Friday, 29 July 2011


yesterday i spent time in the west end of glasgow. and by time i mean like one hour. when i first moved here, to glasgow, i would envy the west end. where i live - high street, which could be classed as either merchant city, university of strathclyde or city centre really - seemed so barren. it's not that i expect a lot but coming from relative country and clean housed streets where the worst act of crime was melting the bus stop with a lighter, the tribulations of living in the east of the city centre were uncomfortable. first there was the whole issue of security because our flat, though on the first floor from the front, was on the ground floor at the back due to a raised back court and the hill upon which all of the north east of the city centre is situated. our windows overlook a tarmac-ed court of red brick walls and flimsy, unspiked railings. the day we moved in to the flat was the day of the large orange order parade - a procession hitherto unknown to me in terms of origin or reason, that involved copious drinking; urinating; flighting; and skinheads. it also involved burly men climbing into the back court and attempting to defecate in our bins. i think it was probably this troubling start that worried us about security in the beginning. that and our colourful neighbour whose real name was ellen but we called queenie. she didn't seem that old, i'd venture no older than 75 but looks can be decieving as all the best lower working class old glasgow town types who think of the barras as tesco look about 60 after the age of 16, and time ceases to effect them. you wouls hear a knock on your door around nine in the evening and know exactly who it was as queenie would stoat about our door and once opened regaile you with tales of neighbours that probably didn't exist being broken into from the same row of tenements that we lived in. she tottered about at the door, continually appearing to retreat to her home and then coming back to you time and again with "aye, an...". aye an two blocks up was burgled last week. aye an i saw people outside last night and they were looking in my windy. and so it went on, her appearing drunk on gin and tonics she drank in who knows where telling us of the latest acts of violence and us adding lock after lock to the door; half from this fear of glasgow and half from fear of her. once we settled and became sure that, contrary to her belief, no-one in these blocks had been broken into in a long while, we relaxed. she still told her stories to us though and we took it in turns to have to go and listen to her. this close, she would say, used to be so clean i could eat my dinner off it, but look at it now. them above me, they're pigs, they flooded my bathroom again, and they are fags, you know, not that it matters, but they are, right above me. one time she appeared particularly enebriated, up in arms. unfortunatley it was me answering the door and she came right up, eyes swilling, why did you write that on the wall downstairs? that's awful, why would you do that? she was referring to a small pencil written name beside the buzzer on the wall downstairs, which i had not written, and was not even situated beside our flat numbers buzzer. despite this she conceded we were good neighbours but it softened her to do it when all she wanted to do was hark back to when times were 'better' as a way of regaining control. i can understand why, but not understand that she did. i didn't realise that whole time that she was dying, perhaps the drinking masked it all. haggared as she was, she still never seemed a day over 60. once she was gone her place was taken by her grand daughter and what happened was learned in part and i had ceased to feel a child playing home. my brother had moved in for a while and then moved to a flat in the west end where i would sometimes go and where i had other friends. at one point i had several friends there which i no longer have and i would marvel at their vintage shops, craft fairs, greengrocers and the lack of dubious looking people parading the streets. it was like being back where i used to live and byres road was like a little town on market day, willow basketed bicycles carting organic produce with women in full length floral dresses and floppy sun hats, and children with pudding bowl hair cuts wearing hand knitted scarves. as i walked about looking into shops selling clothing that seemed spun of gold and costing as much i took this view with me of people at ease with themselves, who had friends and neighbours and community meetings. a communal theme ran through and every man seemed to be his own boss and every perfect figured woman parent to perfect blonde children, shopping for shitake mushrooms and samphire. i don't know that it was even that i wanted these things or this lifestyle, perhaps i just admired the ability to do it if you chose to. i compared it to my own bit where bicycles were mangled three seater buggies and greengrocers were pawn shops. they had victoria wine and peckhams selling imported french beers while we lived above an offsales promoting tennents special in the window, and the remnents of these purchases lay dirtily in our close, in a puddle of piss. i think that perhaps the way that this has changed for me is indicative of my own view of myself, my own confidence and personality. looking back i see that the west end was the same as it always was and where i live is often similar, though improving on a grander scale. here waste land has become new perfect buildings in the space of a year and the din of workmen and construction a disruptive reminder of progress as it is happening. new shops have emerged, and failed, but it is in the attempt that i can feel secure. i lay in bed last night and listened to a slanging match between two reprobates on the street below and considered that it has been a very long time since i last heard this. when things are bad you notice them all the time but as they ease off you begin to think they never occur at all. i realised recently that i have been in glasgow for six years now, the equivalent to the entire time i was at high school, and on this street for five, which is equivalent to all the time i have been with stuart bar six months. i feel i have, if not grown up, then at least grown here. i'm a different person to who i was when i first came. in the west end yesterday a new colour took place as i looked at the places, the people, the shops. it seemed the same as here and the buildings not much different. the streets were the same and the trees were the same. the shops were overpriced and affected and the idea that a post office selling yankee candles was better than mine seemed an idea far removed from reality; when was the last time i bought a yankee candle? in a newsagent we waited at the counter and the man was unpacking boxes and he said, give me two minutes, and we waited still. everyone in the west end thinks they are something, it's like little edinburgh or what i imagine st. andrews it like, only with less english people. i looked at them all, people in brogues and pointed shoes, with teddy boy hair cuts wearing waist coats and trousers perpetually a little too short. it was as if chinos were just invented, and not that marks and spencers had been selling them the whole time. it seems odd now that i though of these people as somehow better, or aspirational. i look at them and they are hipsters and they pretend to be twee and they are all the same, sitting in kelvingrove park, looking the same, being the same, the same pain white basketed bicycle at their feet. i look at myself and i see a person still so divergent from their image, only now i know it is a good thing and i return to the east of the city centre and i feel at home and i feel secure.

we are thinking of moving shortly, out of the city, and though since i've moved here all i have wanted is a garden and some quiet and the country life once more, i think i will miss this place far more than anything i've ever missed before.

Friday, 22 July 2011

the weight

At Seamill Hydro, a few days away, a holiday. I thought I would feel supremely relaxed there and return home revived but I should have known no-one ever earns a quick fix, no matter how good they try to be. I carried troubles about with me like being at the supermarket with no baskets and too few hands. I thought every night that I would put on pyjamas and sit up, relaxed, and worries would melt away, but how could they when I didn't even know what they were?

We booked for three but took four and the weekend was spent theorising how to evade notice. A friend who lives nearby, visiting for dinner. And for breakfast. The continual moving of bedding and straightening up of areas where numerous bodies had been. The idea that the maids would happen upon four wash bags and actually care, never mind notice. The number 3 on a sheet while four towels appeared on the counter. Honestly I think it was very clear to everyone that there were four people ambling about the premises each day, and such worries were pointless. It's funny observing people so rigid in learned goodness that the smallest infringements set them off kilter so quickly. You talk of Catholic guilt and that is definately that because of the hypocricy and the ignorance inherent in the application of morals. Everyone else has learned to live with the multiple personalities. You flip through the photographs and go one too far, it appears a mistake but I can tell you are happy, wanting to share the illicitness and the debaucherie with someone else. Someone impressionable. Someone already on their path. I'm becoming very good at putting my head in the sand too and I hate it, I hate it with every fibre of my being. I use my favourite analogy, the man standing up to thugs and getting stabbed from it. The two schools of thought: he's a hero, a martyr, standing up in the face of it; or an idiot, who could be safe in his house, sand to his neck, rather than dead, and cold, and finished. Some say it's over-exaggeration but to me it is black and white and grey is non-existant. Things happen everyday and I always want to stand but then I feel a parody of myself. I talked it over at breakfast on the last day and it all seemed so clear as things tend to in the bright, hopeful light of morning. Later in the evening I talked to the one person I trust and it seemed much more muddy and by the time night was emerging I was backing myself through a doorway and the unease was creeping past. Sometimes I think this means it's better for me not to always be making a scence over issues of rights and morals and indignations. Other times I feel like I am failing the very core of my being.

We walked on the beach and the sea could be in and it could be out but we were all there and I felt my separation so clearly that it may as well have been written in the sand. I don't understand why I am still surprised by it even when I have accepted it. I followed the three of them and took photographs and felt sad that such things come so easily to me and that I still have to tone down my skills to preserve others. They walked in lines and trailed eachother in age and I took pictures choreographed and mimicing the ones taken now of siblings in impromptu studios in shopping centres, blown up onto canvases, giant headlines of pride in oneself. There was another person taking pictures with a camera like Stuart's and I took a picture of him only because I felt some affinity by vitue of us both holding a similar device. No-one waited for me and no-one ever would as though I was intended as a lone wolf forever. They go at eachother's pace and I am consistently syncopated.

We walked down the stairs of the familiar exit to the apartment blocks and I pulled my phone out my back pocket once again, knowing to them I seemed a teenager hooked on other people. I didn't care; it's been a long time since I cared if I come across as young. A single message indicated that I had recieved phd funding at the last hurdle and I told them and they were happy and the grinned and I had to call people but I don't know where my own happiness was. They all wanted to recreate the moment later but I wanted the feeling and there hadn't been any to recreate so I sat with a smile like a shell and hollow and dark, dark brown. She said, 'you seem quite calm' and she was right but it wasn't calm it was searching and desperate and she said, 'it must be a huge weight off you' and she was wrong and I felt the weight of not knowing weigh heavier than ever. I ordered us prosecco to celebrate and I drank a glass and it made no effect and I hoped that one day there would be a different beverage used to celebrate events; one that chimed with my being and not with my anomolies.

When I was home I managed to identify some roots and it was painful all over again but in a dull, aching way that seemed peverse. I woke this morning with a mouth like a snowball and when I opened my mouth it cracked and ached and epitomised what my brain couldn't envisage, like it was protecting myself from vicious circles of doubt and unease. I imagined my jaw, dislocated, relocated, injections and plans washed out as and more plans piled on unsafely. I diagnosed online and it eased off and I realised it was jaw clenching from stress and it made such sense that it was like a slap in the face.

At the gym I listened to favourite songs and ran in the large empty room and I ran far faster than usual and I visualised things and I tried to tap into the fear and if I did then that's good but I'm not even sure what it is and trying to describe the invisible is the only way I think I can surmise what being offbalance for no reason is like. Stress sits on you, a burden, waiting and weighing and hoping your concentration will waver and it will be able to declare itself once more. On one of the seldom occassions where I happened to be in a church when I was young the minister talked of the holding of a grudge as a literal thing. He placed a toy bird of my friend Imogen on his shoulder and told us that holding a grudge was carrying around this bird and that it was no fun to carry around a bird like that all day. We all agreed. He was right, we should shift what we are carrying around like weights. But he never told us how.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

wasting away

I'm feeling very tired right now, like someone has pulled the strength out of me. It's part physical, part emotional. It's like things just aren't in rhythm right now. I don't deal well with change and that's undoubtedly part of it; especially when it's not just my change but his too, and everybody's. Part of me feels I just need a few days to bring it all back, some strength, some solid material to prop up the weary frame. When away we drove back home one evening and the hour journey took four and it's hard to deal with that but for no good reason at all. You feel as though you are losing your mind to the small things that typify the situation. I took my shoes off, put my feet out of the window as if to prove there still was air outside this vehicle that wasn't really moving, but that we couldn't get out of. That's the worst kind of traffic, where freedom is visible but unattainable. When I tried to put my shoes back on they wouldn't fit it was as if my feet had absorbed the liquid in the rest of my body and puffed up, leaving me scraped thin and coagulating on the seat. I hurt my thumbs trying to get the shoes on. I walked on top of them like a bad attempt in heels and I didn't even care though I should have. It rained as if to prove the mood. In the toilets someone had managed to get themselves all over the seat and I couldn't understand how people like this exist, that they can't replicate their personal hygeine standards outside the home. There was no toilet roll. I looked at myself in the mirror and it seemed like a younger, less secure me looking back and I hated her. Stuart was outside and I knew he would be and I told him all my woes and he knew what I needed because he is me. I told the car too but realised it was stupid because they no longer care for me like he does. It's changed and I'm only to be soothed if it fits their aged idea of family and that's okay. It was silent, I felt nauseaus. Counted down the miles on the sat nav and hoped that the end was near but it was just a keep right on the m6. It's okay, I'm just sitting still so how arduous can it be? When we got back the tightness was released but not much and we got to the car park. A woman in a car drove close, awkward and we waited, watching her actions in regards to our attempt to park. She pulled away and the small car clipped the kerb, bouncing off as she drove. We all laughed, in unison again. The car next door had a giant plush spotty dog in the back seat, larger than a human. We laughed the kinds of laughs that are tired and strained and hysterical, so close to tears that your not sure it was even a good thing. The other day my brother asked me if I remembered the time my Dad was angry at me for not being ready to go on holiday with him and I couldn't. He told me it was because we were to leave at 5 and I wasn't ready and he went ballistic at me, as was the trend back then. I didn't know what he was talking about and then a moment later the memory resurged with full colour, when the time told was half 5 and Dad confused it for 5, full anger at me sitting with half an hour of prep still to go when we were meant to be leaving. I hated those incidences because no-one was right and one person was wrong and no-one ever won. I'd blocked that memory out and the description didn't raise the vision of it at first but then it did and when it came it was full of the infamous, horrible glory of being out of those scences now. It's funny how we manage to block these events from our minds after they are gone, uncomfortable and awkward scences of self-hatred and division. But apparently the worst things stick the longest, so I guess it's just how well your brain can fool itself. Part of me wants my brain to fool this whole time right now, because though there are good things, the insecurity and volatility of life and of me is something I deign to hold on to.

Monday, 4 July 2011


Today was a warm, summer day. These days are few and far between here. You wouldn't think it if you were from England, or Wales... that summer was yet to come, or that April was summer this year, but it was. Since the start of May we have had three warm, sunny days. All the rest have been warm and dull or cool and wet. No hot water on the pavement; no streets warmer than shops. It makes me glad to be going abroad for a week, it's like I need the stupor of endless summer days to charge for the rest of the year. Summer in my mind's eye is always pale, warm yellow... and hazy. Hazy sky like one cloud has been dissolved across it all. Water from the tap not run. Residue. Squinting up at the glowing orb, everything else is like a shillouette. Without days like these it seems like life is one endless procession of similarity, days sliding into each other and nothing ever getting done. I'm aware that this is potentially my last summer where I am free to do nothing. I'm not enjoying it but I know I should be. It's funny how the best times just come upon us without warning, and those planned are startled and uncouth. Today I lay outside letting the heat come down like my body was being ripped apart then reinstated, upgraded. There are few feelings better than roasted skin oily with suncream, washed in a shower you can only manage cool. Cleansing the new model. I want more days like this, I want a run of them, but all I'm given is one. It's unfair, taunting like this.

I haven't done any work for a month. I've felt numb to it. Like I can't work with any vigour if I don't feel it's worth it. Right now it's not worth it. I keep on saying, I will work once I know what I'm working to, or what I'm no longer going to attain. I feel guilty. No-one knows of progress except me. I don't know who to tell because it all seems so suddenly pointless. Runs of cool rainy days wash the passion right out of me and the warm ones take all my energy to suck up. Summer is a funny time, I always long it and my imagination runs away with images of tents on remote beaches and stone ringed fires; bare legs and bare feet and grounds too hot to walk on. The images and reality never correlate. Never. It's like Christmas never being as good as when you are young, except its always never been as good. It's disappointing, but every year there is hope. Hope from the shoots of spring and the ice breakers and day time. I feel as though midsummer comes and it's all downhill from there on. Midsummer was when I was in London. I promised to do something special; we ate burgers in a hotel room. I want so much to feel like I live in the world as its elements but I know I live in the social world and that of entities. It would just be nice to live that dream for a little while.