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.
Well it was "Blossom" that finally did it. I was keeping it together but "Blossom" set me off. For reasons too complicated to list here I find myself back in Finsbury Park, the absolute last place I want to be. And it's "Blossom"'s: Kelly's hairdresser, the woman who Kelly would impersonate every time she returned, delighted by all the things that had gone on in the shop, Blossom, the woman who cut off Kelly's hair in preparation for her chemo, and who did her hair for free when there wasn't enough hair to warrant a proper cut. That was the one. I broke down in the street. I should never have come back here, it's a ghost town. Attempting to meet Doug and Edward. My phone has just died. There will undoubtedly be fall-out from this. At this point I can only guess its size and shape.
Thursday, 14 June 2012
Day trip from London to Letchworth Garden City to see Laura, Stew and the kids. It is idyllic. We chat, we have salad, I have beer. The children style their hair so they can look like me. Rose and Alec show me their drawings. They are peppered with the usual sort of inspired insanity that adults might aspire to and can never achieve. They are both banal and full of wild conjunctions of things. Cats and crocodiles appear regularly but the cat is wearing leg-warmers and there's a cow crushed beneath a milkshake. And then there is Alec's unique story telling style. If he draws a planet with stink lines steaming off it which he labels "Planet Smell" you could be forgiven for imagining that you were looking at Planet Smell. No, says Alec, when I ask him if indeed it is Planet Smell. It's not a planet at all but a cold sun that people can walk on. But does it smell, I ask him. No, it stinks. So why, I ask him, isn't it called Stinky Sun. Because it's called Planet Smell, he counters with perfect logic and and a triumphalist hand clap. One nil to Alec. I'll see them again soon. They are touring the country over the summer and will be in Belfast on the 26th August. Better push a broom round the place.
The film was made. I've seen the rushes and virtually every shot came off. The scenes seem suffused with light, the camera dancing with Arthur, out star, following him, shadowing, reading him. It is a duet between the observed and observer. Sometimes the lines are literally, as well as figuratively blurred, and Arthur seems to engage the camera, become its confederate. His face is astonishing: open and wide eyed with a perma pouting bottom lip and a huge acorn-cup of hair. The camera loves him. He is a gift and deserves one in return. We'll pay him in Wii games. We shot everything on a tight shots list in two days. On occasion we were ahead of schedule! I actually do think we have a film: a short, sweet, good-looking film. It is exciting.
I've eaten an awful of cheese and wine since I've been here. Jess and Simon are consummate hosts and play convincingly to my many weaknesses so I've eaten little else. If I was here longer than a weekend I would be dead. Their baby Esme, recent, still has that new car smell, is about the cutest baby I've seen. Huge brown eyes, a ready grin (she smiles with both teeth) she also has an easy going and moderate temperament. She didn't get that from her mother. Last night saw a convention of the grand order Red Alsations, surely the last one ever as two of us have now moved to different countries. All of the boys looked great, thinner than ever. Truly we were the indie Sigue Sigue Sputnik ( with Rene from Rene and Renata on vocals). Ian was his usual quiet, handsome self in a pair of extraordinary vulcanised jeans and biker boots, disappearing as the night drew on and the loud-mouths got louder, leaving only his Cheshire cat grin. Ben and Martin both seemed far more confident, swaggering almost, in a careful, diffident way. Martin has grown his fringe out and batted away Jess' assertion that all of her friends found him attractive with practised modesty. Ben had been preparing a compilation album of Red Atlas materiel, even going so far as to remix and add instruments to the tracks. His sleeve, based on marble end-papers (the type you find in plush, elderly hardbacks) were inspired: conferring on the Atlas an appropriate literary fustiness. I liked every thing about the album: the title ("Everything thing is permitted...but you need a permit"), the liner notes (which I wrote and no band member, bar Ben, will ever read) to the colour scheme and finally the music, which I finally get. We were actually a good, tight muscular little band that made interesting noises and had good lyrics. Who knew? We drank a lot of wine and beer and we laughed a lot and then, finally, I suppose we broke up.
So the, Finsbury Park and its ghosts. It doesn't seem to have changed much but then again I dont feel inclined to investigate it too closely. I feel raw, unpeeled. A picked apart mollusc, ready for the pickle jar. I haven't ventured too far, just the route from Jess' house to the train station, but everything is suffused with Kelly's memory, the memory of the life that we once had and that now neither of us have. Though I can at least claim that my lifelessness is figurative. Finsbury Park, as I say seems unchanged. There is building work going on but then there was always building work going on. I can see the famous mosque now from the train platform. Could I always see it? Just being here is hard. One day I'll be able to come back here and enjoy it; the memory of our life together, the walks, the parks, the restaurants and cafes. But if this journey has taught me any thing its that I'm still a long way from fond memories. I'm still here. I'm still living this.
Sunday, 3 June 2012
Start making our film tomorrow: "Thirteen pieces of gum" is go. I'm quite excited but its going to be extremely hard work - we've been quite ambitious! I'm first A.D. Which means I'm the buffer between the Director and the cameraman. I'm a nag basically - I fully expect to be the most unpopular person set - typecast again, eh. Should be brilliant.