Monday, 31 October 2011

my birthday: what I ate, in order of consumption

a dill pickle bloody mary; three oysters with lemon and tabasco; blue cheese; labneh; black coffee; scrambled eggs with turkish bread and green tomato salsa; coffee infused tequila; tiramisu; another dill pickle bloody mary; gin and tonic; blue cheese infused bourbon; more coffee tequila; prawn crackers; prosecco; salt & pepper squid; chicken & sweetcorn soup; sweetcorn spring rolls; frogs legs with lemongrass and chilli; sliced beef pho with coriander, beansprouts and lime; king prawns in tamarind; breton cidre; vietnamese coffee; more gin; white wine; other things, other things, limoncello... sweet chilli chicken pizza and cider, sleep.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


We are trying to budget for winter, so when the spring comes we can flee. This means lentil stews so thick they purr; this means burrowed deep under duvet by sunset.

Our concept of hardship is wobbly and unstudied. I look upon misery like a spoilt Victorian child marvelling at the quaintness of poverty. I keep it at bay with my talismans: soft warm skin, woollen socks, fairylights in the fireplace.

The kitchen is still stacked with booze from the last party. “Let’s budget,” we say, while I mix rosemary vodka martinis. I am working more in the day: more tutoring, more manuscripts to edit. I remind myself to make time to write. I need to get up earlier, look to November as a prospect for thousands of words.

Today the BBC said they’d put the contract in the post, and I am giddy.

I reread Paul Auster’s Hand to Mouth and give up on the idea of needing to suffer. I let myself be looked after, let him do the dishes, or let them all stack up while we scurry to separate rooms and make the things we make. Loops from his studio are seeping through the walls.

Every jam jar in the house is full of things infusing: chilli chocolate tequila, lemongrass and ginger tequila, beetroot vodka, dill pickle jalapeno vodka, pecan butter bourbon, blue cheese bourbon, popcorn rum, brown butter cinnamon rum. The kitchen smells of charred popcorn and all the pans are dirty.

Dancing Girl Press said they’d send me the galleys mid-November, and everything is so fucking wonderful I am terrified to say it aloud, lest I jinx it all.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


There is something about Berlin that feels like the future. I don’t mean the shiny future; I don’t mean the Tokyo one of spaceships and retina scanners and tailored silicon. I mean the post-future future where the streets become wide instead of tall, a freeshop is planted on every corner, tendrils of smoke trickle back to the bars and the keys of the city are handed to a team of shamanistic allstars. Perhaps, I am talking about Utopia.


We cycled to the abandoned airport, Tempelhof. Our bikes were solid and upright and moved with all the grace of a young drum major on her way to her first parade. We needed them. At the end of the runway, we revved our feet to the sun.

It was late in the afternoon and the light was golden and piercing, a light specific to the first cold snap of autumn (my favourite moment in the year). The sky was studded with kites of every colour so far away they looked like holes snipped out of the fabric of the world. Some of them were attached to skateboards and the kite-flyers swung their strings and danced across the runway: a foxtrot led by the wind.

At one end of the runways, two or three kilometres away, stood the airport building. It was a horseshoe shape, proud, sprawling; like the Toronto subway font, it seemed part of the past and the future all at once. But the Nazis built it, and these days the building is closed.

At the other end, in the tufts of grass between where the planes turned, the ground is taken over by ramshackle allotments. Broken bathtubs overgrown with cabbages. Packing crates wrenched apart and hammered into freestanding doorframes. CDs winking to the crows and the largest crop of parsley I’d ever seen. James said, When we live here, I’ll build you one. We talked about sugar snap peas and green tomato chutney and the thirty-five year waiting list we were handed by the London council. We turned towards the setting sun.

The wind was pelting down the runway but we three turned our bikes and revved our feet and hammered towards a horizon where sunbeams bounced like the arcades. Panting, thighs pumping, the wind hollering expletives. The Nazi building grew closer, infinitesimally, the kites had our backs. Then we got to the top and we turned.

There was something about Berlin that felt like the future. There, then, at that exact moment: suddenly the wind behind me, the airport given over to a post-apocalyptic utopia, plants tended in the cracks. I kept my tire to the white line. I pedalled. Faster. The world whipped past my peripheries and the hefty palms of the gales shoved in the small of my back. I cycled as far and as fast as I could, until the end of the runway where I stopped and circled and waited for the boys.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

excellent news

My poetry chapbook is going to be published by a beautiful Chicago press and I've been commissioned by the BBC to write a short story and it's about to be my birthday and I'm in Berlin and everything is utterly fantastic. Yes!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

oh, amanda

Sometimes I read too many Amanda Knox articles and it worries me. I start thinking that if I were ever near somewhere where something terrible happened, I’d react wrongly. Whatever did or didn’t happen, I’d be judged by kissing a boy afterwards or giggling when giggling was Not The Right Thing To Do.

I know my reactions to major events. I’ve been rescued from a burning building and I’ve stood on an altar and said, “I do.” I’ve had the one of those operations. I know my take on the serious things, the things where it’s been decided how ladies are supposed to react. I do it wrong.

You’re not supposed to come out of things too alive. Or too sexual. You’re not supposed to have been drunk in your past (or your present), you’re not supposed to flirt, you’re not supposed to smile, you’re not supposed to continue living with your flesh and salacious female existence.

I don’t mean that I’ve ever been stopped from doing these things. I’ve always been surrounded by the kind of degenerates and delightfuls who yank me from what life flings and pass the cava and stroke my hair and make it fine.

I also know obviously these are in no way comparable situations. That’s not the point. The point is that the things on which you can be judged are that you were once drunken on youtube or that you sought comfort in someone’s arms.

The fact is that the points in your life when you are vulnerable can be whipped out and polished like snowglobes, hardened, coated in a thick resin, and presented as who you truly are. And it turns out you’re evil.