Monday, 4 December 2017

Moomin the dog


I’ll miss having the dog around. This black, beady-eyed, curly-tailed thing. Moomin. She is a true companion and as I walk with her across Wormwood Scrubs, a large expanse of playing field, with one of the only unbroken horizon lines I’ve ever seen in London, I remember how much she’s aged since the first time I walked here with her. How much I’ve aged too. The same amount technically, but not in dog years. She’s a grandma now (an obaachan) and that would make me a fully-grown woman. I am technically, but not in mental years. But then perhaps I’ll always stay this age in my brain, just my bones and body will begin to wear thin, and my memory will lapse but I’ll still think the same. Feel the same in any case, probably about the same issues, sticking even more stubbornly to my guns as I age with everybody else. Moomin’s back legs wobble, when she jumps over tufts of grass her belly scrapes the underside in a way it didn’t use to, when her skin was more tort and she had a stronger abdomen. She tires more easily and sleeps for longer. I bet I'll age without realising it and then one day I won’t be able to get my leg over a stile without incurring some pain, and then I’ll notice that I’ve grown old, a bit too late to do anything about it.

Now as she lies here, sprawled as I write I am thinking deeply about mortality. What will happen when she’s gone? I’ll probably still be here and then I will be left sad. I’ll probably get my own dog and name it after a Moomins character in honour of this dog and also to pay homage to Tove Jansson, an absolute genius in my eyes. It’s easier to say for a dog that they have had a good life. Easier to judge, if they live until they are thirteen (human years) and they can still bound with abandon, ears flopping excitedly down by their snout, can still sleep and eat healthily and dream. That’s a good life. But for humans… more difficult to judge and who are you to judge anyways? If I’m healthy and can still run, eat, sleep and dream am I having a good life? Yes, most likely. When I die will everyone be able to say, with hand on heart, that she had a good life because of these things?

On the way home from something I noticed on the path infront of her house a black figure lying there. A small furry black thing with limbs outstretched as if it were sleeping, the way Moomin does on her blue cushion upstairs. My heart stopped. I edged closer as if walking over a frozen lake about to crack and splinter in to shards, any minute, when I saw it was a black cat. Dead cat. Black-fluffy-big-dead-expensive-looking creature, just lying there, not moving a whisker. I couldn’t be sure if it was dead but I really couldn’t touch it either. I was afraid I’d wake it up and then it’d be angry. I said out loud to a passing stranger, ‘Dead Cat.’ They turned around, confused possibly, so I said it again louder and more clearly pointing at the laid out cat on the pavement. Thank god the stranger came back to check, he bent down and checked the cat’s pulse (is that normal for things that aren’t human?) and I asked, ‘Is it cold?’ The man said ‘Yes. Dead.’

There was a pause that may have been a long a silence. ‘I’ll go and get a bin bag.’ He said and sauntered off. I tread carefully around the cat and wondered what had happened, no markings or wounds, no seeming violence or blood, it looked like it had been placed there. Probably chucked out of a car window or off the curb-side after a hit and run. I worried about the human owner of it. How sad they would be to see their cat in that state, distraught. Something still bothers me about that cat. I went upstairs and patted Moomin down, brushed her a bit and read a book, turned the lights off and went to sleep. I dreamt about a black furry creature that night, whether it was a dog or a cat was unclear, it was just a nice animal that I liked a lot.

Now I’ve been thinking about that dead cat again, and seeing it lying there was so unusual because I have always believed strongly that cats land on their feet. Even out of four-storey buildings when they leap, they still land on their feet. That cat looked like a suicide and that’s what been nagging me, a little.





Thursday, 16 November 2017

Goats




I got my teeth cleaned and scraped today. They feel quite nice, though it hurt in the chair. I walked to the dentist because I didn’t know how close it was to my new workplace. A few Saturdays ago I was stuck on a bus, no, I was sat still on the top deck of a bus that was stuck in traffic. Barely moving at all because of sodding road works up ahead on my narrow street. I wasn’t doing anything: being a lemon thinking of nothing, staring out of the window with no thoughts when my phone goes off - with that awful jazz tune I programmed it to play, so that I would answer it faster. The noise was playing loudly and I answered it then a voice on the other end said,
‘Hello Miss blah blah blah this is a courtesy call from your dentist. You haven’t been to the practice in over a year and we’ve been sending you e-mails…’
By the time I hung up I had an appointment booked in for two weeks time, ‘You can cancel within 48 hours notice’ she said. I was still stuck on the bus.

It was too late to cancel because I had forgotten all about it until the day before when they sent me a reminder text, sneaky bastards, so now I was walking towards them from work. Quite pleasant actually. I walked down a nicely paved road that led me from the city, north to town. Near where the Library stands. On the way I saw a greasy spoons, serving hot plates of bacon and beans-on-toast. Pubs being swept out before the evening crowds and a pallid young lad reading a book, with those spectacles on from the thirties. Then I hugged the side of wrought iron railings that enclosed a stucco building, that’s when I saw a goat grazing on the other side of them. Really close too, to pedestrians like me on the pavement, I felt like I was at a farm but I wasn’t, I was in Euston. 

I entered a green space, a small park, technically a square because it’s called Brunswick Square. I didn’t take a photo but I should have because the colours were bang-on. Yellow doesn’t do it justice but the leaves on that plane tree, or maples? or whatever they were so yellow, golden, reds, on fire. It looked like pure autumn and pigeons were plump, the air was cold and still, I had more minutes to kill before the dentist because I wasn’t going to be a mug and turn up early, to sit in their disinfected waiting room for ten minutes (and appointments are always late, they aways make you wait, maybe so that the waiting room can live up to its name, think, what if they had named it the on-time room).

So I stood, looking up at a faded sign that had been made to inform passers-by like me about this little square with the grandiose trees. I see the square had been part of the property of the Foundling Hospital, the first ever charity for children. They had wanted to keep an open space for them, as respite from the city, back then in seventeen-hundred-and-so-and-so we were at the outer edges of the city of London. After this it was all fields and common land, until you reached Highgate and other remote villages. So I guess the goat came from those backwater days, when I could bring my goat and untether him to graze on common land, because these lands belonged to me as much as it belonged to anybody else. They should have more goats in London. Bring back the goats. I also learned that one of these plane trees had been here since the beginning of the square, some two-hundred-odd years ago. Impressive that, I think when a tree stands tall during two world wars and sees the decline and fall of empire. One tree, some goats. And that’s all I need to realise a day is worth living.






Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Flash in the heart

A mad looking man on a bicycle pushing a trolley cart shouts, ‘It’s actually Happy Hour all the time!’ at some students who are looking at their shoes. I pass by them on the tight pavement, looking at that man’s harrowed eyes beneath that GoPro strapped to his forehead, blinking.

My heart is pounding inside my cavity and I wonder what if it all blurs in to one and happens in a split second? 
One thought escapes my confines and flutters in to the big world, never to be regained exactly, but thought again, by me and anyone else who thinks. Sometimes my brain clicks off. Then whirrs back ON at high-speed I shock myself.

I learnt today that there are hidden words at the ends of sentences. The easiest ones are those with ellipses, like, ‘Last night was fun…’ (so let’s not get emotionally involved)
Or there are agreements made between those who should truly know what it means when they say, ‘Let’s make it happen!’ (not yet or ever, so, see you in about a year)
The classic one is, ‘Are you alright?’
‘I’m fine.’

Strange the road looks wet when it hasn’t been raining. May be a spillage. The scaffolding looks like ship’s sails. The decking wet with salt water splashes, the ground uneven and being on the sea, is bent at all levels underfoot. The loud bassoon of a fog horn cuts through the pedestrians and we’re back in the city, after dark, before any of the bells toll.





Thursday, 14 September 2017

Electricity hums

Everything emits electricity these days. My gaze bounces off of screen, to wall, to phone and strobes always. My eyes are tired but they still work, thankfully. Drumming out a little tune with my fingers, a faint thrumming in the cockles of my heart like the heart-race flapping of a minor bird, caught. I see through the fat windows the rain drizzling, terrorising the lunch-breakers; making a run for it or sheltering under the Sainsbury’s. Tomorrow I will be off on holidays but today I am stuck, here in this undrenched room, in stifling heat with no evacuation coming soon although we wouldn’t want one, we’re lucky really to be sat here in this non-plussed silence looking down below at the soggy shoppers. Sandwiches shoved under arms. Free magazines turning to pulp. 

As I leave I see a rainbow, beautiful and beheaded by a galaxial axe. The seven coloured stumps shine without pointing me the way, but I appreciate it anyway, whilst an adolescent rat scuttles along the railings following my footsteps until I stop. Shoots up a drainpipe thinking I could pounce, not realising I have places to be, other than in bed with that rat. Drops of water fall and it makes such a difference to not be inside, to feel cold, or to feel even a little bit, alive.





Tuesday, 29 August 2017

City poems


1.

There was a day of
Wasps,  I remember
As I walked to work
Buzzing in the bins

A Barboured old man
with a puppy dog in
his hands, the colour
Of burnt caramel

Today will be a good day
I can tell.



2.

The man with the blue tie
  glides by
The man with the pink tie
  points his finger
    at others
The man with the dry eyes
  looks tired
And, I with the wry
smile feel removed from it all



3.

The thing about all of
these things is
I cannot be bothered.

I wrap myself up in
Cotton wool and
Dive down under the covers

Sleep til light
Then do it all over again
Five days a week
Until the Sabbath

Forgetting all of what's gone
past as I dip my
Toes in to the future






Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Some sort of manifesto


As I sit here on the stairs thinking to write, forcing each quaver in to my mouth for the crisp to dissolve or crunch away, I am struck with a sense of foreboding determination. I came home and I was so hungry but lacking the willpower to cook anything I ate two bowls of cereal, using up that extra carton of soya milk I bought by accident. Kill two birds? Not the right idiom. Like when I cocked my eyebrow in that way no one else can do apart from on the silver screen, at my friend across the pub table and pronounced, ‘So he’s quite the dark stallion.’ Meaning horse. As I crumple the yellow packet between my twisting fingers, I am doing sums in my head. I have exactly 9 hours I spend at work, 1 hour for lunch, which I completely waste doing nothing, 30% of which is eating. I bore myself eating my lunch, eating the same thing I have cooked every day for the past month now, too afraid to try something different in case it comes out horrible like that baltic curry I tried to muster (and from a jar). Either way that’s 9 hours gone. That leaves me 15 hours in a day. Now if I try to scrape back the equal amount of time I am not at work for myself i.e. to do waking, living things, then that would leave me 6 hours to fall asleep in. And that’s if I really squeeze everything I want to do in to my 9 hours, which has to, by nature, include things I don’t care about doing like putting out the bins, tapping in through commuter barriers, buying soya milk, etc. That’s not even including all the miscellaneous things I sort of want to/have to do in my play time, like answering WhatsApp threads and watching YouTube videos. 

So I pace it up the stairs.


I leave the cereal bowl behind me on the table - I’ll clean it up later - I open this laptop and start padding for words to appear on this screen (a lot like the screen I have to stare at for 9 hours at work), but that’s my bread, you know how people used to say wholesome things like earning your bread and butter to mean doing an honest day’s work? Yeah, well I don’t remember, but I still get the gist. Everyone’s got to make a living and I spend all day looking at brands. We don’t eat as much bread any more but we sure consume a lot of brands and that gave me a job, in the end, I’m grateful for our gastronomic capitalist habits in providing me with a wage. I feel like I’m writing some sort of manifesto, just so that I can get my head stuck back down to the thing that I want my head to be stuck to. And that’s write.



Monday, 10 July 2017

Keiko

You would know by her languid airs that she had all the time and money in the world, well. Not so much of either, anymore.

Grown up in Tokyo, daughter to a wealthy merchant father and an heiress mother, Keiko had never know hunger, nor desire, nor anything that moved her to want. Living a perfect sheltered existence through childhood, attending an exclusive playschool at the age of six and graduating from a ladies’ university at nineteen, the world awaited her with cradling arms. Beckoning her so close to their hearts to become human.

Her looks couldn't be bought, only cultivated like a true pearl, through the harsh revolving grit and grind of a careful, possessive shell.

In her formative years she felt no stress, hands flocked around her to take care of that. Keiko knew how to dress with understated glamour, not an eyelash out of place, lips the shade of roses that flowered and whithered with each season.

Men would tap her on the shoulder as she swanked down Ginza Bouleavrd, as she kept friends in lockets who’d grab any hot-blooded male’s attention: Miss Arashi being one, a JAL air stewardess being another. The 1960’s. Her hair, her make-up, her wider than usual almond eyes that sloped off in to a distinguished smile.
‘Are you free to have tea with me?’
‘May I take you for a dance?’
‘Would you and your friend escort us to a private member’s club?’

She never had to cook a meal for herself, never. Always a new man vying for her attentions. Youth, money, beauty, song, gourmet, dance, evokes the memories of an old lady.

Seventy-six is old by any standard, and yet, as if it were yesterday the melody of the American band and the sequined nightgown of the maitre’d float by, leading you coaxingly, deferentially away to a table.

Handsome face, aquiline bridge, light green eyes, a pilot from Egypt with the manners of a prince. ‘I thought, I would never be so happy again.’

Married at twenty-one to a man, a nuclear scientist of all things, who had won her heart with sweet devil talk. Her simple softness seduced by his slick tongue, it was all a complicated dance and she felt lied to. He died at forty-six leaving her a home that only accrued escalating taxes with age.

But by the sea, everything so green and turquoise blue, it never got cold so the fruit always grew so plump. The spiders were hideous and hairy beasts, butterflies with wingspans she’d never believe. Fruit flies the size of horse flies.

The very tanned surfers, with sculpted bodies would ride the waves each morning, forgetting the storms and Keiko liked to imagine mustering that kind of resolve one day. To approach relentless crashing with forethought and courage, mixed with a thrill of the fun.

Those two years of freedom, working as an elevator girl at the Department Store had finished her. She had been too attractive to not be taken off the shelf, wrapped in one of those sharp-cornered bags strangled in frilly ribbon.

She had never bought a cigarette in her life, yet had always been offered foreign silk cuts out of silk pockets, handkerchief, necktie, studs.

Wondering whether the fish danced with the surge of the wave or got swallowed whole in to a vortex –
Keiko alone liked to watch the setting sun, rise, then set again.
It was called the Land of the Rising Sun, perhaps this was the reason why, purely for her to amount to being at this windowsill.

That was her routine, never lonely looking out to shore.

She would never be sure of herself again in her life.