Thursday, 30 October 2014


How can anybody really live here with it’s lights and affairs and it’s all very garish. An opera woman is stuck beneath a bridge and her voice echoes as a 18:46 train rumbles overhead and the old R. Thames splish sploshes aside another thing that happened today. 

Seagulls lark about. Crows look on dismissive. 

Children are just about everywhere from the thicket to the spinney to the scrubland, and parents linger on holding out a phone directly in front engaging with their infant via telecommunicational screen, and what are they capturing without a flash in the dark? Some tiny silhouette doing a pirouette on a concrete slab in London. Fond memories.

I don’t want to be alone when I’m older. You don’t want to feel embarrassed. You don’t want to seem quiet. But she is not quiet. She is resilient. That’s why she is silent.

How can anybody really live here where life is too good to waste. A land of plenty but one ends up wanting more. Pork scratchings the film Closer John they keep dropping off like flies they keep getting divorced and John they’ll send John Lewis gift-wish-gift-lists soon John.

In out, one dies one born, so lonely so happy, one marries one separates.

What’s with all these lit baubles on trees, short trees, more like hedgerows. Waste of light makes your head dizzy. She was really pretty with long legs and auburn hair. She reflected in the dark tinted windows. A man in a suit with rugged meant-to-be-there facial hair studies her right there and then and when home she studies herself in the mirror. Looking good, they both think. The baubles make you blink and squint and maybe they distract you from what you’re really thinking which is, ‘it’s cold out’ but you’re dazzled and so you think, ‘this is bloody marvellous and romantic’. I mean no wonder we’re confused. Most of the time a soundtrack is playing or a coloured tint is being put across a familiar face to hide blemishes and I can always plug in if it’s getting too much and you could be right there facing and talking to me. Oblivious. Me? In your dreams. But remember the clean edits and the montage scenes in rom coms giving the impression of a passage of time filled with happy holding-hand long-shots with sunlight dappling through autumn leaves and ducks being fed and what not. The stakes are very high. Instagram is a lie and I cry.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sam Swiss Cottage

An old woman sits in a Sam Smiths.

‘Darlings, will you look after this for me while I’m gone? Won’t be long.’

Sweetly slurps the ale in the pint glass and shuffles out. We look on and nod. Leaving behind a book on dramaturgy, the pint glass, and one blue plastic bag. As time crawls on – we’ll have to leave soon – she’ll still not be back; unnoticeably.

I’ve gone up to the ancient bartend for some grub.

            ‘Bangers and mash please.’

            ‘No bangers.’

            ‘Steak and liver pie please.’

            ‘No pie.’

            ‘Ale battered cod and chips?’

            ‘No fish.’ Has more gums than teeth and shaking elbows but with an indomitable stare. ‘It’s been a busy week in the kitchens’, he says by way of no apology. That’s fine I mean I didn’t know places stocked up on food for a week, does that still happen in London establishments, it is the capital after all, but then again I am in a Swiss Cottage.

            ‘How old’s this pub?’

‘Two-hundred-and-forty years.’ Might explain the kitchen stasis.

‘Steak and kidney pudding please.’

‘Chips or mash with that?’

‘Chips.’ Reading the talent on display in the menu I ask a question (though I have asked plenty already), ‘What’s suet pastry?’


‘No suet.

‘Steak. Meat.’

‘That’s fine I’ll have that.’

Wonder back and sit down and the old woman is still not there but we discuss the game plan for tomorrow where we’ll be boarding a train and seeing some countryside flicker past a carriage window. Trying to get some money to fund a theatre show, it’s going to be a minor adventure. If only we could get in to the locked rehearsal rooms at the drama school Twig has managed to hijack for us. But we don’t have the key or the code or the access card, whatever let’s modern things in to buildings.

            ‘Did you know this pub is 240 years old? Apparently the whole town was built around this pub.’

Twig enters blasted by the wind and strides over to us in the inn. The steak and kidney pudding arrives on cue but no time to ruminate must shovel-in-mouth as precious rehearsal time dissipates. I won’t finish my pint but I don’t want to let it go. The others are ready to leave and I’ve almost eaten my last boiled carrot in gravy when scholarly Tennet notices:

            ‘Oh no. The lady isn’t back yet.’

            ‘The old woman. No you're right.’ Continue to gorge.

She goes and braves it in the hurricane outside but no sign of bobble hat or specs. Can’t believe innocent people leave behind an unfinished pint and book in a tavern like this, vagabonds trail this path. Twig downs an orange Juice. I grab my helmet.

            ‘They don’t have plastic glasses. Can one of you smuggle this glass out with you?’

            ‘I have a flask.’

            ‘No I’m not putting beer in a tea flask.’

As we venture out in to the westerly winds Tennet’s bulbous bags crash against one another and the helmet made of brass clangs in to walls and flakes off their plaster. Blustery.

Gale’s a blowin’, the ship’s mast is a creakin’.

Wet leaves layer the pavement. Orange, yellow, fire.

A cat crosses our path like a shadow. Flicks her tail. Peers strangely at us.

            ‘How long have we been walking?’

Days. Miles.

            ‘Have we turned a left bend yet?’

            ‘Yes we turned it a while ago at the bend!’ Must raise our voices against the wind.

            ‘Oh god. 12 minutes!’ Twig scrabbles around on her phone, ‘it must be wrong we’ve already been walking for about 20.’

The lady at the door who gave us the directions said it was right by a church: St. Peter’s Place. No street lamps just big houses, they give off enough street level lighting as it is. Impossibly large living rooms and double-breasted front doors. White crystal interiors looking more like art galleries than homes.

            ‘What's it look like?’ asks Tennet.

            ‘A church’ replies Twig.

We spot a church and scramble over to it. Maybe the drama school owns the church? What’s religion without a bit of performance anyway.

            ‘Yes this is it. How the hell do we get in?’

I’ve climbed over and trudging through a graveyard, Tennet’s looking for an entrance, Twig tries to pull apart a door. It’s very dark in this churchyard in Swiss Cottage. The branches swing about me and I think one will break off and kill me: “man under tree”. You know the abbreviation for “man under train” is MUT. Like a dead dog. A man lain to bury must be “man under ground”: MUG. No by all means, make it more poetic, “man under grass”, that’s more pleasant and English. I take a swig of the flask. Give some to Tennet.

            ‘I’ve found a door!’

Great. We pick up our bags and bundles and helmet and run across the yard to Twig who hails an entrance as she has the key(card). Thank god we’re out of the wind and the knight’s dark thoughts can dissolve and we can at last practice our presentation before boarding that train tomorrow.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Archangel -

I came home tonight and I was struck by the mysteries of the world. A small letter containing an even smaller envelope awaited me, to my surprise. I broke the seal and unwrapped it and within was a sack. These sacks are special and from my homeland, for want of a better word, they are talisman that attest to my rootedness: Japan. I had no idea this was on the way to me or even it had been sent - or existed - in time conceived with me as recipient. The scribbling on the creased paper read (in English hand)

- Konnichiwa

For what I could understand this one is for happiness and dreams to come true. My best wishes from Kagoshima, among ashes and best ramen and onsen

The sender is someone in the past I had shared a great deal with some would fathom call it love. The recipient I am not sure, is someone I’d like to think I knew very well, that is myself, but at times like these I am left shaken. Shaken by the trepidation in the world I inhabit. Shaken by the lack of knowledge; the doubt. Who knew he was in Japan. Who knew he would think of me. I didn’t know he had my home address. But what it means is something of grand design of teleological virtue. I could not stand on a precipice and feel more the purpose of history.

For forever I had felt the unworthiness of this cause, of never saying sorry because I fucked up royally and you deserved better. Forever I had felt unforgiven. But tonight after a joyous event and drinks and singing I return home to this crumpled envelope and I see his handwriting and I read the note, I feel everything settle on me like a heavy blanket. It is unforeseen and that is what drives it home. The mystery. The thanks that I want to give to the wind and the tides that seek a home so far away from any shore, I feel like a pebble resting on a bank after attrition and journeys I cannot remember. Thank you Whoever You Are looking out for us seemingly abandoned souls. We really appreciate you angels.

Friday, 10 October 2014


A funeral was taking place and I wasn’t invited to it. I didn’t know the dead person so why should I have been? Maybe it was the notice board that made me feel left out.

The Autumn has set in and the leaves are well and truly off the branches - it’s wet pulp on the ground - and the commuter train carriages are condensed. I always think of leaves at Autumn even though there are barely any trees here, I look around and there may be the odd tree that’s been positioned to hang over a bench, but benches are sort of rare finds too. Like telephone boxes. People don’t want loitering. The mute passage of time. 

“Autumnal— nothing to do with leaves. It is to do with a certain brownness at the edges of the day… Brown is creeping up on us, take my word for it… Russets and tangerine shades of old gold flushing the very outside edge of the senses… deep shining ochres, burnt umber and parchments of baked earth— reflecting on itself and through itself, filtering the light. At such times, perhaps, coincidentally, the leaves might fall, somewhere, by repute. Yesterday was blue, like smoke.”¹

Hanging, waiting for someone to show up by a street lamp you definitely notice the urgency that sets in about people as the days get shorter. We scurry more. Previously in the sun’s long haze people looked off in to the distance, looked a bit more sure of themselves, ‘Yes the sun is here and today is another day amongst many days’ sort of stares (‘Gentlemen to bed… for we rise at daybreak’ sort of tones). 

Tonight the orange humming glow from the fluoro pallidly skims off the gravel. 

How did people cope in the past when light faded.
It felt colder. 
It was darker. 
Darkness often means danger or the unknown, I mean you can’t see.
You have no idea the confidence light gives you, I mean you can see.

There is a house in South Croydon where a notice board hangs off a south-facing wall. The message reads:

Gladys (8) died
Residents are welcome to celebrate her life. Funeral at 4

Room 8. That must be the 8 in the bracket. There’s nothing to it really, the message I mean: 'Somebody [room number] died’. Simple. But god, that’s a life. A whole life just ceased and and it’s plain there to see that it’s gone or done or whatever. 

Gladys, sometimes I worry that I’m too preoccupied with death - but it’s not just a morbid curiosity it’s the shock to the system that the concept conjures up. I don’t see enough old people in the things that I look at and I rarely have to think about ageing in my life. It’s like youth is sold to me as choice rather than a stage, and I don’t know how I’ll feel Gladys, when I grow older. 

Yesterday, in a film, I saw dentures popping out of a wizened laughing old face and the crooked thin-lipped smile of a white-haired gent. And the lens was so clear. And it stirred in me a delight. And his words reassured me, ‘We grow small trying to be great.’²


¹Tom Stoppard, “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”
²David Hockney