Saturday, 30 July 2011

helen love

I’m not a reviewer; I don’t know how to form the words for anything in the midst of the gamut between gack and glory. Scathing or swooning: that’s your lot.

Swooning I find more fun.

So: Helen Love. Do you know Helen Love? They are the best. Girls from Swansea singing bubblegum punk pop disco and obsessing over Joey Ramone. Yeow! Go listen.

They sound like the kind of girls who draw pixelated hearts in the squared paper of their math jotters and make mixtapes for boys with dirty hair and decorate their fingernails with tippex and pink highlighters.

They sound like the scuff-kneed offspring of a casiotone and a spaceship, drunk on espresso and cherry lambrini, dancing in a basement in the Welsh bit of New York City.

They sound like the feeling in your stomach on the loop-the-loop rollercoaster on the last day of summer, full of sherbet fountains and pink candyfloss and dolly mixtures.

Here are some choice lyrics:

He’s been under medication and heavy sedation,

Since Kula Shaker came along,

‘Cos he couldn’t believe everyone in the world,

Liked their songs


Her name is Claire, she's an office executive,

She wears white linen dresses with flair,

She lives with a policeman,

Plays squash on Thursday evenings,

She's in love with Billy Joel,

That's enough to kick her head in


See that girl lying under the bar,

She used to be a rock'n'roll star,

Smoked cigarettes with Joan Jett in America

She got her picture in Rolling Stone,

She was third from the left behind Joey Ramone,

You couldn't see her face,

But I'm sure she looked great anyway

She lives in a flat halfway up in the sky,

Goes out with her boy into the MC5s,

She'd be OK if he didn't hit her,

Or go to bed with the babysitter


Who's that boy with the ocean green eyes

In Rough Trade every Saturday,

Don't he look cute in his eighties track suit

I wish I hadn't thrown mine away


Spent all my money on a cocktail dress with matching silver shoes

And a purple souped-up travellator David Bowie used to use

We bought some drugs and we hit the road on the hottest summer day

But he left me for a singer in a disco band in a nightclub in L.A.

MIAOW! They are sunshine and music and everything you need to hear right now.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

the ladies pond

A very quick poem about today. I have a new favoured place.


There are
just women, in the pond.

No butter-slathered shrieks, no
exploratory toes dipped and
leapt back,
breasts punting
like volleyballs in the sun.

There is a dearth of giggles.

The heads glide the surface
like boules from the palms
of French pensioners,
leaving a wake in the sand.

These bodies churn bugs for the
ducks to lunch upon,

but we ignore the ducks,
as we ignore the elbow tug
of the working world.

In the water, we are all penguins,
belly-first on the ice.

We dive like coins dropped
in wishing wells, float like
oak leaves suspended in puddles,

and before the oily cold seizes my skin
to demand I towel and clad and
emerge, before this

I am a giddy seal, pirouetting,
drunk on the lard
which keeps me afloat.

Monday, 25 July 2011


want to cut the number of short stories they do. Hmmmph.




Sometimes I think about doing a Creative Writing Masters and how wonderful it would be: a year of writing, deadlines, workshops, tasks, inspirations, time. Umnn. It would be delicious, so delicious. I would make words upon words. But then I look at UCL and see it costs (£4,000 pa part time) and realise that this is not going to happen any time soon.

Instead, I have been contacting writing groups in the hope of finding the workshops and joining a library in place of learned tutors and setting myself assignments instead of waiting for someone else to do so for me.

Today I repotted all the plants and decided to think about dirt.


Out of the earth too long, my palms began to itch. I am tired of all this surface breathing. I start to think that maybe it’s time to scrabble.

Let me tell you about the soil.

The soil here is always wet. It’s cake batter. It’s toothpaste with a bistre stain, it’s thick, it’s gacky. I want to crawl inside. Arms up to the pits. Worms bumping blind against me. Wriggling my fingers, trying to reach the centre.

I think of closing my fist upon what’s down there. Maybe there will be the lazy femur of a dead badger, shag mouldering in the soil, scavenging long forgotten. A lost gold chain interlacing like smoke rings blown upon each other by a lazy tongue. Or a feisty oak root, curved like the handle of a cellar door, waiting for me to reach around and tug.

So: I pull. The door opens. The resting earth capsizes. Everything I am sitting upon begins to shift

and-then-all-of-a-sudden we are falling, like a teen queen talking about love-crushes, like a harlot on heels going head-over, like sunsets and autumn leaves and share prices and ink (on a blank white page which has been waiting for the words you have chosen)

we are falling, arms first, head second, the feet and tail waiting behind for a moment, considering whether this is or not the best idea, before the topple takes over

And then, it is quiet in the earth.

It is quiet down here. I can hear the wobble of oxygen settling in my lungs, like raspberry jelly on sherry-soaked fruit. My ribcage is the crystal bowl my mother used for trifle. My breath stops.

There is dirt in my eyes. When I squeeze my lids open, grains of coffee spill into my sight. Everything is tobacco, mahogany, burnt sienna. I see a thousand shades of brown, I see umber and chocolate and walnut and Vandyke, cinnamon and African sunlit shoulders. The dirt is a weathered terracotta roof tile on a cloudy evening in February. It is the unloved picket of an unpainted fence in a storm. Broken ale bottles in a school playground after hours. Brown.

I do not breathe, but the bouquet slithers through my skin. The soil does not smell like death. It is like the spray of the ocean but warmer, a tang of seared flesh. Fragments of blood and the sap of a broken green twig. A bite of placenta. And something beyond description: a jiggling something, a thing that darts and embraces all at once. It smells like a football field toppling over the Niagara Falls.

There is more to say, but I am snug and suspended in a pike dive in the earth.

Around me the dirt is composing symphonies for the centipedes.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

My old bike died

But now I have a new friend.
Hello Hercules!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

tinkering and thinking

I’ve been editing too much recently, or not too much actually, a worthwhile amount, a great amount, the room is covered in flurries of paper: double-spaced, courier font, scribbled, rescribbled, printed again. I’m glad I’m editing because for a while the sentence ‘Yes, I’m working on my first short story collection’ was just a stopgap masking the fact I was doing anything but.

Spring always seems to whack me with great wallops of new inspirations: April! Poem a day! Sunshine again and bikerides and long amiable wanders with the thoughts in my own brain for company. Which is good but I want to finish something more than a story here or there, a credit on a website suspended in html, someone’s screen somewhere blinking back my words, even a finely bound anthology where I snuggle between real writers and decide I am one myself in the process.

I want a book, goddamit, and I don’t get a book until I finish writing one.

This is what I remember when I speak to Ryan and Nick; this is what I forget when I spend too much time meandering the back-catalogues and credits of other writer girls, thinking they should belong to me.

But yes, so I’m editing. It’s a new pleasure, this deep tissue editing of my own words. I’ve done it to other people but never hacked myself so thoroughly. Hack hack hack like a drunken haircut. I think it’s killing my brain a bit though. It’s making it hard to get to the end of new sentences: they seem so naked and fallible. I have to remember that this is what I am when I write -- naked, fallible -- and it’s ok.

So here I am:

Five stories finished and published in a state that makes me happy (though still to be edited again, of course, once you get started it’s impossible, nothing is ever finished, but still): The Passenger in Gutter; Flamingoes in The Golden Hour Book 2; The Parade in Jonny America; The Idea Groves in Neon; and The Cats’ Gravity as a chapbook published by Forest Publications.

Four stories finished and begging like puppies on the desks of editors: Asking For It; The Wind Turbines; The Stars of Track and Field; and Carbon. Some of these are at their fifth or sixth destination, a little bruised by such rejection, but essentially better for it. One is shortlisted in a very good place indeed, waiting for a final decision in October. This is something to remind myself of when the others bounce back.

Three stories published which weren’t really ready to be: Missed Connections in the SBT anthology; The Purse Thief in Litmocracy’s anthology; and Comet Girl in The Medulla Review. Oops. Sorry world. I'll come back to these soon with a red and heavy pen.

Two stories on a third or fourth redrafting, close and delicious, which I am enjoying the ravaging of: one about snowglobes, full of brittle, white language, viewpoints bouncing like refracted light; and one about an immortal man obsessed with a female commuter on the Roosevelt Island Tram. They are obsessive stories that have been bouncing around my head a long time. I am frightened of calling them finished.

And then there is a first draft of an erotic car crash story which is fun to play with but surely so Ballard derivative that it makes me blush. (Though there is a kernel of idea in it which fascinates me – to persuade a woman with amnesia that you were lovers and have her respond: I remember. How and when and whether would you call her on the lie?)

There is also an orange grove in Greece that smells of pith and erotic games, a girl who leaves home with the dream of becoming a whirling dervish, Rapunzel in her bathtub eating cold baked beans from the can, and the metaphor lodged in my head of a concrete mixer. All these girls, always, running through my stories, trying to escape, dreaming of whirling, dancing, dancing, terrified to stop. I am besotted with concrete mixers driving miles, always turning. If they stopped they would harden, useless, and it would be impossible to start the turning again and bring it back to life.

This is how my heart and my feet feel sometimes.

These are the things I am writing about.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

I have a website!

and I am inordinately proud.


now I will sit back and wait to become a superstar.

Friday, 15 July 2011

good morning words

The internet broken first thing is a gift, like a sunbeam presented on the pillow by a self-satisfied morning, saying you couldn’t work if you wanted to so why not roll belly up, get toasty, and wait for the words to come.

I am writing about delicious words to start this day, in the hope that they will seep into my brain and rest there like chutney. The words will come together like onions and bay leaves and sugar and spice, until there are no defined boundaries, no Platonic essence of things, until they are as hard to differentiate as lovers’ tongues in a wine-sodden kiss.

But what now, slow up, this isn’t entirely what I meant. I mean, yes, things must percolate, but I’m not just waiting for the words to come together and fit happily and merge into fine and delicious phrases. I’m also looking for other words which won’t be content, the emeralds you could immerse in onions all you pleased and still they’d be the anomaly in the jam jar. I’m trying to take these tense black symbols like a butterfly net and capture something that’s rare, that I can stun and mount with tiny pins and look back upon and think yes, that’s it.

I’m not sure the best way to go about this. I’ve thought about sitting very quietly on the bed with my legs lotus style and trying to put all the other words out of my head so there is a quiet perch upon which a fresh idea could land. It’s tough though, I’m not very good at silence. My brain is ever-awash with chatter – work, plans, boys, breakfast – it’s filthy in there, I don’t know who’d wander in and settle, besides, I find it tough to prop the door open with all these winds whistling.

So I’ve been listening to Pablo Picasso on this one: when inspiration comes I want it to find me working.

What kind of work is this drivel you say? Listing each and every inane thought that pops into your head before the first coffee? A fine job, if you can get it.

Well yes, it is a fine thing, to wait like a child in a sandpit with a fat plastic truck taking the crest of a dune, shouting BRRUMMM BRRUMMMM, as busy as it gets at this time of day, thoughts racing, thinking of desert storms, waiting for chutney, looking up words, just writing something, anything at least, just writing to be writing at the beginning of the day so that whatever comes next can fit in this funnel.


arquebusade (noun) a lotion for shotgun wounds

aspectabund (adjective) having a face that shows emotions clearly

apricate (verb) to bask in the sun

absterge (verb) to wipe; to cleanse; to purge

Thursday, 14 July 2011

whirl! whirl! whirl!

toss your scarf to the gyromancer, dearest.
step the circumference, spin till you stumble,
there is fortune in your footfall to divine.

go now: leave this town, be a dervish
whirl your rings like Saturn. you are liquid matter,
though your heft casts a pall in the sky.

I want to run away from this town and become a whirling dervish; I have dreams of it every night. Imagine me, painted pretty, aloft with my magicians hat of scarves, whirling like Saturn’s rings, like Jupiter.

I’d make believe that I was solid, I’d play sky-father and patron deity, but in truth I’d be composed of exhaled hookah clouds, lighter than a wink across a sandstorm.

I’d smell like the smoke of cherry bombs. I’d taste like liquorice and burnt sugar. When you kissed me, you would see eternity.

When I kissed you, you’d understand
the secret scriptures
of the underside of the moon.

Have I ever told you about rainbow trout? There is a disease in their young called whirling disease. The parasites eat their brains and chew their skeletons, until they cripple over for eternity, chasing their own tails forever.

Forgetting themselves, forgetting their futures and the merry leap upstream.

Whirling whirling whirling…

The parasites are hard to kill. They can survive in minus-twenty degree temperatures for three months at a time. It’s hard to quit the urge. I can feel my own parasites begging for a twirl, for a spin.

Close your eyes.
Stretch your hands out. Lean backwards.
Don’t worry, I’ll hold on tight.

Remember when we did that in the field? When we recalibrated gravity so there was a new centre dwelling at the moment our hands touched? We were weightless forces, orbiting our hands, our hands holding.

Back then, I believed if you let go I would tumble to the moon.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

On sleep paralysis

Yesterday didn’t exist.

When I’d tried to sleep the night, I was paralysed. My limbs were anaesthetised tree trunks trying to recoil from the chainsaw’s grimace. I could hear it biting the air and I tried to scream in tandem for help but he wasn’t listening, he was asleep, and besides my lips were entangled in the tentacles of the swamp, and I couldn’t pull them apart.

I fell out of bed. I watched myself slither, shoulder-first, to the floor. Gravity was furious with the levitations I’d been attempting in the sepia corners of my dreams. Gravity knew I’d been trying to wriggle from its grasp, aided by powders and potions, sleepless nights and meditation. It hacked my scruff and forced my face to the floorboards and it pushed until I felt metal blood circle the caverns of my mouth like a pike.

I thrashed in a straightjacket sewn from shadows and I balled fists. My screams were subterranean. Sheets entangled between my feet, wet with sweats and horror. James was still asleep when I found a footing on the riverbed and wrenched my sodden limbs back. The room was still murky and tinged with malice. I lay in sweats and screams and tried to wait for my heart to subside.

After a time, the fingers found me again. Shh, it’s fine, it’s fine, close your eyes, it’s fine, close your eyes, it’s bedtime, and I fell and I was still again, I was lying in the bed, but my eyes were open.

I shouldn’t have felt such terror. All that was wrong was the notes of the scale running up and down like footsteps on stairs beneath the bed; all that was wrong was my muscles tranquilized and incapable of flight; all that was wrong was a clawing, crone-fingered horror that massaged my skin, deep into the tissue, fingering for my fall.

It went on all night long.

I strained against the softness of eyelids; I fled the denizens of dreams. I waited for morning to escape. I slipped up. I slipped inside again. I screamed; I was silent. When I woke, it was with defibrillation. I was scared of shadows and scared of sleep.

So yesterday didn’t exist. Or I didn’t exist for it. There were slugs under my tongue instead of words. It was too tedious to recount. I was wallpaper paste and old tapioca. Humn. Wet terry-towelling clinging to the concrete breaker. Who cares?

I’m awake now, though. I’m drinking coffee.

Crank up the Shonen Knife.


I’m going to write some stories now. Write a poem about the corners of clouds, about fondue and Rimbaud, passport controls and gyromancy.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

It's hardly even worth taking the time to mention that this blog is (and will always be) fits and spurts, months of words which tumble like the mating of cherry blossoms/sea spray/broken leaves/snow storms, a season at a time, followed by silence. So it is.

A brief summary of the last while then, before I start again...

- Lebanon: Beirut made of Armani and bomb detritus, octopus sandwiches, orange-tinted dreams of Tripoli, hiphop Syrian beatbox poets, mosques imbibed with a chandelier silence, my beloved Golden Hour drunken and dancing in the safety of the cedars beside the Arab Spring

- Istanbul: my new favourite city. More later.

- Barcelona: cava and chorizo, Pulp, Belle and Sebastian, Suicide, Einzenstaure Neubauten, PIL. You know it is a finely curated festival when Nick Cave and PJ Harvey are the lowlights.

- Port Aventura. I love rides.

- The best vanilla milkshake in the world at Trinity Buoy Wharf

- Camping in Aboyne and Ballater with the Queen's butcher and so much venison, so many sausages.

- Kelburn Garden Party, my favourite festival in all the world. Waterfalls and music and castle graffiti and secret forests to stumble upon. We were goblins for four days in the undergrowth with the last of September's harvest; we played music and found new fans; we nibbled each other in the hay and communed with alpacas, it was delicious. It was nice to go home.

Time to write some poems about these things, time to think about moving to berlin, time to save this draft as gibberish and get back to work...