Monday, 29 September 2014

A Whiff, a Waft, a Wonder



When I first started working where I work I was swept away by my walk there. It leads me through the prettiest part of the city. The lime trees, so fragrant in the spring; the pipe-cleaner trees with their twisted yellow branches. At the moment of course, the conkers, which I still compulsively fill my pockets with. The views of the hill. If I am mindful I can become really happy but often my mind is filled with the mundanities of work. 

The surrounds of where I work is beautiful too. There is a small team of gardeners. Their existence filled me with much happiness when I started this job; I was overwhelmed that my new employers valued the environmental and the aesthetic. They have grown morning glory all over the café railings; they have created ponds and wildlife areas. Their planting has attracted lots of dragonflies and I even saw a hummingbird hawk moth, which I honestly thought was a bird when I first saw it nosing in the buddleia.



On my very ugly building the gardeners are training a climbing plant, fixing it with bits of wire and cleverness to the brickwork. I have never come across it before. Creamy white flowers like a child would draw crop up on it twice or thrice a year and their scent is extraordinary.  Everything else I mainly take for granted but when I walk past these I really do wake up and smell the flowers. I always pause, I always inhale as deeply as I can as near as I can to these blooms. Even during the smelling they fill me with yesterdays. They remind me of death and rebirth. They make me wonder, if I smell them too hard will I rob others of the opportunity to be magicked by them? They slightly break my heart, or make it remember all its repaired fractures. 

When the flowers die I wait for them impatiently. I could ask the gardeners what the plant is called, but that would steal some mystery.  

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Rekindling Past Romances



Recently I have been mostly reading. I set myself a task, to reread important books. Special, memorable, magical ones. The ones that stayed in my brain. Some worked, some didn’t. 
 
I started with C.S Lewis’s ‘The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe’. This was the first book I ever re-read. I read it out-loud with my Mum and then I read it cover to cover in a day on a beach. My bucket and spade were discarded; instead I filled the pages with sand and imagined myself in snow. I loved the magical characters, talking animals and Aslan, half God-beast, half jolly good fellow. The whole premise of a world through a hole has captivated me ever since. 
  
And so on to Lewis Caroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, which upsettingly was less engaging. This extraordinary story inspires me often, so I replaced the read with a watch of Jan ҆vankmajer’s stop-motion adaptation, a fantastic taxidermic nightmare:
 


Scarlett Thomas’s ‘Our Tragic Universe’ came next. The warmth and familiarity of her first-person narrative and resonance of her themes made me sure she must be a misplaced friend or someone I knew writing under a pseudonym when I first read her work. Alas, Google made me see she is real. I love her mixture of reality and magic. Her protagonist may be a witch and stumbles across a version of Tom Bombadil just like the hobbits did, but still has to worry about bills and boyfriends.
 
Jon McGregor’s ‘If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable things’ has a breath-taking style. It’s like poetry melted into prose. The story is brilliant too, how the two strands gel and how incredibly moving it is. The Kafkan lack of names. The sparkle of sad selfless magic. 
 
Arthur Bradford’s 'Dog Walker'. Best short story writer ever. Tiny men, singing dogs, Cat Face. Tell me, what’s not to love? It’s a terrible thing that it’s out of print. Buy it!  
 
I was slightly frightened of picking up William Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying.’ I’d tried to reread it once before and found it too bleak. But it was beautiful this time. The language, the characters, the structure – oh my! I felt like I was there. I could smell Addie’s corpse, I could see the circling buzzards, I could feel the cruelty. Simple-seeming farming folk, wrapped in poetry, in telepathy, in complexity.
  
Next I Woolfed down ‘Orlando’. Ah, to live three hundred years, and ah, to stay 36 (though I did not enjoy that age myself very much, much better to be 33) and ah to change sex and to see so damn well, no glasses needed for our Orlando. This book was my first experience of stream of conscious, my first time for seeing an author really breaking the rules, having fun with constructs, expectations. And what a lovely long love letter, Vita obviously had great legs!
 
Banks got his brilliance back with 'Transitions'. He was my hero for many years and then I fell out of love. I picked this up in a charity shop, a fevered purchase prior to a holiday. And what a wonderful read for a holiday. I don’t remember much of where I was, because I was spinning through worlds. Yes, I fell back in love. For me this is plot at its most epic and powerful. Awe-inspiring, what an incredible imagination, what a loss he died so young. 
  
Who’s on the shore? ‘Kafka on the Shore’. Haruki Murakami is another amazing mind. A man that can talk to cats. Johnny Walker and the KFC Colonel wandering around reality. All the descriptions of food in between. The cleanliness of the translation. Magical Realism. I wish my world was more absurd, more Murakami. 
 
It has been indulgent. But it’s been bliss. And there should be more on this list but I’ve run out of summer and I must take what I can from this genius and try not to be intimidated.Now I know I must get back to writing.

To Tell the Truth



By Paul Agule
I lie all the time. I’m pathological. I lie to protect myself, to be nice, in the desperate desire to get people to like me. Often I lie just for my own entertainment, especially to young children: My dog is half cow, I once met a dragon, cup-cakes are actually fairy poos. I myself am gloriously gullible and extremely trusting, which is strange when on the other foot I’m such a fibber. With my habitual chameleoning it’s easy to forget or not bother with opinion, I’ll just agree with whatever you’re saying. Unless you’re saying something sexist, racist or other twattishness. Even I have limits.

So I find it very difficult to form opinions. I’m so conflict averse I’ll sidle around and not address things. But I’m going to start trying to be truthful…

…But maybe I’m lying right now, a neat way to finish my witter. All creative writers enjoy fabricating and maybe I should celebrate our special talent. What would life be without wonderful woppers along the way! 

On Balance




There is a new skate park. This has been a long time in the making; all summer builder-artists have been creating curving concrete surfaces. And now it is open. I knew it was because suddenly it was surrounded by litter. And also there were skateboarders even at 7.00 am when I was walking my dog. I admire the dedication. By my lunchtime dog walk the place is heaving. I watch some impressive bicycle tricks.  It's good, it's wholesome, it's not playing computer games. It is very boy-dominated. Where are the girl boarder/bikers? I know they exist; I work with one, one once lived next door and I've seen them on the Southbank too. But not on the new skate park. 





Another irritation, and now I'm being a cantanker, is that I find myself living on a through-route artery to the skate park. Okay, I'll cope during the day, but at 6.00 am (Are these the shy ones that want the park to themselves?) and at 11.30 pm the clatter-chatter, grundle-trundle I wish to pin tack the street. It’s probably all karmic. I am a loud person, I must irritate many, I must be made to suffer.

Maybe I’m jealous, I have no balance, no spatial sensibility and no wheels. Are we meant to travel this way? Initially I think not but for all my clumsiness, all my falling-on-my-arseness on roller-skates, I now recall ‘Chorlton and the Wheelies’ and more recently those wonderful diamond-spined beasts, the Mulefa, in Philip Pullman’s ‘The Amber Spyglass’.



So maybe I’ll have another try. Maybe I’ll buy some carboot roller-blades. Maybe I’ll be Mulefalicous. And maybe set the alarm clock for 5.00 am.