lundi 31 octobre 2016

Towering Giants

I'm very into this new moon thing at the moment.  Anything that makes one take stock appeals to me.  Apparently yesterday the new moon in Scorpio hit.  This Scorpio new moon is all about opening up to new relationships, and setting intentions for what you want those to be.  It's a sexy, romantic new moon, basically.

During a wonderful weekend of long walks by the sea, coffee, pizza, Stevie Nicks, French films and more pizza - this led to a long Saturday night conversation with my best friend, while both of us were falling asleep in my bed with her two dogs.

I fell asleep saying that I wouldn't bother again unless it's for something truly extraordinary.  There are books to be written and to be read, places to go, friends to cherish - so much to do and never enough time.  Extraordinary is the only possible way now.

And then I had a vivid dream from which I never wanted to wake.  In it, I was kissing two of the most extraordinary ones I can possibly think of: Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.  A young Dylan and a very old Cohen.  I was to choose between them; I couldn't, of course.  But what a lovely, impossible situation to dream of.

I think it's safe to say the bar is now pretty high.

Further reading:

On the other hand, this song is still jammed in my head this morning and refuses to go away.

samedi 29 octobre 2016

Where you lead...

This post feels like a very, very big deal.  It’s about something that I have dedicated pretty much every waking thought to for the last couple of months.  Seven series, 22 episodes each.  It's been intense.

I also don’t want to wade in wrong-footedly – for I have come very late to the Gilmore Girls.  Which, frankly, is batshit insane of me and just WRONG.  For years, my sister and a lot of my friends (especially Ruth and Harriet) have been telling me how much I would love it and how I MUST WATCH IT.  I always meant to, but somehow I never did.  How I rue those days now, which could have been filled with Gilmore Girls instead of literally anything else.

For, dear reader, I am in love.  GGs speaks to me on the deep level that my nearest and dearest knew that it would.  OF COURSE I adore the rapid-fire dialogue and every single cultural reference.  From the beginning – and especially the moment when Rory makes an oblique and very obscure Rosemary’s Baby joke to Dean the first time she lays eyes on him – I was in joyful awe (it wasn’t until later that this was overshadowed with ‘urgh, Dean’).  Obviously, the Grey Gardens episode had me literally weeping with fateful happiness throughout.

Of course, the writing and the characters are perfect (the latter perfectly flawed, of course).  The themes are deep and executed effortlessly – feminism and class and family dynamics all right there wrapped up in a veil of joyful, witty FUN.

I want to move to Stars Hollow.  I want Lane to be my best friend, oh but I also want Paris to be my best friend.  And Sookie.  And Emily – kind of, sometimes.  I want to marry Max Medina, please.  And maybe also Jess.  Although my ultimate relationship goal remains Babette and Mory (let's face it: he is just my type).  Plus: cats.  Although I wouldn’t mind being Miss Patty one day.

I watched the final episodes yesterday and wept copiously and uncontrollably throughout.  Then I watched the new trailer and wept throughout.  There’s been a lot of weeping.  It’s been emotional.

Although I am feeling the void of my hitherto unnecessarily GGs-less life, of course there is a Stars Hollow-worthy silver lining.  I only have to wait a month until the revival (blocked out in my diary, with plans for a veritable EVENT – the details of which I remain unclear on, but will involve a lot of food, definitely Pop Tarts, and possibly a Lorelai-like outfit).  I don’t know how I would have waited 10 years if I’d been watching it in real time.  As it is, I still can’t wait.

(If you would like some proper GGs analysis from a legit expert, rather than my half-baked johnny-come-lately fangirling – you should definitely read THIS by my brilliant friend Harriet.)

vendredi 28 octobre 2016

Something That Needs Nothing

My current mantra is BE SOMETHING THAT NEEDS NOTHING.  It came to me when I was meditating (yes, that's a thing I do at the moment, don't laugh) and I scribbled it down.  I'll admit it wasn't a wholly original thought (I'm not sure I have any).  It came from nowhere, but it immediately occurred to me that there is a Miranda July short story entitled 'Something That Needs Nothing'.  In fact, it's probably my second-favourite of her short stories, after 'I Kiss A Door'.  Anyway, however it came into my head, I want to be something that needs nothing.  I'm working on it.

The old Mystic Jukebox was in full effect this morning.  (Why does 'There Is No If' by The Cure keep coming up, along with near-constant Echo and the Bunnymen?  WHY??!)

This came on and reminded me of my wonderful friend Neil and how much we loved this song when it came out.  So much so that we got my mum to dye our hair jet black over the bathtub, took to wearing red eyeshadow and danced like this to every single song for a good month.  It still sounds so good now.  I don't even care if Madonna and meditation in the same post sounds hokey.

I was in need of musical sustenance this morning - Halloween looked like it had come early, via a sleepless night and a first-thing-in-the-morning train, bypassing coffee and lipstick.  Then I remembered that I just need to get the fuck on with it.  Do what I'm here to do and nothing more.  Drink some coffee and put some fucking lipstick on.  For that, Madonna is always ideal.

Thanks, universe.

jeudi 27 octobre 2016

También Esto Pasará

There is a Ted Hughes poem, in Birthday Letters, entitled ‘You Hated Spain’.  Apparently Sylvia Plath hated Spain (where they went for their honeymoon, unfortunately).  I always joke that we should read this poem at my mum’s funeral, as she is most definitely not a fan of Spain.  Which is funny, because the rest of us all love Spain.

It’s one of my favourite places.  It makes me think of lying around in the hot sunshine with my grandmother, with a bottle of gin and a giant bag of crisps on the go.  Or drinking beer on the beach and skinny dipping with my girlfriends.  Or, ironically, eating seafood paella and swimming in the sea with my mum, as a tiny child in a stripy swimsuit.  Feelings all soaked in sunshine and deep joy, anyway.  And femaleness.  Spain is a very female country to me.

Semi-relatedly (stick with me), a great many of my favourite books have come from random second-hand finds, which I have known nothing about but been taken by the cover or the blurb – it’s really a great way to find secret gems.  My excellent friend and new Brighton resident Chris – AKA Mister Jones and His Guitar – was playing a Saturday afternoon gig in the Oxfam bookshop in Brighton recently.  So of course I could not resist dropping in and buying a stack of books while I was there.

The cover of ‘This Too Shall Pass’ (‘También Esto Pasará’) by Milena Busquets looks very Spanish.  It also has a pull-out quote on the back that I instantly fell in love with:

“To the best of my knowledge, the only thing that momentarily alleviates the sting of death – and life – without leaving a hangover is sex.”

So true.  No wonder I read it in one sitting and I loved it.  To take us back to the beginning, it really encapsulates beautifully those sunshine-soaked girl times in Spain that I am so fond of.  History and friendship and family, sex and death, grief and joy.  It’s great on all of the above, in a very elegant style.

Coincidentally, it is set in Cadaqués, a place I have long been fascinated by and desperate to go to.  It has gone right up the list of dream destinations now.  And this little Spanish gem might have sneaked into my list of favourite-ever second-hand bookshop finds.

jeudi 20 octobre 2016

Whiskers on Kittens

If you are free this weekend and so inclined - you can come and see me, at YAShot 2016!

I'm very excited about it.  It's a day-long festival of all things YA, and there are some really brilliant authors involved (and me, ha ha).

I'm going to be appearing on a panel entitled THE SOUND OF MUSIC with some truly awesome and lovely humans - Chris Russell (Songs About a Girl), Marianne Levy (Accidental Superstar) and Sophia Bennett (Love Song).  As you can probably tell from the titles, we have all written books with music involved, so the panel talk is obviously going to be about the two best things in life: books and music.  Expect lurid teenage stories, mega fandom and fantasy festival line-ups.  Hooray!

You could probably make some sort of an 'ECW Books/Music Bingo' game quite easily, to be honest.  Ten points every time I mention: Leonard Cohen, Nirvana, Bowie, Sonic Youth, Glastonbury weddings, Blake Nelson, Emma Forrest, Hole, riot grrl, fanzines, Lester Bangs, Patti Smith, undisclosed secret rockstar boyfriends (ahem), Holden Caulfield, the Chelsea Hotel...

So, as such, here is one of my very favourite book-inspired songs...  Prize for anyone who turns up at YAShot and knows the connection.  Also, please do let me know if you think of any other great literature/music crossovers/inspirations...

dimanche 16 octobre 2016

I've been up on the roof (after a sleepless night)*

The story of a glass horse named Trevor

He started his life in Venice, on the island of Murano (of course).  He was given to me as a present.  We called him Trevor; I have no idea why.  It seemed funny at the time, as these things do.  His sister, Princess Sparkle, went with my sister.  Maybe she still has her - who knows by this point?  A relic of the past.

Trevor came home wrapped in my blue and white dress.  He lived in all of our flats with us.  I was careful with him every time we moved.  One of my favourite possessions and probably the most fragile.  I was so careful every time.  Four different flats, Trevor lived in.  Various shelves, tables, window ledges and bookcases.

I know that was 10 years ago.  Because I renewed my passport just before that trip to Venice, and it needs to be renewed again later this summer.  Yours will need to be renewed on the same day.  My face looks young in the photograph.  I had just turned twenty-five.  We lived in our first flat in Brighton then.  The post office where my passport photo was taken is no longer there.  I was wearing a black and white polka dot dress.  I would never wear polka dots now.  Well, probably not.  Never say never.  Goonies never say die (and obviously I am nothing if not a Goonie).

That trip to Venice was the best holiday I have ever had.  I hope it is only the best so far, that something - one day, somehow - might match or even top it.  It was honestly the happiest I ever remember being.  Everything has changed since then.

But I won't forget.  Croissants filled with apricot jam.  The train in the middle of the night.  Scrabble tournaments with the barman in a dodgy quartier of Paris on the way.  The pizza place in the square.  Taking photos in an Italian laundrette.  Watching comedy police shows on the hotel TV.  The gold sandals that came free with a magazine.  The best hot chocolate I have ever tasted, practically chewed.  The poster ripped from the street that is still framed on my bedroom wall.

I don't know when I stopped being careful with Trevor.  It was an accident, of course - but it would never have happened back in those golden days.

Still, my heart dropped into my stomach when he fell off the high shelf and onto the wooden floor.  I saw it happen in slow motion and I knew then how it would end.

He lost a leg, only.  It could have been worse.  But I knew.

'It's not a bad omen,' I said to you, in a panicked voice that didn't sound like my own any more.  'It's going to be OK.'

It wasn't.  I don't know when it became too depressing to see Trevor there on the shelf, off balance and a shadow of his former self.  I can't remember throwing him away.  But I know we did.  One of us.

I wish we hadn't.  Or, more accurately, I wish we hadn't had to.  But we did.

I do remember it was me who knocked him off the shelf, and for that I am - truly - sorry.  I'm sorry.

* Found in my Ibiza Notebook, written this summer.  Far too personal a little tragic tale, but to my eyes kind of perfect, in my new spirit of Getting It All The Fuck Out.


samedi 15 octobre 2016

Radio Days

This is a secret London gem.  Honestly.  A total treasure.

Radio Days is a vintage shop on Lower Marsh in London, just behind Waterloo station.  Lower Marsh is one of my favourite streets in London (definitely top five).  It houses the sort of stuff that is sadly becoming rarer and rarer in Our Nation's Capital.  Proper greasy spoons, a weird spooky shop called Silver Witch, a not-that-sexy sex shop, Chariots sauna...

Radio Days sells mostly clothes, but also many accessories, vintage magazines, records, books, household knick-knacks.  The decor and atmosphere are like something from an extremely chic but slightly dodgy black and white movie.  The clothes are from the 1920s up to the 70s/80s, with perfect 1940s dresses and beautiful vintage lingerie a speciality - all pristine and so, so glamorous.  It is, basically, heaven.

The clothes are original and properly special in a way that is becoming unusual even in vintage shops.  There is wonderful music played on vinyl.  The owner, Lee, is dapper and chatty and a total delight, and often being visited by local characters that make it worth hanging around and eavesdropping.

I just bought my winter coat there - 60s, modish, wool, perfect fit, total bargain and Lee even gave me a discount without me asking.

So...  unfortunately the news is that they are closing down.  Another London gem gone.  This makes me so sad, but the temporary good news is that they are going to be open for the next three months only.  They want to sell everything off before then, so the place is currently packed to the rafters with truly amazing treasures, and there are mega bargains to be found.  Consider this a friendly public service announcement in the spirit of an old-fashioned London...

vendredi 14 octobre 2016

For us to dream.

A good week for culture.

Not least because Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  For some reason, this is something that speaks directly to me and I feel a weird sense of slight ownership over - no idea why, but judging from The Social Media, a lot of my friends feel the same.  He means a lot to a lot of us, basically.  Good reason to give him the prize.  His words are special.

So, on Monday night I went to the Royal Festival Hall and got to be in the same room as the ACTUAL Louis Theroux.  As predicted he is tall, well dressed and very erudite.  Bonus Adam Buxton, too.

Tuesday night I went to the Barbican to see the Michael Clark Company.  This was a genuine revelation.  I was only vaguely familiar with Michael Clark's work, and it was one of those great events that I never would have gone to if not for my friend buying the tickets and inviting me along.  Sometimes the best kind of nights.  The dancers were incredible (what the human body can do blows my mind), but it was also surprisingly moving - music by Erik Satie, Patti Smith and then a tribute to David Bowie.  Really incredible.

I got home on Wednesday to the most bonkers, generous and wonderful present from my friend Neil. A huge, flat cardboard box that turned out to be A PLACE FOR US TO DREAM.  Vinyl, limited edition, signed - a 4-volume box set of 20 years' worth of Placebo, with a photo book so beautiful it made me cry.  Twenty years of my life and friendship, right there.  Unbelievable.

I have rarely felt so lucky to have the friends I have, lately.  I don't want to go into some 'hashtag blessed', my-friends-are-the-best-yes-better-than-your-friends smug outpouring.  I'm sure we all feel the same way about our own friends - I hope so, anyway.  But lately I have been feeling the value of great friends old and new, that's all.

In between times, lately I have been listening to The Cure a lot, rereading my beloved Patti Smith, living quietly, eating healthily, feeling inspired.  These are the things that are good in life.

jeudi 13 octobre 2016

The Istanbul Diary

This month, for me, started with a new moon and a trip to the crystal shop.  I contemplated starting a new notebook for the new month, the new moon.  Then I thought maybe I'd continue an old one; I have so many notebooks with only a little bit written in them.  It seems a waste, sometimes.  I'm not precious.

So I trawled through some old notebooks.  I found some very ancient, silly things that made me laugh.  Some things that I'd written in different places.

For some reason, to go with this new start, I decided that it would make *perfect* sense to continue writing in the notebook that contained notes from The Very Worst Period of my life.  A time when things were the actual worst and I went a bit mad.  In fact, it was afterwards, when I was starting to process (at the time, I was incapable of writing coherently in any way) - so, it was afterwards; in Istanbul, in fact.

I keep reading these passages, with a sense of slight sadness for the person who wrote them.  Because it's at a remove; I genuinely do not have any recollection, or even really recognise the person who I was then.  It is honestly a bit mystifying.

I keep thinking about it, and that I should get these little scraps of feeling out into the world.  I don't want to feel ashamed.  I don't want to hide from difficult things.


I wake up early to bright sunshine, slip out and climb to the hotel's roof terrace.  In the sunshine - in my pyjamas, trainers and cardigan - the Blue Mosque on one side and the sea on the other, I realise: I haven't cried in Istanbul.  That might not sound a big deal; I've only been here three days - but it's the longest time in a long time.  I vow not to cry in Istanbul.


In Istanbul, everyone thinks I am Turkish (or French, Italian, Spanish) - anything but English.  A holiday from identity...


I spend an entire afternoon sitting in an empty room sobbing, saying out loud 'I hate him, I hate him' over and over again, just to try it out.

I see a shaman, I have a psychiatric assessment, I buy new clothes, I book a trip to Istanbul.  This sort of trauma is expensive, man.

I can't listen to music again for a long time.  Also, I always thought I was a bit of an alcoholic but for ages at first I can't even drink water.

At least two baths/showers a day.  Lying there for hours - baby sips of bourbon and rereading The Bell Jar, surveying my scars old and new.

I live in fear of being discovered.  I am 31 years old now, after all.  And yet the old duality is still there - realise it or not, I am obviously desperate for an external signal.  I'm not only lacerated, but very bony.  I drop 10 pounds without trying, but it becomes addictive and I start trying.  I've taken up smoking again.

I have to pull out of the half marathon I signed up to months ago, because I am just too weak.  Annoying, because any other time I could have done it no problems.

I have a vision of myself and suddenly I don't like it.  Bony, pale, hunched in an old cardigan with a pinched face, smoking furtively in the rain.  It's not in any way a good look.

I don't only start eating again, I start overeating in an attempt to weigh down the speedy feeling I keep getting in my chest.  School tuck shop food, salt and vinegar crisps and Kitkats.

I become weirdly obsessed with fake tan, a product that I have previously felt no more than a mildly scathing disinterest in before.  I slather myself in it, soon graduating from 'light/medium' to 'medium/dark'.  My bony upper half is streaked orange where it collects in my ribs and clavicles.  I develop yellow tidemarks between my fingers.

I tell myself it's because I am sick of looking not only pale and wan but like a fucking dead girl walking.  I keep telling myself that I don't want to look like a cry for help, 'because I don't need help'.

Actually I think I was just trying to get away from myself.  I liked not recognising myself.  This is not my life - hey, it's not even my skin.

This weird dichotomy of health and poison.  I am literally walking around with a healing crystal in one coat pocket (amethyst, for 'cleansing positivity') and a packet of razorblades in the other.  The nearness of both makes me feel better.

It's only now, here in Istanbul, that I actually start to feel better.


In my head, recently, I had basically written this year off.  It's been a year that feels, to me, as if no forward progress has been made.  Nothing of note.  An inauspicious year.  A bad year for the world at large; not particularly great inside my own head either, frankly.  No great creative breakthroughs.  Beginnings that have come to nothing.  A lot of smoke and ash.

I haven't even been anywhere new.  I have only been to countries I have been to before.  In fact, my most inspiring trip to a new place this year was to Margate - which was truly wonderful, but not exactly exotic.  It was hardly expanding my horizons in a great global sense.

I've been begging friends to go away with me for Christmas and new year this year.  I don't want to be here.  I can't bear to face ending this year on the same one-note it seems to have been stuck on for a while now.  I want an adventure.  Jamaica or Mexico or the wilds of California have been mentioned.  I can't seem to raise the momentum for it and it looks like I will have to wait for more far-flung travels.  Maybe next year will be the year...

Then it struck me.  When I think of how quickly the world can change, I realise I may be wrong - or at least premature.  When I think of the small flashes of joy that can spring up from nowhere and keep me going for one more day, the chance connections that remind me the universe is actually magic...

It's only October.  Maybe something extraordinary will happen, maybe it won't.  But there's still time.  If we're lucky, there's always time.

mercredi 5 octobre 2016

The Fall

  • Coats
  • Boots
  • Bella Freud jumpers
  • Stockings
  • Fires
  • Scarves
  • Perfect walking weather
  • Best running weather
  • Cooking, with the radio on
  • Reading, under a blanket on the sofa
  • Listening to records, under a blanket on the sofa
  • Reading, with coffee in bed
  • Writing while wearing at least six layers and possibly a sleeping bag
  • Ice skating (soon).
  • Any more?

lundi 3 octobre 2016

Jack of Diamonds

After my last post, I paid a visit to London Fossils and Crystals, which was a lovely experience.  It's (obviously) a crystal (and fossil!) shop in London. It's on Waterloo Road, if you're in the area; it's a small shop but it's hard to miss due to the fact that it is painted bright purple.

I bought some crystals and a sage smudge stick, and some Himalayan salts and incense.  I also had a brilliant chat with the lady in the shop.  We spoke at length about how it is possible to manifest good and inspiring people in one's life, how the signs are always there but we have to do our best to look out for them.  My best friend is always telling me that I never see the red flags, even when there are so many of them and they are right in front of my face.  And so I resolved to look for signs.

I exited the shop, into brightest sunshine and autumn rain showers (perfect rainbow weather), clutching my purple fabric bag of hippie spoils and feeling good about the world.  And I ran (literally, slap-bang) into Grayson Perry.  If that's not a sign, I don't know what is.

So, there followed a weekend of slowly looking for signs.  I went to a dance class, where we laughed and moved with pure joy.  I drank a lot of coffee; I wrote and was productive.  I pottered in my house and made vats of soup.  Yesterday I went on a lovely autumn sunshine country outing with a beautiful girlfriend, who even brought cake and a flask of tea.  Late last night I even tried to do some chanting, which may warrant more mention later.

Basically I want to concentrate on being a productive and useful and ALWAYS BETTER human.  I also kind of want magical things to happen - but that's OK, isn't it?

I have this song in my head and this is just the loveliest version ever...  (And of course my spirit animal is a wild grey horse.)