Tag Archives: summer

cracks

Remember when we were kids and you never stepped on the cracks? You always looked down when we were walking together, to make sure. You’d talk and listen and laugh but always with your head down, your slightly shaggy brown hair falling over your eyes and making you unreadable. Remember I’d look up and around me, up at the buildings and over their tops at the sky, and if I wanted to point something out to you, a bird, a funny sign, a pretty cloud, you’d have to stop before you could look. Remember we were never in a hurry so it didn’t matter then. Your feet knew the route – the right path on the solid, unbroken paving slabs – from your house to my house, from my house to yours; it was your house then, ‘my parents’ place’ you call it now, I don’t even know who lives in mine. It might be empty.

Remember sitting on the wall across from the park and watching what we thought of as the ‘little’ kids on the swings when we decided we’d got too old. Do you ever wish it could be like that again? Or later, when we were teenagers and suddenly you were taller and our whole bodies changed, when we lay together in my new attic room and made inevitable love in the afternoon sunlight and the scent of pine.

Remember how we moved together, tentative, curious, but natural and easy as breathing; remember how, once we’d lain naked there that first time, it was as though we could never really be separate again; nothing as pedestrian as clothes could stop that feeling of our sweat intermingled on our skins. Remember later still, how jealous all your lovers were of me, how jealous all my lovers were of you; how difficult it was for them to understand that neither of us could ever really be owned. How difficult for us to understand that anyone could. Remember how our union seemed to irrepressibly laugh at their ideas even when we tried to respect them, how it had gone deeper, then, already, and couldn’t be removed; how unselfishly, how unflappably we shared one another; remember the nights when we admitted that we were single, or the nights when we just didn’t bother trying to resist whatever force it was that pulled us together again, as big as the tide; the nights after dinners or a drink or two when we’d reach into one another’s clothes and find exactly what we expected all over again.

Remember how we’d talk late into those nights, in the dark, feeling the warmth of your breath on the back of my neck, or sometimes my breath on yours; your fingertips in my hair, mine all along your spine. Remember we’d tell each other all the secrets of our various conquests and failures, little things they said or did, you’d make me laugh imitating some strange, silly girl, some poor girl who by then must have realised that you could never really love her, not because of me but because you didn’t know how. Your body became like an extension of my own, I knew every fold and every hair; I could never mind you seeing me naked, never even remember to think about it and cover myself because you’re a mirror. Your eyes are like a mirror – they take the colour of what you’re wearing that day and reflect it, turning faintly blue, faintly green, faintly brown from day to day so you always look put-together; when you’re naked they are grey. I like the way they age as your clothes do; that Batman t-shirt you’ve had forever started out black and so your eyes looked dark when you wore it, and the light in them looked brighter, everything is more lustrous against the darkness. Now it’s so faded, the print cracked and almost disappearing, it’s the same colour as your naked eyes, the real colour, so when you put it on your eyes don’t change, they’re grey, endlessly grey, deep as a whole hall of mirrors, and you look older. When you’re old maybe you’ll start to wear white and your eyes will be pale, colourless as water, and the pinpoints of light won’t show up in them to make them sparkle and you’ll just have two black dots; maybe, but don’t do it until then.

Remember when we both moved away and for the first time had to talk, really talk, to one another on the phone; how I hated the phone, how dreadfully I missed you with that horrible plastic thing pressed to my ear, how far it was from your fondly-remembered lips, your warm morning neck, the brushing touch of little bunches of your hair, still always slightly tangled, slightly overgrown. How your voice sounded different and far; even when I was happy and when you made me laugh, more often than not after those late-night conversations I’d feel suddenly cold, missing you, I’d feel empty and so alone and no-one else could quite do, though heaven knows they tried; I’d distract myself, I’d play with men, it was great fun, I’d never admit that it never felt the same. Hand in glove. Every time we’d finally manage to hang up, I always wanted to call you straight back, the click of the receiver into its cradle a sharp cruel snip to the thread that connects us, the un-bilical cord; I’d feel that cold that starts in my chest, spreads out from the inside, and I’d start to cry, quietly, not knowing why, then sleep and dream.

Remember when I visited you in the spring, the day I arrived was sunny and we sat in your garden among the patchy grass and all the beautiful weeds, the smell of smoke drifted across from your neighbours having a barbecue, we sat there talking until well after sunset. Bindweed climbing up your fence, whisky and ice in a shallow glass, you’d started smoking again by that time too. The next day when we went for a walk, remember you said you’d show me the city, that spring was so beautiful; I had those big sunglasses on and all the stones of all the buildings looked almost pinkish and warm, everything glowing because we were together. Remember that night when we were in the park and you finally told me about the twenty-five girls and the sense of emptiness you felt with them, the difficulty you’d had in trying to understand them, trying to care; remember how you looked away from me, although it was almost dark by now and everything was hazy, streetlit sodium-vapour orange, and for the first and only time I saw you cry. When we’d talked it out and kissed and smoked and kissed again, deeper this time and more urgently, when we’d dried you off, we walked back to yours in silence and this time I was the one to look down and watch your feet: this time you stepped on the cracks.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not worth the earth – these streets are your streets, this turf is your turf.

There are so very many things that I could write about Climate Camp 2009, and other experiences I’ve had in the last couple of weeks. None of it would be very coherent or cohesive, though, I would find it difficult to get points across, I would argue with myself, I would struggle as I always do.  This statement addresses some of my concerns about it, and this article voices some of my hopes and happinesses.

And what about me? I am well and happy. My head is full of ideas, hopes, fears, half-formed analyses. A lot of things are wrong in the world. Some things are right and good. Some things are ugly. Some things are beautiful. I had some time to think and a lot to think about. I value opportunities to meet and spend time with interesting and kind people. My brother is one of the most interesting and kind people I know. I value time spent with him, above much else. I met several new interesting and interested and kind people, too. I like being heard and respected for who I am. I enjoy pubs, pretty girls, Thai food, sunshine, laughter, foxes, freedom and fire. All of the above were features of my week away. I missed my lover, and my bike. My sister is sixteen years old. I got to Newcastle to see her a few hours before her birthday began.

This weekend just gone was Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year – it started at sunset on Friday. I guess that means I started it by tipsily cycling home from the pub where my newish boss had treated me and a colleague to drinkies following an unexpected, but pleasant, ‘it’s 5pm on a Friday and this bottle of wine has been in the fridge for ages!’ one in the office. I had a ‘credit crunch date’ at home, as the boy and I need all the spare dolla we can muster for paying the deposit on, and buying stuff to go in, our new flat next week. We had a nice meal and watched The Proposition – I’d seen it before, in the cinema with K, but he hadn’t, and it is still as bleak yet brilliant as I remembered. Then we sat and talked about stuff and I ended up crying about EDL and/or UAF until I felt very very sick, and not sleeping well at all, wakefully Thinking about Things until after 4am.

I got up on Saturday morning with puffy eyes, had some tea, and baked some really nice cinnamon biscuits. Then had some more tea, then went out on my bike to meet my good buddy P, who I hadn’t seen in four weeks, due to our busy lives. We met at the start of the canal, rode down the Union canal path (nice and flat, and mostly wide with just a couple of slightly scary bits where you’re supposed to get off and walk, but of course we don’t), over aqueducts and under viaducts, talking about stuff – what we’d both been doing over the month, his 30th birthday being in a few days, bikes – to where it meets the Water of Leith path somewhere around Wester Hailes and so we switched on to that (pretty good, scenic, but a lot more bumpy – rather him than me on that roady bike he has borrowed from his brother while the latter is in New Zealand. Leon can handle all the rocks, sticks and mud just fine) and took it all the way to Balerno, where it somewhat abruptly ends. It had been pretty grey and drizzly all day and a proper downpour commenced just as we stood there wondering what to do, so we went to the shop and bought some milk to have with our biscuits, then went a little way back along the path looking for shelter. I always find it sort of awesome how much cover the trees can offer from even this torrential rain – we quickly found a really nice dry spot with a big rock to sit on.

Then P decided that if we scrambled down a horribly steep bit to the river’s edge, it would be a perfect place for a little fire, but upon investigating my handbag it turned out we had no means of making the fire (a mirror, yes, but not enough sunlight for that) so, as the rain wore off, he went back to the shop and bought a lighter, the cheapest newspaper he could find (Daily Express – ugh ugh ugh!), and a fruit loaf, while I ate an apple and collected firewood. We locked our bikes together just off the path. He leapt fearlessly down the slope to his proposed fireplace and I crept gingerly behind him, which took about twenty times as long, but didn’t fall. He crumpled up paper, mysteriously found a huge, comfortable plank and by means of balancing it across rocks, assembled it into a handy bench upwind so we’d be out of the way of any smoke. I built the sticks into the little pyramid over the crumpled paper, gathered some more wood, and lit the fire. He got a rock and bashed the protruding ends of some ‘deadly’ nails back into his lumber bench, convinced me it was now safe to sit on, and flapped the remaining paper at the base of the fire as a makeshift bellows, to get the flames going. Then we just sat and toasted pieces of fruit loaf on a stick and had them and the cookies with milk and talked and stared at the beautiful fire for a couple of hours. When it was time to go home, we let the fire burn itself out and then doused the embers using water from the river in the empty milk bottle. The sun had come out while we were sitting there and it was finally a really beautiful, crisply sunny late afternoon, and clearly the last day of summer, and the start of something new. The ride back was easy because it was all very slightly downhill, and we had a laugh, and talked about autumn and time and light, places, politics, plants and plans.
I went home and hung out with D without crying about UAF, and made some totally delicious vegetarian chilli. That was Rosh Hashanah. When I was younger I used to go to shul.

I talked to my dad on the phone. My mum’s got swine flu but he said she’s not feeling too bad. He’d been to the first day of his teacher training course at uni, so he hadn’t been to shul either, which is more ground-breaking – and had spent the week working in the school where he’s been volunteering part-time for a while now. He told me that it had been the most enjoyable working week of his life and I wasn’t surprised, but was very happy for him. I told him about my three-month review and how happy I was at work too, and about my plans for my career, and about K’s success in Catalunya, and about my bike ride. He told me about reading a story to the children (And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street) and how he was impressed and amused by some of their own creative writing, and described the way that he cycles to the school and to uni now – it has been a very long time since he hasn’t had to drive to work, as he used to work a long way out of town in Consett and Blyth. And he told me that my sister had been at a surprise party for her (belatedly) and one or two of her friends’ birthdays.
Obviously I’m gutted for my mum being ill, and I don’t really know what my brother did, but for the rest of us I kind of love that we each celebrated the New Year in our own, very meaningful ways. I think God would like it, if there was one.

In summary, then, same as almost always I suppose: small things good, big things… not so good. Or thereabouts. I am not mentioning the footy. My hopes and plans for 5770 are pretty shiny and exciting. They include

  • not filling in one single job application form
  • Barcelona
  • A garden
  • Saving up for this, yeeeah booooi!

Happy new year to you too.

Mayday

remember that day when we saw the kite caught in the big tree
the little ginger cat from your neighbour’s garden had followed us all the way to the shop
the red kite in the big tree and you with grass stains on the knees of your jeans
i think every boy in the park climbed into that tree to get the kite back down,
human pyramids, twelve boys up in the big tree and you and me laughing at the foot
playing catch with an old tennis ball

and in the end they got it and the pretty girl said thank you
and in the end none of them took her home
pollok dave said he got her number but elgin dave said he never did
either way, we didn’t see her again.
in the evening your neighbours had a barbecue and shouted over the wall for us to come round
we fed that little ginger cat on scraps of chicken until it fell contentedly asleep
the sky was all orangey fading into slate

I wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing.

Today has been much more than okay. I could try to write about it all, try to pin everything down – I could write about laughing in the kitchen, smiling down the stairs at the big blue sky that feels like a promise kept; about getting the best text message and sitting on the bus at a stop light and the shining silver banner fluttering in the breeze from a window, flashing at me HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY. About a little walk all on my own in the Hermitage of Braid where the bottom fell off the heel of my boot and I didn’t mind a bit, about feeling ridiculously, insanely lucky that 15 minutes from my happy, friendly, stuffy, ramshackle old office I could be here in this idyll, sitting high on a hill in the fresh dewy grass with daffodils filtering the light to gold, with the burn glinting as it runs by below, with the beautiful big trees reaching right up to this magnificent sky. About all the songs I listened to, lying there wrapped up in my purple hat and polka dot scarf, my green boots and the green grass, my skirt with the pink flowers on, my bright white legs goose-pimpling and then warming, surprised to feel the sunshine, and how hard it was to not sing along, how maybe sometimes I did a little bit because after all there was nobody else there, just me and the birds. And of course I could write about Helen, and a pat on the back. And about smiling all the way home, and coming home to my boy and putting on Wonderful World by Sam Cooke and dancing with him in the living room in our socks, holding each other close in that special not-shy, easy, supportive way and feeling very beautiful and happy and in love.
But I dunno, I don’t think I could ever really nail the way it just is.
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You could either be successful or be us with our winning smiles

One from my notebook: Bryn.

in the kitchen

BRYN

is a boy who could be any age between about 17 and 28. He is pale with pretty jade-green eyes and a dreadhawk which is dun at the roots and then dyed to a subtle, denim blue tending toward slate; I want to say it matches his eyes, but his eyes are really quite different, greener; I think what I mean is it matches somebody’s eyes. It does match his hoody, well-worn, soft like a faded photograph. He has a piercing on the right-hand side of his lip and wears a little ring in it which perhaps lends the impression of a half-smile even when he is not half-smiling (which he is quite often), and he has a slightly unusual face with a prominent nose and mild chin, a little as though when somebody made him, they started by pinching a little pinch of the Bryn-clay and pulled it forward to make a nose, then added everything else around it as an afterthought.

He reminds me of my brother immediately I see him, which is in the kitchen on the first day extolling the virtues of drinking cups of hot water to avoid caffeine. Someone shouts “Bryn, you’re taking this vegan thing too far!” and so I assume he’s straight edge, but then later it turns out he isn’t at all. I say “drinking hot water, eh? It’s really good for you, isn’t it?” (having not regained my Lahndan ‘innit’, definitely not at this stage, I don’t think I did at all really, or maybe self-parodyingly a bit.) and Bryn says “nah it’s not good for you, it just tastes really nice! Nicer than cold water. You should try it”. And this exchange sums up something of what little I’ve gathered about the nature of Bryn: he is unconventionally affable, he is serious but never earnest, or he is light-hearted but never free-wheeling. Something like that. Also he seems, unusually, to be absolutely as happy and comfortable chatting in a group of people or sitting in silence alone somewhere with his thoughts and the sky and the faraway sea in his eyes. If you find him doing the latter, and talk to him, he responds as though he’d just been waiting for you to come along (and ask him what he got up to last night, or whatever – “folk rave!” he might enthusiastically say), rather than as though you’re interrupting. He is quietly confident and never brash; his style is demonstrated when I shyly ask if I can take his photograph and he keenly agrees, smiles, but then doesn’t quite meet the camera’s gaze. It is quite delightful really.

On the last day, when we are in a terrible rush due to leaving the site an hour later than we’d planned (I blame F), we stagger, loaded with bags, past Bryn on our way out. I drop some of mine to hug him and kiss him on the cheek, though because a light rain is falling again, he has his hood up and it gets in the way and so the kiss lands far over toward his lips, perhaps touching them at one side, and I’m a bit embarrassed. Again, that feeling that I want to say something meaningful, or I want to tell him something but I don’t know what. I think I say “it was really good to meet you”, and then he says something about flickr and I say “I will!”

You made me forget my dreams.

This summer is rainy day after rainy day after rainy day.

The latest incarnation, the shower I just walked through, is these heavy, tangible, fat drops, a centimetre or two across: few and far between to start with, so that they feel like a deliberate affront when they hit you in the face, but soon running together like a stream. I’m walking home with K’s graduation rose sticking out of P’s Canon bag with my Nikon tucked safely waterproofedly inside, and I’ve got my pearls and my cassette tape t-shirt and my boy jeans and my blue socks that almost match, but one’s got skulls and crossbones on and the other has hedgehogs, and my oldest trainers on, the Converse ones from about 1999 that are more holes held together with bits of shoe than anything, and I don’t mind the rain.

My hair looks better this way anyway, an inconstant, mad tangle with sodden silky rat-tail tendrils snaking through it and dripping cold onto my hot skin, shocking in my cleavage like a tiny caress. Or perhaps it doesn’t look good at all but it feels good, it makes me feel wilder, and besides I like the smell of it later while it’s gradually drying. I’m bruised all over from Friday night‘s shenanigans.

I’m living in my two favourite pairs of jeans, in strict rotation between me and the radiator in the kitchen – they’re never both dry at the same time – and on occasion other things, my summer skirts and my spring boots, and B’s giant old Guinness t-shirt and S’s shorts (‘it’s actually just an optical illusion’), on Sunday evening when we leapt up off his bed and into the rain, having assessed its heft by watching the tree outside the bay window – B calls to S who’s in the bathroom and I run with him barefoot out into the street, laughing, aimless yet irresistibly drawn, like moths to a flame; jumping and splashing in all the puddles, the filthy streams of the gutters, fag ends or no fag ends we jump in there nonetheless, the cold water feels amazing on my feet, it’s unstoppable and immediate, it’s how I’d like to be.

B’s got no shirt on and when I hug him it’s surprising the difference it makes, you don’t usually touch your friends’ bare skin, strange even when it’s wet and feels slick like a seal, which it does now. It reinforces the instinctive feeling, the real-ness of the moment; it feels necessary and inevitable, I don’t know what the carful of traffic wardens think, or the people in their flats watching from the windows. If I were them, I’d want to join us; fuck that, I’d want to be us. When the thunder rolled it woke something up inside us, we are savage, we are frank, we are human. Human in the rain.

It doesn’t feel like the rain is ever going to end, and that’s okay. It’s right now; by which I mean, it’s what’s happening now and it’s right, it fits, S’s shorts fit me, everything fits me and it’s okay. I feel what I am: young and alive.

They removed all trace that anything ever happened here.

Memories of London come flooding, unbidden, into my head one morning at work as I innocently type an address label for the city. Memories of talking, walking, sitting, looking, resting, laughing and of not realising how much I loved the place, its honest communal air, its grimy stones and slabs and wood and water, until I learned that there was a world outside it… always brightly lit, these memories, always on warm, sunny days from ill-defined years. I wonder, are everyone’s memories similarly golden in tone? Is it just because of the heatwave summers and the smog over London – we didn’t really get much in the way of weather, there? Or is it the SAD: the only times worth holding on to are the times when the sun shone life-bestowingly down on me? Or is it because that’s when we, they, you took the photographs?
childhood
London is like being seduced by a (much) older man: you know you’re not the first, and a small part of you’s apprehensive, disgusted even (thinks ‘this is cheap’, and ‘this is dirty’), and you really don’t know why you want it, but by God you do – it’s experienced, this silvery lover of yours, it knows just how to make you feel good: feel tiny on Fleet Street and the Square Mile, or feel invincible and ten feet tall at Camden Lock, towering and triumphant as the wind chimes sound in the market, as the sunlight sparkles on the sluggish canal and the fresh piercings of emergent teenagers from Cold Steel and the World’s End across the street. London knows every trick in the book and London isn’t afraid to use it; London with its phallic towers and its snakey alleyways, London’ll pull out all the stops to get you right where it wants you, to make you love it. To make you close your eyes in resigned, delighted, melodramatic rapture and let it, guide it even, in to the most secret, soft and vulnerable parts of you. To make you scream and sigh, exhausted, and beg for more.

Hot in the city.

This weekend, I have mostly been drunk. It’s too hot here, and alcohol makes you dehydrated. I feel dried up, like a raisin. In fact, more like a paper flower: when I was little, once or twice I remember my mum bringing me these beautiful, tightly folded, brightly coloured tiny paper flowers, and we’d fill a bowl or the bathroom sink with water and then float them on top and they’d bloom. Open out gently and gradually, just like real petals, but faster and more surprising and you felt like you’d made it happen yourself. (Like with my begonia – latest news on that: still alive!) That’s what I feel like today – hot and hard and dry and tight. I want to blossom, I want someone to float me and open me up.

I’m dreaming of cool water every night recently – I dream of rivers, of deep dark mirrored lakes and the endless ever-changing sea. Of stillness and storms, silence and susurrus, and thunder and the roar of waves. I want to do away with the space and layers between me and the elements (well maybe not fire). I dream of submergence, of swimming, of running through fountains, but mostly of floating alone with nothing but blue – water and sky – for miles around.

In my family (I don’t know if it’s idiosyncratic or normal), we have two Hebrew/Yiddish names, just as most people have a first name and a middle name. My brother got given both of his around the time that my mum converted, when he was a baby – his regular name (Samuel) has a direct Hebrew equivalent (Shmuel) so that had to be first, and his second one is Yitzhak, Isaac, which means ‘laughs’. Because that’s what he did, and still does; apparently he was an unusually happy baby. I wasn’t. But my sister and I, I don’t know if it’s because our regular names aren’t Hebrew ones, we each got given one by our parents and then chose the second when we reached 11 or 12 and started preparing for being bat mitzvah. Mine from my dad is Adel (Adele? Edel? Aydel? I don’t really know how you spell it), which is Yiddish and was his grandmother’s name. Because it’s Germanic I don’t know if it means anything. The one I chose is Ahuva, meaning beloved, so I never forget.
Anyway, that’s background: the name my sister chose, she told me in March just before her bat mitzvah, is Mayim – water. I never even knew that was a name (although apparently it is, just not a common one), and I thought it sounded slightly silly, like River Phoenix and whatever his crazy siblings were called apart from Joaquin (Summer, right? And Rain??) But then after the service my mum gave a little speech about her and talked about her choice of name and how appropriate she (Mum) thought it was: water is both beautiful and necessary, it’s life and it’s inspiring as well. It’s flexible and changing, it’s rivers and mist and ice – it’s soft and hard and it’s quietly much stronger than it seems. It smooths rocks and wood and sharp edges, makes those pretty sea-glass pebbles you find on the beach. It gently, gently, slowly, slowly wears down everything in its way, even the hardest stone. Then I understood. Thanks Mum. Incase you’re bored at work and nosing around again.


Someone else’s picture.

Mint and tea tree shower gel is good, though.

I suppose you’ll be expecting me to say something about this.


The End of the World. Cup.

Er… I cried a bit. John Terry set me off though. And Robinson (see? not a thug.)* I hate it when men cry. So how was I supposed to cope with supermen crying?
I’m less disappointed that we’re out, more disappointed that England can’t really say “we was robbed” this time – disappointed that we didn’t even begin to try to live up to the hype, that there was no beautiful football, it was all ridiculous and no sublime. Let down and hanging aroundovers all round. Oh well, next league season starts next month, yay! Seems like I’ll mostly be cheering Spurs (obv) and Hertha BSC Berlin. Ho hum.


In a way, I think his story is the saddest of all. Look at him there: “Hooray! I’m going to Germany… on holiday!” To sit on a bench for another month. Thinking “I could’ve put that in”, “I could’ve got that cross”, “I could’ve been a wee bit more subtle about stomping on that guy’s spuds”.
THE NEXT PELE? screamed the headlines. Well, I guess we’ll never know. No World Cup fun till you’re 21, son (you have to read that bit in a sort of Sir Mix-a-lot style, kay?)

*AND BY THE WAY: It’s totally true what I’m always telling anyone who’ll listen about Albert Camus being a goalkeeper. He played for his university’s team (Algiers) but had to give it up in 1930 when he contracted tuberculosis. He was serious about it, too – there’s lots of lovely stuff in La Peste where he has one of the characters reminiscing about t’beautiful game and going around scoring ‘goals’ by kicking pebbles down the street into the drains. And apparently he once said ‘All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football’. I read somewhere that he said he was keeper because the other positions made your shoes wear out faster and he was poor as owt. But I think it’s really because it allows – no, demands – lots of thinking time. So they’re all, like, cerebral and that. Vladimir Nabokov was a numero uno, too:


‘The goalkeeper is the lone eagle, the man of mystery, the last defender.’

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SWEET! THUNDERSTORM!!