Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Jobs? Jobs. Jobs...

I came back from the countryside with sharp revelations, as grating as the crests of these insistent wisdom teeth: I don’t like working! I really don’t! I need to work out some other fashion of tending to my days. And, of course, tending to the other needs: martinis, trips to Alton Towers, late returned book library fines, organic stoneground heritage flour for loaves. I want to try and need less; I am learning. But still, there have to be better ways to fund this life of mine.

I have tried many, many things, which make my mother wonder how to explain to me to the neighbours. I slant and slip and struggle over attempts to herd off a career. I am ever-fearful of waking up trapped in conventional employment, pulling on unsnagged tights for the office, painting my face in a vestige of the normal woman.

So many jobs I have slithered into: Switzerland silver service waitress, barkeep, kitchen manager, token NY hipster bar Scot, Scottish Water site quality control technician, venue founder/manager, business director, European Voluntary Service project manager, arts collective administrator, mentor, used underwear saleswoman, $5 per 500 words article writer, tutor, proofreader, ebook composer, writer, writer, writer.

Actually, I like to pretend the writing is a job. The money I have made from it adds up, over the past decade, as something in the region of three grand. I hear the yelp of the dayjob howling at my coat tatters; I start typing CVs at my computer lest I have to face the world outside; I become immersed in other people’s semi-colons and develop a fury over the written word.

I thought I had sorted out what I want here
, but there is a deeply wedged splinter in my palms that whines it’s inappropriate to get a first class Masters in Philosophy and then do nothing, do little, do service industry positions.

I think it is wrong. I know it is. All I want to do it make things up. I am yearning for time, an empty head, no more computers. I wish the entrails of the internet would explode. I wish I would stop making excuses.

I am grateful for small things, however. I work in long pink socks and neon skirts, I work in lingerie, I work naked under a downy January duvet that keeps the draughts from my toes. I am going to stop now and take myself to a public house to spend money I didn't make today because I was besotted with the wrong internet things.

I know, I know! But I have a good feeling things are going to work out fine.

Friday, 27 January 2012

This afternoon at 15.45

There is this story by me on Radio 4!

Tune in, listen, dust flour, bake bread, and forgive everyone everything.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

A Week In The Countryside

I wrote and I raked and I tended the gardens. I finished stories that needed finishing. I started new ones that needed told. I also drank booze and kept ridiculous diaries. Here are some choice excerpts:


Well Jane. Here you are. Here is something new. I have a great idea (from now on, all great ideas must be pre-announced to the abyss, a hangover from too long living with someone else, someone oblivious to the myriad of crazy that flitters through my brain. I am traversing endless tundra, leaping from precarious rocks of inclination to jagged hooks of ideas. Sometimes everything goes so fast and so far from the original conversation I feel I have to justify things, like stepping out your door and your disobedient feet carrying on their way until they show up all the way across town, like seeing someone there you know, like saying hi, like them asking what you’re doing, like having to tell them in words that aren’t quite true but just the best approximation of reasons that can be passed on like cards, downturned lest you see the face. Anyway), a new project…


Alone, I feel I want to talk about the strangeness of my own body, mine again, not in a filthy way: I mean mine to cut onions. I mean a new kitchen, different drawers, no half-finished bottles, no old dazed dried herbs. A brand new thing with only that which I place into it. Do you understand? It’s everything. It’s no chopping board, me cutting on a plate, slipping with the knife. It’s a lack of stock: the cubes or the metaphor, the simmering things that stick around, adding flavour. I am alone in the kitchen and I feel powerful. I see myself without splashes of balsamic and dashes of worcestershire and I cook, and I am impressed. I feel like a powerful creature, scooped from my cosy home. This is how I feel away from my sourdough starters and spice drawers: strong. I feel like a woman who has etched her slate clean and is starting again and can do it. This is the way I feel too, when I pin scarves and frocks to the wall when we check into soulless hotels. But no thought of that now. What I am trying to say is that I would like to talk of women starting again. Of blank, beige walls. Of what you find when you open a door to an empty room. Of when it stays that way. Of the first moment, the intake of breath, looking around: this is mine now. My mistakes are my own decisions.


I wonder about taking the duvet into this room and putting down on my hands and my knees and pushing my head beneath it, pretending to be a cat. No one would need to see me and it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t make a very good cat, I could just get down there and roll on the carpet. The duvet would feel soft against my head. I could tease the air. Me and the duvet could be other things: not human. It would be a duvet and I would be a cat. I know it doesn’t need me to go in on this to pretend to be part of it, but I cross my fingers anyway and hope that when I go through there and ask, it will be open to the idea, it will be excited, it will be willing to say YES. That is all I am looking for, in truth. For the inanimate objects around me to agree to my terms, for a while at least. For them to say ok. For us to curl together instead of fighting and know that we are not cats, neither of us, but we are on the floor, rolling, laughing, coughing, confused, falling asleep.


Cast deep into the woods, I was bewitched by fire. Hello Prometheus, I smell your bulb of fennel, scorched and of the earth. Come close, lickety orange tongues: come closer. Let me feel your breath of my face. Let me taunt you with my curves and caresses. Let me plunge my wrists deep into your waiting embrace. I am giddy for the smell, feral for it, wild dogs and blood. I want to set things alight. Who could blame me? I nearly died, I tell you, I nearly died. We gagged on smoke. I cannot tell this story enough. Sometimes I think it is my only story, my defining moment: I nearly died. You do not understand because you have never nearly died. Or if you have: you do not understand because you cannot understand other stories, you only have one story, your story of how you nearly died. How is it so bright, so orange, a cracked ring of light around the rock in the embers? Hack, hiss, pssst, furor. God, I want my teeth in flesh. I am bored of London. I was never besotted by its streets. This city does not smell like home. I want to draw blood. Not my own. Someone else can draw that. I would also like to be destroyed; I would like to feel my life is still capable of destroying. I know my life is capable of destruction. Goddamit, just let me scream.


Re-calibrating. I like this thought. I think of Mary Gaitskill talking of being a prostitute: I didn’t do much writing then. I was working on reforming my personality. Sometimes we need to step back and reboot. That is fine. I can’t fucking believe how beige this room is. If anything, the few tiny things make it worse. Teapots in the shelves. Fuck that. My next room will be the most gaudy thing you have ever seen. There, my soul might be quiet. There will be pink neon and red light bulbs and all kinds of tat and trash. I will have a wind-up radio and feather boas nailed to the walls. Ostrich feathers! Anyway. I feel rebooted. So much thinking. What else to do? My god, these walls are beige…

…Sitting on worksurfaces makes me feel fabulous. More of this please. I think my brain is happy to be getting drunk early on a Monday night. I am scrurried and delightful, crosslegged in the kitchen. I am setting fire to matches to see how long I can hold them for; I am sniffing them exuberantly. I love the Strokes! I remember being fifteen. I thought this album would last forever. Oh that feeling. I wanted everything I have now and now I am thinking of then with envy. Imagine telling that Jane about the things you did in New York. She would lose her hyperbolic, delicious, teenage mind.


You are lonely: let me tell you about the smell of the rain. I know you keep your doors closed tight in a storm like this, windows buttoned; I know how you plug the gaps to keep out the drips and draughts. You needn’t. The rain will never hurt you, little thing, even if you leave a crack for it to penetrate. Did you ever think: maybe the rain is lonely too? Well, no. The rain is not lonely. The rain is something that needs nothing. This is all you want: to be something that needs nothing. But here you are, stuck with your body, endlessly hungering, thirsting, longing, roaring. You try to be still and small and unobserved, but here you are, needing.

Feel that drip? That drip is for you. Hear the purr and patter? Those are for you. Smell the rain. Breathe in its heavy, mineral scent. The smell of the slithering moss on the back wall of the cave, of dank forest, undisturbed. That is for you.

Nobody is asking you to hide. You are not something that needs nothing--so go, scream and wail and gnash your teeth, yowl with the wind, gather your bulk like the thickening clouds. Grab and snatch, take take take with your small-knuckled hands. Or just collapse before them and demand that they see: you are something that needs, oh God, you are something that needs. Tell them this, make them see. Let yourself fall upon the earth, thunderously, like rain.


Here is something to say: I am done with the working week. Done. Let’s put Kate Bush on the stereo. Let’s run up hills in the raging storms; let’s fling our heads and let the hailstones tangle in our curls. Are you really happy with this all, this? Can you hold your ever-throbbing heart up to the light and see the beams shine through its sinews and say “yes, it’s enough”? You can? Well: fuck you. I want a million things more. I want to be raging, I want to tornado along the point where the waves meet the sand--the twilight scorching holes in the hems of our frocks, the rum trickling down our chins. Time to gather our tasks and our tax returns, to stack them and douse them and tango round the pyre. Sweetheart, it’s time. No more fucking around. Let’s yoke our fate to the wriggle of the charmed snake, rising from the basket. Let’s cast our die with the degenerates, the decadents, the howling wolves with blood on their muzzles. Areeow! Please: take me some place I can rip out my bones and fling them in the ocean, leave them to be battered by tempests till they wash up bleached and perfect on the shore. Take me to the crater where the guts of the Earth roil, so I can lean over and cackle and wait for everything to erupt. I don’t think this is too much to ask. I am sick of: pretending to be normal; career negotiations; considered email replies. Goddamit, I am bored of the Internet. From now on, I am eschewing Wikipedia in favour of constellations, ley lines, and filthy gossip. I am giving up Google and taking up pawing the soil.

Monday, 16 January 2012

What today was about.

Builders, too early, playing xylophone with scaffolding rods; fresh baked bagels with prosciutto, mozzarella, and vine tomatoes; morello cherry hair dye, smears on my face, redhead Jane; an endless scalding bath with baobab/bubbles; a package in the post to Mark; Stereo Total!; the swooning reality of seeing this online; a mission to find the perfect martini ratio; oh my martini; this typing is going nowhere; other things; wow, catholics, you kinksters; udon noodle prawn mushroom broth; STEREO TOTAL!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

please do not cut your negatives into singles

We request that you keep your negatives in one large chunk, all the better to debilitate yourself with. None of this whittling down, please, none of the culture of bite-by-bite. We’ve watched you; we’ve seen your sort of game.

Please do not allocate favours to your weary body at the crest of a long, long day. No hot bath, no vervain and peppermint tea, no well-lit amateur pornography, no directionless piano tinkling, no rubs—foot, head, or otherwise—, no oversized beanbag cushion spilling your body to the floor.

Stand erect, sit hunched. Fight your muscles to keep your body heavy and tight. Run your tongue across the texture of your teeth until it blisters. Wage a hate campaign with the flavour of your mouth. Swear with small, bitter capers, sat in vinegar too long.

See the point where the skin on your thumb meets your nail? Feel that smug, satisfied corner of flesh? Pick it off. Peel slivers of skin until a ruby of blood forms. Chastise yourself. Pick it more.

Please do not cut your negatives into singles. Remain false; stay quiet. Get back to work.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Good things in things: a list.

Cotton buds in the ears; boys in superhero pants; toys in a hot shower; books in the bath.

Postcards in letterboxes; work in the past tense; red bulbs in spotlights; loo rolls in the loo.

Fountain pen in the pocket; bookmarks in your place; over-the-knee socks in the bedroom.

Mushrooms in a wet field; red apple in a pig’s mouth; Trout Fishing in America.

how soon is now

Burrowing my way out from the beginning of the year, trying to break through the surface into space. I have been scrabbling; the soft dirt keeps capsizing on my face. All the work I thought was finished has been returned—post haste!—to edit again.

Unspace the em-dashes! Chicago-style citations! Thuses and therefores, suchlikes and neverthelesses. I swear, I would be happy if I never read the words “this writer thinks” again.

I am choking on this work, I am knackered, I feel not fit for this world. Everything crumbles like chalk that can’t handle the foundations, like Victorian plasterwork trying to stand up to the drill. I’ve been drinking too much the moment the laptop lid finally closes and I’ve been tamping peppermint and ginger on the nauseous mornings. Veering from delirium to dejection at another 10,000 words to go.

However, there is also the knowledge that this is not forever. I am taking a break now. I am thinking of metaphors. The characters I have tucked in the desk drawer have been mewling, scrubbling, yowling for attention. “Hush hush,” I’ve been saying. “I’ll be there soon.”

Well, an etymological aside: the word soon was the Anglo-Saxon word for now, it’s just that years of people saying “I’ll do it soon” and taking a while left it meaning something else. Same with moment, the smallest conceivable amount of time; same with anon, Old English for instantly. Soon, soon will mean in the future, then some day we’ll wake up and it’ll be never.

I fucking love etymology, but I’m tired of contributing to the creep.

Time to stem this, reclaim the soon as now. Time to get back to the things that keep me whole: hot oven loaves, over-stretched metaphors, handwritten postcards, outdoor swimming, gruyere.

I’m off to the countryside to dig flowerbeds and conjure words from the air.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


For Hogmanay, I wore a full dalmatian suit, made a fire in the woods, and howled at the cockerels and the moon. The trees seemed pretty benevolent to me. Leaning over us and chuckling great belly laughs. Muttering about mycelium.

Whenever we wandered from our clearing (I did not do this much; I was chief keeper of the flames) the fire beckoned us back with a spill of rubies and amber, with coiled fairy lights, with a glow and a grin.

It was the right way to end a year, for sure.

This year has been mighty pleasurable. In January I moved to London, pretending it was because of a job interview, realising it was about a boy. I filled his bedroom with polaroids and red silk shoes and naked photographs of myself. I got a desk. I wrote stories and poems and filled the windowsills with flowerpots to look at. We kept going on holiday and all the flowers kept dying. It was worth it: the holidays were delightful.

I got acceptances from dancing girl press, wigleaf, Bartleby Snopes, the delinquent, Bound Off, Subtle Fiction, Metazen, Wilderness House Literary Review, Gutter, and Foundling Review and I got commissioned to write things by the BBC and Conveyor Arts magazine and I got personal rejections with compliments from some places I yearn for, including Glimmer Train. I think the fact I am excited about rejections makes me a better writer than this time last year.

I'm reminding myself of these things now because there was so much time this year spent screaming into the abyss and wondering if what was coming back was an echo or a response. Sometimes, it seems pointless to bother. There are so so so many more rejections than otherwise, and truthfully, I'd rather be making up tales than peddling them. But! It is so very nice when it all works out.

And now resolutions:

* go on more dates with myself and my notebook. Boys are all very nice, but I miss hanging out with myself.

* take a writing retreat holiday to a cheap cottage/room somewhere internet-free and finish my book.

* learn to brew beer and wine.

* take more showers. (I forget that I like running water and stay curled in old warm clothes all day, never quite waking up, dosing myself with coffee.)

* buy more Euthymol toothpaste (let's face it, mint is a rubbish way for a mouth to taste).

* have stories published in The Collagist and PANK.

* do some readings in London and some in Berlin.

* stop skimming over Latin quotations, poetry and lists in books.

* finish more letters and get round to sending them (I have a drawer of half-written letters and unsent postcards, which are now hopelessly out of date in their news).

Happy 2012 anyway, I hope you spent the eve of it delirious and the rest of it delighted.