Friday, 27 November 2015

First Winter Morning

Blink blink sunlight passed over the horizon and the playing fields of clouds rolled out over the misty blue. A letter with two fish sealed upon the envelope had arrived awaiting my thumbing. The days at work seem long and dreary because of the on-off central heating the lack of cats and the dead lightbulb turned upside down on the adjacent table, ‘I’ll buy a new one at lunch’ I say feebly and never do. Screw-in tops, I’m cautious of buying the wrong size. The boss suggests I embrace what the Danes do ‘hygge’ and I wish I could so I try and do it but the only glitch is it’s difficult to do alone.

I think of my friend in America where the weather must be getting “pretty baltic” as he described it over an e-mail from long ago. New York in Winter. I wonder if it’s prettier of more wintry than here? Two sprawling mega-cities with cosmopolitan folk and rundown neighbourhoods. Do they have council Christmas lights? I notice that on my street to work the lights on the lampposts aren’t lights but green shrubs made of plastic and shiny spindles. This street mustn’t have the budget for lights. 

The envelope contained a pale blue letter with a black and white photograph glued to the reverse. The small things really count, I guess. This little messenger guided by two swimming fish on the creased white paper tossed and turned over mailbags and conveyer belts. Guarded by perfectly formed handwriting. ‘What’s you landscape?’ she asks. 

That self-induced dawn, the first Winter’s morning was brimming with light but shy. Her streaks of pearl pink brushed against the sides of flat clouds but if you looked closely she could have been the aurora in disguise. I think of Orkney and the crashing waves on to a placid shore that’s seen it all. The cliffs are grand but unassuming. The few weathered goats that eat seaweed are as much part of the landscape as the jutting out rocks from beneath the sea. Sometime seals bask blubbery and gleaming with snouts like dogs and big wide eyes. I delight at the sea. So to answer your question, that’s my landscape Annina, but this will do for now.

Monday, 16 November 2015

November Greys

November is a time of solid grey. As Winter approaches the sunshine looks like a dying breed - getting scarcer and scarcer - until one day you’re taken aback by a patch of yellowish hue that glows and fades away on a garden wall.  Leaves take over. The red and brown ones are trodden in to mush that make a dirty patchwork carpet for us workers to pad over - to go unnoticed - with our heads down heading in to town like curmudgeons.

The wind makes it harsher than it should be in this placid autumnal humidity and it’s where anything shouted across the street won’t reach your ears; instead it’s tossed aside by the rustle of plastic and soaring jet engines. The feeling of grey “the presence of grey” that puts you off your toast and tea, that makes you wonder how we could possibly hunker down in time for Christmas and get jolly about it all: the fairy lights, the mistletoe and the bells that will follow. Surely they’ll follow. Watch as clothes become coats and boots and loose hair is cropped and kempt beneath big hats and all the while coughs become prevalent in city carriages.

But in the darker months you notice things that are smaller, softer, quieter and keep you warm at night. The muscle memory of a sweet hand squeeze that lingers with you for ages. Or the taste of tea and milky things - the speed of a pup rushing past your knees - the rumples in a bed sheet.

I’ve spent time consuming things in awe of these creators - Giacometti, Auerbach, Hepworth - and I can’t seem to put a finger on it but they have the will to do things to completion by moving on and not stopping. During November I have stopped. And it’s sad. But I have to remain and something however small will start again, like a little broken clock inside my skull that needs a winding on.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Modern Girl

How many un-drunk cups of coffee must exist out there? I find one lurking at the corner of my room which I forget to take downstairs only to remember it upon my flight back up the stairs with another one. The milky residue leaves a circumference of skin that you can ignore up to a point. I’ve been finding that the Modern World can be wholly underwhelming at times. Heck it could be the change in temperature and so the change in tempo: from frazzled happy youth frolicking over the sunlit pavements of the Thames Walk to layer-laden quarter-aged pauper in ripped jeans and bobble hat shuffling under a tunnel in Vauxhall. Gripping a steamy tasteless coffee from Greggs contained in paper thin cups that burn the palms and fingertips that it’s a bit like frostbite but the opposite.

There’s an unholy amount of time spent waiting for something banal to happen in the Modern World. Flossing your teeth which is just a person craning their neck and opening their jaws wide in front of a mirror to clean it from gunk, it’s so boring and gross that in the underwater world you’d get a cleaner fish to do it for you. And for those who think flossing is actually an active source of engagement with the body then imagine the boredom of having to stick a vibrating brush inside your mouth and waiting for it to finish dealing with each tooth. The worst is you have to stare at yourself whilst this happens which makes the process all the more empty and personalised. And during these acts of nothingness it’s not even worthwhile looking at your phone to thumb it to make noises that don’t add any significance to your life or existence, it’s just dead time. Modern World antics and people have to go through this every day. Sometimes several times a day. Holding a glass under a tap to fill it so you can have a drink of water can eke the sodding life force out of you - and some taps trickle - but that’s all part and parcel of the Modern World we live in.

Bank transactions that take 3-5 working days to clear. What’s the money doing? Is it busy? Is it travelling? Has it been held up going through some check-in system that it has to self-operate like the tills that don’t know how to categorise an avocado so has to tag them as a separate item? It should be a fruit because it has a stone. I’m happy - I’m happy - but I’m going mad with these unfinished coffees and receipts everywhere.

But then I found it. The answer. Sheena Easton.

Her song Modern Girl was a serendipitous find. I went to a fancy-dress party in 1920’s gear because that was the theme and my Japanese mother said to me ‘Ah, modern girl!’ when she saw my outfit. (NB/ there was apparently a socio-political fashion movement in Japan called the Modern Girl or Moga which conflated 1920's dress styles with female independence but look it’s been discussed by someone else proper online). A week later I was in search for this mysterious Modern Girl comment and out she pops: big-eyed and very made-up on my Macbook Air screen all shiny and fuzzy from the 1980s. Sheena Easton with her hit single Modern Girl.

Is it the opening sequence which strikes such a chord? Listlessly walking through a market soon to be gentrified in a neon translucent anorak, clunky heels and jewels? Or is it the lyric describing her on public transport through London where ‘She eats a tangerine / Flicks through a magazine’? I mean that’s my life! But written a decade before I was in London (or born) and simply augmented via drastic colour palettes and synthesisers. Then the chorus rises up with the best bit of a pop conundrum: catchy tune, powerful lyrics, but mixed messages that sum up the whole Modern Girl in Modern World problem. She keeps repeating that she doesn’t need a man but the whole song is about her man, and then she says that she is free to be what she wants to be but she still bloody eats a tangerine everyday on the tube and picks up a drab office phone and watches trash telly. What sort of Modern Girl is this? Not one I want to be, but then, I choose to use the self-checkout till and waste time on my apps and think hard about filters. What a load of crap. But hey, what a great tune. Na na na na na na na na na na…