Sunday, 2 May 2010

From a Room in Whitechapel

Whitechapel rooves are an uneven palette of architecture. There's dirty 20th century tile and glass reinforced with wire. There is a tall brick chimney, isolated amidst the new buildings, the last soldier still at his post. There's the looming Victorian schoolhouse to the south, thuglike with its dusty spectre of dead schoolmasters and the cane. My favourite, though, is the newest: twin blue-shining blocks that stand foursquare against a sky full of the comet-trails of aeroplanes. It is a hospital.

Each block has big windows, and every night they are filled with watery light. I stare so hard I feel I can sense the inmates, small and hunched like wild animals that are caged in their sickness. The reassurance lies in the certainty of life. The hospital stands as a lighthouse shining solidarity through the lonely dark hours of the morning, those hours that seperate every human being from one another like ships sailing apart on a midnight ocean.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Love is Theft

My boyfriend stole me a bracelet from Camden Market today. He took it from a Chinese woman's stall, lit up with handpainted mirrors and geisha dolls. One hand reveals, the other conceals: he pocketed it while asking the price.

The bracelet has three teeth hanging from a beaded string. I picture an unfortunate urban fox, its life of blood and adrenaline cut with more violence - its meat for the takeaways, its bones for the jewellery and medicine.

How much more authentic is this than the lucky Chinese symbols made of brass? The latter, the sum of human hope and greed; the former, what remains of a life lived into every inch, stained with the blood of a hundred rats.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Compass Rose

A Februrary morning in 1989. Two decades measured out in the slow ordinary things: breaths, conversations, meals made and eaten. Nothing has come of it. The universe's investment in me, manifested by my hot, peculiar little space in it, remains unreturned upon. I have done nothing of note. I remain myself: self-conscious, angry, too apathetic even to feed myself anything more complicated than a Pot Noodle. I am the definition of ennui.

My heart is a spinning compass needle. I don't know if it will settle.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Autograph Hunting

The setting: the world, a marble in glossy blue and matte green. The United Kingdom with its crenellated coastline. A grey growth that’s London; Camden Town a greasy fold in the north of the night-time city, coloured in as if by six year-olds with felt tips; alt-rock mecca, thronged night and day with the faithful.

Kentish Town Road runs behind the Electric Ballroom (loopy blue neon outside; inside, floorboards with decade-long punk rock memories), where the gates open from the tilted doors and windows. There’s band members with black markers and glam-rock hair, and their own crowded orbits: fan satellites, amateur photographers, old luckless friends.

We’re frozen and half-wet with drying sweat, aching at the joints with the capricious witch-fire energy of a gig seeping into the pavement with its cigarette butts and trodden flyers. His, his, his glossy black two-seconds’-worth of a signature, and then it’ll be the tube home, clinging to the bars like exhausted gibbons.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Tripping Down Recollection Street

In London sometimes you walk amid the ghosts of past centuries, the grey and rain; in Edinburgh, the ghosts are alive and vital, and swarm among the Saturday crowds on the high street. In Edinburgh history isn’t like everywhere else, like used toilet paper; it’s the same room, lived in.

Getting Off For Home

It's one of those sad little stations that lie grey and listless by the side of the tracks, skulked about by a couple of skeletal trees. Two or three straggle off the train and you wonder who would choose to live here. Dull sparrows on the bleached fence, hawthorn spiny with berries like clotting blood. There's always an old sign by British Rail, touched with the fingertips of rust. This one says: Cam & Dursley.

Looking Out Under Eaves

On a level with long, kinked rooves that straggle away from me over idiosyncratic gardens. Apartment blocks squat oblongs, irregular under the clammy amber push of the sky. Lit and unlit windows semaphore untranslatable code, people wakeful and restless in the clutch of another dismal London night.