Monday, 30 July 2012
Thursday, 12 July 2012
Everybody says it seems like forever and no time since you were here. And they’re right; I can still remember how it felt to hold you, still remember the easy smile that you didn’t like. I remember those Spanish-by-way-of-South Derry eyes; laughing and alive. But it seems like an eternity since I last talked to you. And it seems longer since we laughed together. A longer eternity: a wet weekend in Belfast. I no longer live with you; I live with your stuff. But my love for you still lives within me and you still live within me. It’s not enough; it’s not nearly enough, just the faintest echo of you, the tiniest spark of your brilliance. But it is something. Something I can carry within me for the rest of my life, a little pilot light, guiding me
Sunday, 8 July 2012
I worked in I.T. for years. None of my friends believed me: "No, John, but REALLY what do you do?". Eventually I became very mysterious about it: "I work in publishing" would be my tight-lipped response to innocent dinner party enquiries, followed by a thoughtful, masticatary silence, chewing with my mouth shut, maintaining eye-contact. Because my friends were correct: it WAS ridiculous. I do not have a clue. I just had to ask a stranger on Facebook how to find the settings on Google because I cannot, for the life of me, map the screen. I cannot intuit anything about technology at all. Give me a human head and I'll read it relatively happily, poking at mood swings like a moody phrenologist. I'm good at that. I can spot an "atmosphere", I can read a smile or the setting of a jaw. And I'm handy with a tub of Haagen Dazs at three in the morning. It's not really a marketable skill but if anyone is in the market for a gay best friend then I'm your man. Especially in Belfast. Twasn't always thus. These skills are hard won and I have the scars. I'm battle-hardened; galvanised. And I will admit that men are harder to read, there's a lot of bluster and macho bravado and when they go they really go. its not pretty, snot and hugging everywhere.I don't subscribe to advertising's notion of the modern male as an infantalised moron but if you do hug one in the throes of a crisis it is best to take the new mums precaution and drape a tea-towel over one shoulder: there will be an explosion of snot, a snot carnival; a snotice to cease and desist. But, as I was saying, computers? No...I had already crystallised long before I ever sat in front of one with any sort of purpose. I'd been all the way through school, college, university, the wilderness years of depression and unemployment. My first love came and went without my ever logging on. I managed, and I'm not sure how now, to get through my first few office jobs without recourse to using the machine that squatted on the desk in front of me. So I must have used a computer for the first time at about the age of 26, with my tail trapped in the door. Computers had always been there. As child all my friends had BBCs and Acorns*; even then I ran with a nerdy set. There were computer rooms in schools, projects to be done on them (I took a rather passive role in these). There were computer based projects at art college. I avoided them, as I avoided most things at art college, and was probably in the last cache of students who could possibly avoided their ubiquity. It was a conscious choice: I was a painter! The canvas was my screen, paint my photoshop. I had a romantic vision of myself lashed to the mast in a big shirt, a prize Turner. This was not borne out by the rather ordinary and desperate work I churned out while I was there or the increasingly depressed and drunken figure that I cut on campus. The other reason of course was sheer panic. These things sat squatting on your desk, staring you down with impassive cyclopic balefulness, an Olmec head with a keyboard attachment.They fucking terrified me. They still terrify me. I sit staring at one for twelve hours everyday like staring into an abyss that stares back, slowly filling me up, pixel by pixel. I have about three moves: typing, saving, attaching, sending. Four is about three. Anything more complicated than that and I phone a friend. *I'm sure some of them still have acorns. *snigger*
Sunday, 24 June 2012
Back from Gulladuff, after the blessing of the graves, including, obviously, Kelly's grave. I cry continually throughout the ceremony, while all around me are hundreds of people who are laughing and smiling and waving to each other. The priest has the temerity to praise god because it's not raining, tacitly implying that this same interventionist deity, thought it right and good that my wife should die a slow, agonising death and not lift a finger to help her, but he's worried about the priest's hair getting mussed. Afterwards I am unable to talk and have to wander off to gather myself. It's my brother's birthday. I text him the car on the way down to wish him a happy birthday. On the way back I get a text from my sister telling me to wish him a happy birthday. I text him again. There's no reply. When I get home I ring him again and leave a voice-mail. I get a phone-call from a scouse woman telling me I've got the wrong number. But I dont know if my original texts have sent or whether its just the voice-mail. I ring the number again but I'm too scared to leave a message. I phone my mum but she's not in. I facebook Edward to make sure I have the right number. I do. (he seems concerned for my mental health) Eventually, at half three I get a text from Barry. He's just received the texts. Gulladuff weird time vortex strikes again. Or maybe its god fucking with me. Because he can.
I'm in Strangford, guarding a chapel. I've been placed here by the charming and attractive daughter of the local Baron. I'm not sure how this has happened. She's a physiotherapist. A horse physiotherapist! The chapel itself is beautiful: compact and spotless, with the neatest flagstones and twin rows of of pews next to a rosewood pipe-organ. A three piece band are playing traditional songs on guitar, double-bass and echo box, overseen by a stained-glass Christ and a couple of his celestial cronies. My being here confers on me the status of "can-drink-for-free-at-the-hooley-tonight".I'm supposed to be handing out information to interested parties but my custodial predecessor has given all the cards away, so I smile benignly like a defrocked cleric at a succession of weather-proofed pensioners. I believe this family are the famed de Ros' whom local world's worst author, Amanda McKittrick Ros fudged an affiliation to by lopping off the superfluous "s" from her married name. You're foolin' no one, lady. The band are now playing "Lola" which is the most inappropriate song to play in church! (Though I'm not too au fait with Anal Cunt's canon)The Baron has turned up, making my being here entirely redundant. He is tiny, posh and wearing a beret: he gives good lord. Good Lord he gives good lord. He's circulating now like a hula-hooping tea bag, which is obviously the worst metaphor I have ever thought of. Jayne Trimble has turned up, flashing me a smile as though I was in some way important. I think she's "the turn". It certainly helps make sense of the merchandise with her name on it. I think I'm selling her merchandise now - I didn't sign up for this! The Baron has just told me that the chapel is rightly called a "Chapel of ease" because it's privately owned. One day I shall own my own church - THEN you'll be sorry!
Friday, 22 June 2012
I wrote this a while ago but it's still as true today as it ever was. What fucking awful weather. I feel like I'm turning into Terry Scott: every time I poke my head out of the door I let out an exasperated howl: "JUNE...JUNE!" If Eskimos have forty words for snow, and they don’t, the people of Belfast have only one word for rain: weather. I’ve lived here for six months now and during that time I estimate that there has been less than a week of dry days. Rain doesn’t pour down torrentially every day, there’s no sense of it being “monsoon season”. But the rain does like to keep its hand in; usually a short burst, usually in the afternoon, usually on me after I have dragged myself from my pit, had a pot of tea, and finally have enough energy to leave the house. I venture out under beaming skies and return as though I’ve been through a car-wash, my hair flush to my scalp, my glasses a domino mask of condensation. I’m not a meteorological expert. I don’t even know what the relationship between giant, dinosaur-clobbering rocks adrift in space and how the heavy the local precipitation is. But I bet it centres on Belfast. I don’t really know how clouds work either. They seem to react to stimuli like a nine year old Spanish boy at his birthday party; anything will open the flood-gates. (I don’t know what it is about Spanish or Italian boys but they do seem to be extraordinarily lachrymose. Maybe nine is about the age that a Spanish mother stops breast-feeding and they realise that they’re never going to have it so good again. Perhaps that’s the age that their adult teeth grow in. Surely only a savaged nipple can compromise an Italian mother’s love for her bambino. Again I claim no special knowledge of relative dental growth in Southern Europe. I’m talking about clouds here!) I should point out that the six months I’ve spent in Belfast included the summer months. I don’t know what the winter has in store for me, beyond discontent. But I imagine there will be some rain. Actually I imagine there will be nothing but rain. Some of Belfast is reclaimed marsh-land. A river, the Farset, flows under the City Centre and is perhaps responsible for the city’s unique bouquet, somewhere between a peaty whiskey and a four-egg fart. The rest of Belfast is permanently under water. If you were looking for a likely candidate for Atlantis I would quit Crete and the Greek islands and start dusting for a series of small walls in the North of Ireland. Except I’m not sure a brush would cut it here – bring a bucket and spade. Say, at some time immemorial, a catastrophe occurred on the magical island of Atlantis. A tidal wave ripping through it and carrying a lump of blasted hyperborean rock across the waters till it nudged the coast of Glengormley, the impact pushing up the black, forbidding mountains that collar the city. This would explain an awful lot. It would explain the Formorian characteristics of the local populace; skin as white as fish bellies, the piscine protrusion of those smoky eyes – like haddock on a duvet of ice in a shop window. The sort of mouths that fall open, naked without something hanging out of them: a fag or hook. Even the hair gel is wet-look, as if a constant reminder of drizzle was needed even indoors. They’ve dropped the gills and some of the webbing but that’s as far as it goes for Belfast’s aquatic apes. I’m not from here. My hair sticks up in the air as a matter of course, like an afro designed by efficiency experts. It’s doubtful that it even qualifies as hair. It’s more like a pelt, the sort of thick grubby stuff hanging off a were-wolves’ arsehole. I need to tamp it down with aggressive hair-wax just to pass myself of as human. Belfast washes the humanity from my head. It bleeds into the gutters, flowing into the Farset.
Friday, 15 June 2012
I'm sat in the Old Dairy waiting on Doug. My abiding memory of the place is drinking copious cups of tea and waiting to find out whether Kelly would see me. During her steroids induced manic episode, the Christmas before she died, I was exiled to south London as my continued presence in the house was upsetting Kelly, making her anxious. After some days I was told by Kate that I would be allowed a short visit and, desperate to be allowed back home, I was early. So I went to the pub to drink tea and write. But I only managed the tea; sickened with nerves the pen froze in my hand. There are stories like this linked to everywhere in Finsbury Park and Camberwell. Though at least all the Camberwell memories are happy. I was never happier in my life. I don't expect to be again.