: And when she did I felt a prick of sorrow so sharp that I came here in my shoes with the flowers I made.

Lemon: Petals on stems.

Rose: That’s what they are.

Lemon: Ignoramous.

Rose: Come here.

Lemon: You ignoramous!

Rose: Don’t pull away.

Lemon: I hate you!

Rose: It’s alright. It’s alright. It’s alright. Sssshhh.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

It Sucks To Be Me Without You

One of the things that most suck about Ogiichan’s death is that he’s not here anymore.

It may sound obvious but that’s what it means to miss someone isn’t it? When that person is no longer here or there or wherever you are.

He was one of the few people I really had time for.
And by that I mean you could sit quietly in his presence and not look at the clock.
Not even think about it (tock).
Just enjoy them being there and you being there as well.

There are people I can’t be bothered with walking around. I play games to make their time go faster. Like I pretend there’s a soundtrack playing behind their movements so I can imagine them as a “part” in a scene of a movie or a music video. I erase them out of existing for themselves to exist for my pleasure only. It’s completely self-engrossed and not something that I’m proud of.

But you have to admit, there are moments in life which are listless because of the time you have to share with such people.

It was never the case with that man.

Because he was happy not to be bothered. Happy to not hold our attention. Happy to be around even for no discernible reason. Didn't mind if we remembered him but was always glad when we did. He was happy to watch the birds outside and the flowers grow.

Not many of us are like that because I want to be heard. I want everything to be about me and if it’s not then it should be. I like to imagine others existing for me to watch, its our narcissistic trade. I miss being in a room with him because he brought me calm.

He held back the tides of time just by being there.

Friday, 21 February 2014

The Funeral (Part 2)

I’m not superstitious in England, but here it seems unavoidable. The day after the end of the funeral I was woken up by some clattering on the tin roof nearby. That’s what raised my eyelids anyway. Clattering. Then two sharp crows from the crow who then quickly flew away. Ogiichan’s telling me to get up I thought, so I did, and went downstairs where my Obaachan was also stirring. I asked why she had got up and she said she remembered Ogiichan’s face laid down in the coffin and thought it was high time to get up. I said I heard a crow. She said she knew. Since the day Ogiichan passed away they’ve been frequent visitors to the house and garden, Obaachan says, ‘Until the 49th day the tamashi of the person surrounds the house protecting it from evil.’

Tamashi means something like soul or spirit, the latter probably being the fuller translation. For when a person is alive people don’t refer to his or her tamashi, they refer to their soul or heart (kokoro) though. A tamashi is something intrinsically connected to the person, viscera or essence, yet it appears bodyless like a glowing circle of densely packed matter of soul. Japan’s a funny old world when it comes to superstition or religion or simply belief, so many elements are grounded in logic yet they make no sense. But when you hear the stories (that’s another story), it’s hard to not let their logic flow.

The second part of the funeral, after the ritual cleansing and chanting the night before was surprising to say the least. I had asked what to expect but nobody had told me in full detail, or even responded to my request so I was left in the dark about things until they happened.

We returned en masse to the undertaker-cum-hotel in the morning to greet all the guests. We sat in the room where the body of Ogiichan lay and gave incense again, and bowed regularly again, as the Buddhist Monk carried out his duties.

Lots of chanting lots of chiming lots of Om’s (Buddhism).
I was jealous of everyone with their beaded rosaries.

Then the coffin was brought to the forefront and opened fully so that the family and guests could say their personal goodbyes to Ogiichan, and we were all invited in and given handfuls of flowers to cover his body with.

Lilies, carnations, yellow cup tulips, white daisies, purple fuchsias...

Ogiichan was a man of flowers. One of his sayings was,
‘A man of flowers can do no harm’.
He also used to say to me - isn’t it ironic that the most beautiful things in the world like flowers are free? I’d agree.

The coffin was filled to the brim with flowers. Everything was covered apart from his face which was left to see out of the bed of petals. He looked at rest. The lid was closed and then the family processed out with Ogiichan following behind led by the Monk who rang a bell every so often. We were led in to cars and went on our way to the crematorium.

At the crematorium the Monk processed us in; a trail of relatives and guests followed subserviently behind us. Final looks in to the coffin were made and then Ogiichan was pushed in to what can only be described as a man-sized oven, a capsule hotel for the dead, and the doors were shut. We heard this loud hum, which began to sound more and more like a blaze and I knew that he was in flames. The Monk chanted more and we were led out.

Then we sat in a room with soft drinks and snacks for about an hour. I hadn’t put two and two together whilst I sat in that pallid room, but we were all essentially killing time for Ogiichan to burn up. Toast. I thought we were just hanging on until lunch or something. I felt pretty claustrophobic in that room so went out for some air, the people of the crematorium looked at me worriedly as I left the building through the entrance, not sure why. Maybe people don’t go out for “walks” at funerals here.


After an hour a uniformed woman came in to look in on our party. She announced,
‘It has been exactly one hour. We will need more time for yours but there is nothing to worry about, everyone is different.’
I thought fair enough, she means Ogiichan isn’t ready yet, which means he hasn’t fully burnt up. That’s when I realised why we had been placed in this horribly warm holding room. We were waiting for the dead. Don't worry we can wait.

‘Let me tell you some facts whilst you're waiting.’ The small uniformed lady began…

‘The myth of degenerate bones or diseased areas coming out of the kiln in different colours is a myth. The reason some of the bones will appear discoloured is due to the dye of the clothing they were burned in or the colouring of the flowers that were placed near or onto the skin before burning.’
All the old folks let out a sigh of awe and understanding. I had no idea what she was talking about.
‘The piece of bone that we call the “Adam’s Apple” is not solely found in men but also in women. Although we call it that, it is in fact referring to the top of the spinal cord. Both men and women have this and it also takes one of the longest times to burn. The actual “Adam’s Apple" is a piece of cartilage and will not remain after the fire.’
Another astonished awe of disbelief expelled by the congregation. Whatever I thought, let’s get on with this, whatever this is.

A tannoy speaker gently states, ‘Tanaka family we are ready.’ That’s my Japanese family name. So we all get up to go, the uniformed woman speaks to the elderly that now is the time to go to the toilet because there are no breaks in this part. We are told to line up as before, two by two, family spearheading the procession. This time though no Monk. We walk solemnly down a corridor and enter a beautifully stagnant room. We all wait. I have no idea what we are waiting for.

My mother, her sister, and my Obaachan (grandmother) are taken out of the room. We wait more. They are brought back in after long silent minutes. They look a bit sick actually. My aunt’s eyes are forever red.

Two sharp knocks on the waiting room door, which are slid open in classic Lynchian style, and then a shining tray of stainless steel is wheeled in.

On it are all of my Ogiichan’s bones.
Holy Shit.
In heaps.
And an urn and some chopsticks.

The bones are completely white.

They have been scorched at such a high temperature that they have turned in to calcite (my archaeological brain points out. Thanks brain). Then the procedure is explained to us by a little man in uniform wearing gloves and a clean blue blazer who presides over the rite.

Family first.

We have to go up to the tray, each command some chopsticks, and in pairs on either side of the tray lift a bone up out of the heap and then place it in to the urn.

When I pick up the bone and drop it into the ceramic it makes the noise of a pebble hitting a stony beach. Like in Orkney. I feel repulsed and sacred all at the same time.

Chopsticks to carry parts of my Ogiichan. What the fuck? When everyone else queued up to do the same I couldn't help laughing. The absurdity of it. All the neighbours and his brothers and sisters carrying a piece of his bone with chopsticks. Imagine doing it to a body in a church with knives and forks, it made me laugh. I supressed it as soon as it rose up though because I realised it was inappropriate. But it was funny. My brain couldn’t really fathom that Ogiichan had now become a pile of white dust and soon the little man in a blazer would sweep him up with a dustpan and brush to empty the last bits in to the urn. Clean and tidy.

The skull of Ogiichan had been kept separate until the end.

All the bones when placed in to the urn did not fit so the uniformed presider simply crushed the bones down with a stake. Pragmatic. When it came to the skull parts we were all asked to move close to the tray again and the man carefully placed the bones into life-corresponding positions in the urn. By that I mean, the Adam’s Apple the lady in uniform had been so vocal about was placed at the very front of the urn; then the mandibles and jaw of right and left placed respectively facing forwards; the ear bones behind them; and then different parts of the skull cranium laid out on top of the other bones.

Oh the duty. Oh the precision.

The man turns to my Obaachan for the final possessions. My Obaachan goes in to her bag and hands him my Ogiichan’s glasses and wristwatch. The glasses are opened up and placed carefully in the position they would sit on Ogiichan’s head, facing forwards, imagining where the eye sockets would be. And the watch is gently laid to the right of his skull because he was right-handed.

The lid is closed on the urn.
The urn is placed within a polonium-wood box that is closed.
The box is wrapped in a silken white cloth and tied impeccably.
The wrapped box is placed in an embroidered sheath made of purple and gold thread.

I am handed the box.

I carry the box of Ogiichan’s remains in to the car. He’s sat on my lap and we drive home. At home, I think he’s returned. I carry the box to the hachijou (reception room) and place him on a mantel. People make the mantel look right, with a candle, a bell, incense sticks, his photograph, a glass of fresh water to be changed daily, wooden blocks with worldly inscriptions. And that’s life, death that is.


This morning after the crow awoke me I went in to the room where Ogiichan’s box of remains were and opened all the shutters of the windows. My Obaachan lit the candle and incense and I did the same and gave a prayer. We both looked at him and my Obaachan said I should give him breakfast so I was like what do you give someone who’s dead for breakfast? And she replied toast because that’s what he ate when he was alive for breakfast. So I go and make some toast and put it on a plate and place it on the mantel. I look at it and laugh again, it’s all a bit surreal this transitionary phase isn’t it? We have to treat the thing that’s not there as if it’s still there, more for us Living than the actual Dead who no longer cares. Right? But something in me feels so much more settled knowing that Ogiichan was bathed and cleaned properly before going in to the kiln, that we all as a community placed his remains in to the box, which I carried home, for it to reside over the place he lived for over 60 years. This made more sense than any other way of grieving. The toast was a mere embellishment to it all.

When my aunt Mariko got up and came in to the living room she asks me timidly,

‘Urm, why is there toast on the scared mantel?’

‘It’s his breakfast’. I say, ‘Obaachan told me to give him breakfast.’

‘You don’t give The Spirit bread for food – you give him a bowl of fresh white rice.’

‘Ok. Well you take it up with Obaachan.’

‘How else do you think Ogiichan’s spirit will become the Buddha if it lives off stale bread?’

‘Like I say, ask Obaachan I don’t know.’

So Mariko goes off to explain to Obaachan the ins and outs of what the dead want for food, and I hear my Obaachan exclaim that she doesn’t think he needs fresh white rice and my aunt says of course he does because it's The Spirit, and then I begin to write this blog.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Funeral (Part 1)

I asked my Obaachan (grandmother) when we got home, ‘Was that a normal Japanese funeral?’ and she replied, ‘Yes, but the bath is optional’.

Arrived into Narita and got a train to Kasukabe my home town. When I got to the house where I was born everyone was dressed in black, just in time for the funeral preparations. I put on my black clothes and was asked about pearls but I wasn’t listening because my Ogiichan was lying still on the floor of the hachijou (reception room). All wrapped up in white cloth. A white veil covering his face. The light filtered in through the paper windows. There was piled up snow outside.

Obaachan spoke to him kindly, said that I’d come home.

I knelt on a cushion and she lifted the veil; he looked asleep and I looked on; lit an incense; hit a bell that rang through the silence.

Hurriedly my mother did the same and then a cute little man dressed in a suit came to the front door donning gloves and a sympathetic smile. Lots of bowing. Lots of apologising for existing. They had come to move him, so obviously I let them and it seemed so logical that I didn’t question why. Another man appears soon after also suited and gloved and stooping under the pressure of solemnity, then the two of them move Ogiichan’s body onto a stretcher out in to the snow and then in to a BMW. The cute little man askes us to hold our hands together and bow until the car has gone out of sight, so we do, and then I go and get ready.

The family arrive dressed in black at a place called The Grand Ceremony, this is a brand name for a building/service I am not sure how to describe as it is like a professional undertaker-cum-funeral-wake-type-reception-hotel. It’s like what you’d expect for a wedding but for a funeral. Chandelier lights, soothing music and soft furnishings. Then things start to get surreal. We’re seated as close family in front of Ogiichan’s wrapped body and we watch him get a ritual bath. A woman and a man wash him with warm water out of a shower head (the type you get at salons). The woman gently says what she is doing like I am shampooing his hair now, or the man says stuff like I am sure he will appreciate the bath, and they clip his finger nails and make him just clean. One by one we have to do things too, like wipe his cold face with a warm towel. But I like that, it makes me feel part of the process.

After the bath they dry him, and let me just say the soothing music is still playing and we see nothing indecent and the corpse is never treated once like a corpse but like a living person getting ready for a long rest. It’s relaxing though cathartic.

Ogiichan then gets or is prepared behind a screen to be presented to us (again) but this time clothed in a white silken kimono with a light blue trim. Serene. The family have to help with various clothing rites, like putting on his tabi, his long socks, his gloves and each item is tied to him with a neat small knot. We also help move his beautified body into the coffin by lifting him then gently laying him down on his bedding.

Nothing that can’t be burned must go into the coffin because in the end he’ll be cremated, so a slip of paper representing money (6000 Yen, I don’t know why?) gets wrapped up in a white cloth purse that Obaachan places in to his breast sleeve pocket. Point Of Interest: This is the fare Ogiichan(‘s soul) will need to cross the River Sanzu, the mythical river of the dead resembling something like but not quite the River Styx, and the ferryman will only help Ogiichan cross it with the correct fare.

There’s other things made out of wicker or grass, unsure, that we place in the coffin beside him. A pair of sandals one for each foot, a walking stick, and a hat that will keep the snow off his head and the shade across his brow. It’s like he’s about to go on a journey. What an adventure? He looks peaceful but also totally ready. I wish I was that ready. What a dude.

I keep crying throughout the day as more random Japanese people come up to me to talk and pay condolences until they realise I am the equivalent of a dumb child who doesn't have more to say than ‘Thank you’. The jetlag and the sorrow produce confusion in me and I still don’t know what to think of Ogiichan being dead. It’s still not right is it? At least he’s had a bath, which is more than I can say for me. Tomorrow we start at 7am.

The Buddhist Monk as he chants long and lowly sounds like he is saying ‘pie jesu’ in long drawn out breaths interspersed with knocks of bells. How funny. How familiar.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014


My grandfather just passed away.

He died on the bathroom floor, my Ogiichan, that’s Japanese for grandfather. My Obaachan, that’s Japanese for grandmother, went to find him in the house because he hadn’t come back in to the room for a while. Obaachan found him on the bathroom floor. He’d collapsed. They called the ambulance but when they tried to resuscitate him he was already dead.

I was really close to Ogiichan. We had the same laugh. And once he said to me when we were silently sat alone together in the living room that ‘When Rimika is in the house flowers bloom’. My name is Rimika.

It really flares up at you death; it makes you think about life. All the things that I’d wanted to believe are not true. Like I don’t want to grow up so I don’t have to. Well no, you don’t have to but it’s inevitable. You will grow old. Time stands still for no man, as someone important once said.

What do you do when someone dies? It’s so irreversible. And life so irreverent, that you can walk to a bathroom and never return. What is that? It’s fucking ridiculous that’s what. Imagine knowing someone for the whole of your life and then they're no longer there and that’s a fact. One minute they exist the next they don’t. It’s not important why or how just that it is. Truth. Truth can change all the time we just aren't aware or want to think about it, because if we did it would destabilise you. Everything you know could alter in a blink.

This was one of his favourite poems and I’ll translate it the best I can in Ogiichan’s memory:





Just By Being There

Just by you

Being there

The air of the place

Becomes brighter

Just by you

Being there

All hearts

Feel at ease

Like you

I want to become

Like that

Friday, 14 February 2014

Honesty In A Post Break Up Scene (To Comic Effect)


MOTHER, a tiny woman with a delicate frame. A first generation immigrant who has not grasped the verbosity of the English language. Well-meaning and simple.

GIRL, a 25 year old female looking for a cause.

GRANDMOTHER, a gentle forgiving and tough old bird, aged 79.

FRIEND, a giver of sound advice. A strong souled worthy listener, aged 25.


MOTHER: But he picked you up on the train. He asked for your number (then you gave). And now he leaves you, it’s good. It’s his decision.

GIRL: How is this good?

MOTHER: Because he made all the decisions. It is harder for him. He picked you and now he leaves you.

GIRL: Ok, you’ve made that clear. What about me though? I don’t feel good.


MOTHER: You said you had nothing in common.

GIRL: (Yes) We were coming at things from different angles.

MOTHER: So you were not the same. He saved you from a lot of pain by cutting you now. And he left you so it is good. It was his decision.

GIRL: Right, thanks for clarifying.

MOTHER: He feels bad about you more. And you were not common.


Mobile phone rings (Lovesong riff by The Cure)

GRANDMOTHER: How are you darling? We haven’t heard from you in ages, is everything ok?

GIRL: (Hungover) Yes… sorry haven’t called… all fine.

GRANDMOTHER: Were you out late last night?

GIRL: No. I just got drunk at home in my bedroom.

GRANDMOTHER: Oh. With your housemates – Peter and Elizabeth is it?

GIRL: His name’s Elijah. No. I just drank wine on my own in my bed whilst watching illegal online films.


GIRL: Don’t be concerned. Everyone does it though I’m not proud of it I just thought I should tell you.

GRANDMOTHER: Why were you watching bad films alone with wine?

GIRL: It was ‘Good Will Hunting’ and I was watching it because it’s supposed to be good.

GRANDMOTHER: Oh I see, I don't know these new films.

GIRL: And I was drinking wine alone at home because I didn’t really want to think about life.


GIRL: Don’t be concerned I’m not feeling suicidal, I just felt really apathetic about it all and melancholic so I just wanted to drink until I had to fall asleep. You know?

GRANDMOTHER: No, I can't say I do know. Did anything happen to provoke…

GIRL: My boyfriend left me. Or, he wasn’t my boyfriend but something like that happened so I feel a little heartachey at the moment which is why I drank and now I have a hangover. Does that all make sense granny?

GRANDMOTHER: Yes dear. You’ll be alright. Youth is tough it’s a tough time out there.


FRIEND: Have you been crying?


FRIEND: Are you sure you look like you’ve been crying. Is everything ok?

GIRL: I told you I’ve not been crying so why are you asking me that dickhead?

FRIEND: Because your eyes are all puffy and you’ve got make-up smudged around your face.


GIRL: What if I were to tell you I’m not wearing any make-up.

FRIEND: That’s a lie.

GIRL: My eyes were itchy. And I just had a moment that’s all.

FRIEND: Allergy?

GIRL: From life maybe.

Grateful For List

I can feel the nasty being clawing itself out of me again. Some self-confessed psychopaths would call this “the dark thought”. I just think it’s an insufferable version of me, cruddy nihilistic un-self-assured (narcissist) me. She’s imagining all weird and warped things again like why other people in the world behave this way and that, and how they would disapprove of her for being a weirdo. And the bitch doesn’t even want acceptance only recognition and a shot of caffeine into her self-worth nodes that are sub par.

So, to combat this whoreish whinnying let’s do an I’m grateful for… list. This way you can focus all your negative energy into producing something earnest, which inevitably will be funny.

1. I’m grateful for moving screens which make adverts at tube stations more interesting and less drab and desolate.

2. I am grateful for laces on shoes and trainers because these laces can be changed offering different colours and textures to the wearer thus giving you more ways to express yourself than a solid state pair of shoes.

3. I’m grateful for bus shelters because if you’re caught in the rain whilst out on a walk it provides you with a free outdoor place to perch with no obligation to catch a bus (a literal shelter).

4. I’m grateful for hair product because it a) gives men’s hair a style which looks cool and so improving the overall attractiveness of a city #eyecandy b) can be put in my own hair to make it look like it’s messy on purpose c) makes hair smell better.

5. I am grateful for packets of crisps especially Hula Hoops, Nik Naks and Monster Munch. Firstly, as flavoursome and material reminders of childhood (olfactory nostalgia). Secondly because I’m not a fan of chocolate bars or peanuts or the like, so when on the go and requiring a boost of energy I can pick up a shiny foil bag and eat crisps whenever I want.

All of these things are pretty superficial I’ve realised so I’m going to try and up the gear here. That whining bitch is still gnawing away at me from the insides. Pitiable pathetic psyche.

6. I am grateful for rain because it makes crops grow. (Even if too much can cause flooding, I’m grateful.)

7. I am grateful that I can read because if I couldn’t I would have missed out on a whole lot of interesting shit.

8. I am grateful for music for feeding my stupid hungry soul when I’m afraid.

9. I am grateful for my friends for sharing in my highs and lows.

10. I am grateful for this day otherwise I wouldn't be me.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Check Before You Travel

London Underground stations are closed due to a planned strike

It’s raining and everyone is miserable.

Some services may be affected due to planned engineering work

Just about everyone, maybe not the tube workers on strike who get to stay away from this infernal dull drizzle but they are on strike so they can’t be happy (with work conditions).

Old man with bald head and anorak speaks into his Nokia phone, ‘Gawd it’s a nightmare out here on the roads’ turns to the little boy beside him, ‘You cold son?’
No response
Back to his phone, ‘Nah he’s got his ’at on...
Was gona give him some chips without salt on…
At least they’re warm innit.’

Bus trundles past one motorcycle accident, blue silent lights whirring a top. Boy stares out misted up windows with old man beside smacking chops down the gob-block glued to his ear.

Bus rotes 10, 17, 390, N5, 27, 134, 88, W3, 221, and 63 are subject to diversion due to road disruption

            Hell we’ll be here forever.

A roomful of rueful hyenas

Tuesday, 4 February 2014


Yep, I made this and I like it so I am placing it up here. I'm writing in seclusion right now but on the otherhand a play called Ham that I've been working on with with my theatre co. Mouths of Lions is going into production this week. Exciting times.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

(mohawk kids/girls/women)

Right again with the brightly lit colours?

Try and remember your dream

It included a cat; a porcelain cat, two bars of gold, a hotel room in the middle of Mayfair

Were we the hostages or the hosts? Unclear

I carried two bars of solid gold up flights of stairs

Across carpeted pond weed

I placed them at the sink in his hotel bathroom next to the folded white face towels

I wondered if I should hide them

They were heavy smooth golden

Like a chocolate bar

And the telephone would help us communicate

with the outside world

But I was tired of it all

The gang

The guns

The girl