Sunday, 10 November 2013


Some things it is impossible to think. They dissipate and bleed out all the colour before they can even be noticed. There is this background buzz that rarely approaches. And on that day, with the lost limbs of fatigue, I had spent some time in the library beforehand, scanning over the illuminated texts that rose like sulphur and gold into a luminescence that seemed both there and not there. Figures shimmering and blending in the shadow -light, rising up from the page and settling back down but not quite synchronised with the surface page; somehow tumbling and bubbling back up like the pockmarks, cuts and sears of contorting plastic in the dying embers of a once fierce fire. I`d been with the children before and they too had danced, creating sinewy passages  out of the  stoppages and constraints of real objects borrowed in to the realms of tragic and  heroic sorrow and regeneration; tunnels and passages, ramps and plateaus,  enclaves and rays of sunlight. I played two chords onto the guitar over and over again and yet this repetition was marked out by the children themselves- their stops and starts, hesitancy's and forward thrusts; up,down, in, out, form side to side and and in the knotted formation of these opposing strands, a rotational leaning that was a meeting and a coming apart in a single gesture.

I had let the the bicycle roll me over the buzzing Euston road. It had continued to trail along side-streets, stopping and starting at random in the pockets of traffic that buffeted one another like gusts of wind, nudging and nearly touching, accelerating and suddenly halting, frightening and passive at the same time. Then I`d noted how the bicycle had rolled its way into the park. Well, not really a park, for it was a cemetery with gravestones whose white reflective surfaces were blanched white, the etching of names and words, only slight rivulets like the channels that run across our finger tips giving us our unique identity but read by no one.
They are there but not there- irrelevant but  brought into play in any kind of forensic investigation or criminal case. But on this particular day they played no part at all.

Rather I took my self to a bench, letting the bicycle roll to a halt and propping it against the back then slumping down so that this old planked wooden bench seemed to encapsulate me on that sunny Autumn day. There was the statue of the pink lady, her features scrubbed and erased by centuries of weather systems that had buffeted her and the other stone ensembles where  once this graveyard was on the periphery of London town, a good ride out from the business of the time which did not then touch this solitary field of quietude and death. Now the trees were mature and vast with trunks that five people hand to hand could not close a circle around. And the falling leaves spread out on the wet grass were like dappled patches reflecting the agitation of light  and shadow in the trees up above with their impossible branches held at horizontal angles  as if defying gravity, knotted and bent , bifurcating and splintering in their own excess, with rivulets of growth. Now the leaves, darkening to brown, were losing their grip and disengaging from the living wood to go their own way towards decomposition.

I sat quite still some distance away form the path that spiralled around a waterless basin with stiff taps that one man tried to get some water from. But with no luck. Around the loop of this stone basin, people from opposite directions gauged a passage of least contact, so that some went one way and some the other, like train tracks splaying apart before re-converging further along the way. This meant that by a careful atunement to speed thresholds, there was no meeting. This took skill and coordination on the part of strangers who carefully felt one another in the dynamic passage of this movement that they for this instance, shared.

I sat unable to focus on very much; more aware of the slures and accelerations in this chain of events, then on any individual with features of their own.

Then a figure approached. He had been sitting several benches away and remained simply a darkened patch in the background shadow somehow dissimulated into the dappled rays of light and dark all around. I did not raise my face to his until he was right before me, standing an arms length away, a man in dour clothes that offered up no colour even in the direct hit of the sunlight. And he had left a pile of stuff on the bench from where he had started out, as if the bench was truly his home base and he had no other- just this crumpled heap that was his bags of belongings and now this outreach extension, no less clear in demarcation- a random haze- that had gathered itself  almost as if by falling, into this coincidental stance of a body before me. I don't remember his expression and his age seemed unfathomable. Had he had grey hair or dark? I don't know. Maybe a scraggly beard but am I making this up with the formation of this story in mind?

In any case he stood before me and there seemed to be this hesitancy that was both there and gone in the duration of a split second and yet tumbled and lent itself to every surface shape in that cemetery- the trees, the stones, the pink statue and the passing figures around the basin. All these were there and not there- soft hazy shapes that provided the occasion for this approach. But I do remember a strange sense of him observing me and yet me not really knowing what was there at hand. Then he asked me the time and in the command of the words my wrist was already drawing closer to my face and I mouthed the words "Two-O-Clock". This gesture tumbled into his own gesture in which he extended an arm and released into my hand a small bottle that he had been holding firmly in his palm. Perhaps he said  "Do you want this?" and perhaps I said "Thank you" but It is hard to really separate out the gesture and the words from one another because they seemed all of a part- more like a simple reflex or a ripple that comes before thought and has no intention outside the deliverance of an act or a completion of a circle.

Then he returned to his bench and sat back down amongst his bags. I held now a small plastic vessel of liquid yogurt  in my hand which the label said was flavoured with banana and mango. I turned the vessel over and over examining it, then putting it down ion the  bench at my side, staring off into the distance through the leaves, onto the path. Then glancing back around at the vessel I took it back up in my grasp, turning it, reading it, the pale light liquid with just a hint of yellow rocking back and forth like a lazy tide in its milk-bottle containment. It was sealed with a blue plastic lid and, like a forensic investigator I tested the seal to see if it had been opened before. It had not. Again I put it down on the bench next to me and looked off into the space at random leaves on the grass and at squirrels busily picking up objects and drilling small cocoons into the damp earth in which to deposit them, then scattering up a tree as a dog suddenly approached as if out of nowhere.

I glanced slowly along the line of benches. The  man was sat there but he was not attending to me. He was in his own circuit of references and seemingly taken up with his own concern. This released a kind of small space inside me and taking back up the small yogurt pot, I broke the seal and quickly brought the rim of the container to my lips. I had been thirsty and the thick white liquid refreshed and soothed me. I felt it going down my throat and settling warmly in my belly. It felt too good and I quickly put back the blue lid turning it counter clockwise and putting the drink back down on the bench. I began to wonder if perhaps it was poison. Maybe there had been a way to make the seal appear unbroken. Maybe this drink had already been tampered with and I was  in the middle of a terrible experiment on someone else's terms. I again glanced over to the bench and the man was just sitting there, attending to his own concerns as before. This indifference gave me some hope. Slyly I made deft contact again with the bottle, like an alcoholic who covers the bottle with her hand and takes fast greedy slugs before pocketing the bottle or hiding it in the depths of her overcoat. I felt the beautiful sweet and creamy liquid sliding down my throat and a sense of well-being poured over me like honey lit up by a sudden breakthrough of sunlight. I felt bathed in this sweetness. But again  it appeared all too much- too absurd that this down and out should give me this milk drink with no strings attached. I began to feel sick and my breathing started to halt, to feel caged in in the bracketing space of my chest and clenched diaphragm, so that I was sure I would spit up this drink as so much excess mucus that was defiling the passages of breath so necessary for life itself. I felt this as I scanned the pathway. Who would witness this great wrong done to me? Who would also witness the shame of my own mess-making as a counter-flow to this unwarranted intrusion?

But nothing happened. I stayed on the bench. I occasionally picked up and put down the small yogurt pot, taking tiny sips with pursed lips and succouring the flavour as a bee finds a drop of nectar in the last flower of the waning summer. And finally the pot was empty. I placed it back down at my side and I felt to get on my bike and pedal as fast as I could out of that park and back into the floodgates of traffic and noise, the vibrations and pulses of a thousand footsteps that in waves and shifts crossed a terrain without really noticing the interruptions and the opportunities that at another level were attended to with careful precision as if by a scorned lifer that could  not talk about itself or remember having done anything at all. But I stayed sitting there on the bench for some time so that the event of the yogurt pot came to meld into a thousand other details that came and went in this patterning of autumn sunlight and haze. Then dropping the empty container into the rimmed opening of a nearby bin, I took my bike by the handlebars, glanced and breifly smiled at the man on  the far-away bench and sat squarely back on the saddle of the bike. In the blink of an eye, there had passed  a brief acknowledgement; a gesture given and received as the man met my glance. Then again I was on my way, the man still sitting there on the bench surrounded by bags in  that 17th century cemetry in the midst of an unstoppable metropolis.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Her face tipped up to the lights attached to the artificial ceiling. The shredded vertical blinds tilted by a pulley system so we can look out but no one can look in. Her face absorbing the light as her mother’s body shadows her own, smothering her attention. Peck-like kisses here and here and here all over her upturned face. She swivels her upturned face this way and that way, tilting manoeuvres so as to keep the light pouring onto her face evenly wherever her mother’s shadow may fall. She puts up with it, sighing, catching my gaze as I too swing this way and that in the waiting room before my turn, before her turn because our therapist is caught in traffic on the bus.

There’s the hum of machinery, the whirr of mouths moving. Papers are falling. Fingers tap onto a key board allocating positions to the white screen that only the secretary can see. People come in, in ones and twos. The ones take up the most space their eyes eating into the interim where knees reversed in sitting seek out the knees of their opposites across the room far off through the medley of chairs and low tables. Perhaps we are all calculating wait-times; perhaps all absorbed in the self-same graininess of matter and air as nose to nose in the mediated light it comes up against us.

The girl with the upturned face is making small short sounds like a whistle which begins as if mid-way through a journey and ends before arriving. The sounds are rolling the occupants of the room into a sense of deep equanimity despite the wait-time; the closure of the waiting space which remains static, frozen in which no-one seems to leave no one seems to return. I sigh then look around to locate the sound not recognizing it as my own until the woman by my side does this thing again; freezing and listening, than swiping a look, jostling and returning to her own bulk. I do not look but close my eyes to hear the whistle of the girl once again. When I open my eyes the girl is looking through me to the blinds behind. It is soft like tiny footprints and there is no resistance. Yet even as she does this her face remains still and at that instant reveals in the upturned version of absorption, the light from above. It is quite possible that these two versions happen together super-imposed and somehow rooting one another.

The therapist comes in. She has on a coat with the bright fabric of her dress showing below the rim. She walks with barely a break in her step so that mother and daughter understand through her words and her careful glance that they are to follow her. They attach themselves and magnetically become part of this pulse through the open glass fire-door disappearing down a corridor.

There’s an immediate absence. I hold my breath. The woman besides me glances and looks away. I wait. A woman approaches me and sits beside me with a clip-board. She tells me I am held in a queue due to late running.  The woman tells me the therapist has to perform a difficult procedure with the one after next client. I make a calculation as to a reasonable span of time for the making of this procedure even though I do not know what it involves. I give a time. The woman counters this with a 30% cut in time. I say that I will go and get a tea and than return. The woman tells me not to over-run the time or I will miss the spot and someone else will fill it. I get up and let myself out of the Porto cabin, begin to turn away from it as if my appointment had already been and gone.

I am beginning to walk across the empty car-park. It is empty because it is disused with loose gravel and wilting plants growing and dying where the tarmac underneath has been pushed and pock-marked between the action of the water swelling and shrinking, freezing and thawing over and over again. There’s a heap of discarded wood and old furniture stacked up against a cage which contains large plastic wheelie bins. There’s building work going on in the far corner where access of material is being navigated across this desolate patch into the back garden of an adjacent building. There are men up on the flat roof, others hauling things from the truck. But they are distant and mainly out of my perspective. I am heading for the junk furniture. All around me, lining the perimeter of the car-park, there is the old brick and stone Victorian hospital. It is hollow, toothless, makeshift plastic flapping in and out in the uppermost windows inviting a gaze into utter blackness that can not be followed.

There’s a discarded stairway in the pile of junk. A self-sufficient unit of three steps up, than a platform and three steps down again that has been ripped out of its oaring and deposited onto its side. I want to turn it right side up, making it useable even in a car park where you go up and down and really get nowhere. And I do so quickly without thought then immediately I go pounding up the steps, pause at the top and than descend down the three steps on the other side. I do it several times than walk away.

I walk off glancing back at this vacant platform before entering the main building at its mid-point slipping between the closed fire doors that used to open automatically but now need to be shoved with the body contriving to move and push at the same time where the shoulder makes contact with the door. I am in the main hall where the chocolate and drinks machines are placed. There is an the elaborate high ceiling with part stucco and a small balcony; really like a ball-room whose past glory is totally ignored as if it were an inappropriate boast for this part of London.

The machines are not working. I understand this because of what the woman tells me who has lost her money and can not get a refund; neither by banging the machine nor by asking the man at the front desk who just rolls his eyes and says come back next week. She says but you won’t recognise me. He says without looking up, yes I will. She is adamant of an injustice and in the growing crowd of women around her, her injustice swells and plays back to her. She cannot leave the building because her husband is upstairs being seen and she could be needed at any moment. That is what they told her.

I walk off heading though numerous fire doors that in this internal labyrinth swing open and shut on the touch past blue signs that say things in white like, Iridology, Foot Clinic and Walk in Emergency. Past the signs there are huddles of figures sitting in rows on chairs with their backs to me. Their backs all appear to curve as one though they are separated by four inch gaps on their individual chairs.

In the half light of this sunken chamber I feel that there is some kind of heat sensing faculty that I am affected by and that draws my gaze in this or that direction far beyond the zone I am in. I pass no figure on the corridors. Nor is there even the smell; those familiar hospital smells of disinfectant and human odour, present. Rather there is odourless dust; tiny particles admixing with the air wrapping around me entering and leaving on each breath. I am intermeshed; in it and of it. It guides me as if each splinter radiated the fall-out of a glow that independently was nothing but here in the contained corridors swells into something intoxicating. There is in this the whiff of the touch of humanness. But it is a touch long parted and now in this afterglow from a time I cannot place I am walking unobserved in this hospital meeting no-one.

I am at the end of this corridor at a junction that now branches off into slimmer and slimmer corridors. My hands are cold. I am continuing in a circulating left-hand spiral. Through another set of interjecting fire-doors the silence spreads. The air is heavy, turgid and empty of life. It is dust-ridden. There is no smell and it is choking.

So I give myself over to the waves spiralling upwards in that left-hand swing of the banisters until I am vaulted up stair-well after stair-well as if under a high wind. On each landing there are off shoots of more corridors. Each is sealed permanently behind another fire-door with yellow glass that shreds and pulverises the long stretch into an emptying haze. The blue and white signs appear as before but now at these upper levels they say things like, Learning Disabilities, Back up Support, Occupational and Recreational Team. There are no heat induced bodies for my sensors to pick up on. I am getting dizzy mostly with the colour mismatch where every landing is painted in a different colour- red, blue, green yellow purple, mauve as if this would cheer the people up and keep the ascending march on track one step after another.

I climb ever more resistant to the norms of protocol, more blinded to the ruling of keeping on and going to a destination of ones choosing. I push against fire-door after fire-door lumbering against them with the bulk of my body, shouldering the panel, flesh re-shaped and smothered against wire-enforced glass. They are locked. So I push my face up against the glass now breathing and clouding the unoccupied passages stacked with fuzzy dismantled shelving, ceiling brackets and furniture fittings. Light from the windows of adjacent rooms is just visible through door-less slits.

I push at each landing swelling higher and higher, like a fly against condensation- soaked glass almost drowning in it far from inhibition. Finally one gives so easily I almost fall through than stand there on the threshold with a foot in the door. I jam the door open with a plastic sign that says Work in Progress.

I go into rooms sprouting off from corridors that are stripped, dismantled, hollowed. Everything has been taken down save for the plumbing systems and the sink and wash-basin of a kitchen. Fitted parts are piled up against the walls mostly dismembered into planks and strips and brackets. The windows are all bare, sometimes open, now and again with curtains or scraps of plastic tacked into place and flapping in the wind. All the lights are on. All are blazing in the rooms off from the dust-covered corridor. I think of the girl with the upturned face in the waiting room. I look down at the darkened carpet. I want to turn the lights off. Instead, standing back from the ledge I gaze out the window. There is the gravel of the car-park below. I stagger back not wanting to be seen in the vast empty room that has no use; where I have no idea how to use it; no right of occupancy.

At the other side of the corridor the door swings open so that I do not have to go back on my movements. It closes shut behind me so that I am on another landing.
I go down a floor. Glancing through the fire-proof doors on this level I stop. I am riveted there and my restless wanderings are consumed.

Dust gathers dense and tangible here between the strung up lights pinned at intervals along the bare corridor walls like celebratory baubles. There are ladders, wood panels, buckets of paint, unmixed cement in paper sacs and white calico stained and creased along the length of this floor. But more than this is the piercing of the silence. An unseen radio blaring out from one of the out-of-view rooms is so loud that it resounds down the corridor and through the rubber edged crack of the fire-proof doors. There are impossible voices rising on the radio-waves blanking out one another, cutting short into jingles, sweeps of song, laughter and the beginnings of phone-in topics. Now there is the scrambling of even this and the dial re-sets on a channel of garage music. It beats out a repeatable shifting emphasis. Than there is a melody sweeping though, synthesizing the separation for a body that is not there.
I remain on the other side of the door. The lights pulse in time to the rhythm seeming to entangle into a voltage seizure and delay than a rushed exuberance that dances, yes dances with the music. In the very point at which it cuts out; nearly dies, it re-ignites in short bursts of attention before again burning into whiteness, into nothing.

Moments later I return to the waiting room of the Porto cabin a few seconds before my name is called.  I walk down the corridor behind the figure of the therapist who guides me to my seat.

She takes my hand as I get up to leave, her hand colder and far more fragile than I had imagined yet nonetheless one that remains for several seconds without ending the contact. Finally an even level temperature equalises across the hands. I am led to believe that this is our last session. Before this as I sat down she had told me of being caught on the bus this morning. Than she says,
“But we all have to remain in this chaos somehow.” She has said too much and I have told too many fabrications due to the driving pace that words present as they lead us on and so set our lives in motion. She has long since discarded her coat and the exuberance of her coloured dress burns out.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


The old Swan pub has been scrubbed. Its stick-on lettering removed. But I can still read the word S W A N where a lightness of the brick contrasts with the dark soot surround. The building is screaming light, escaping like sweat from pores. Loud music beckons then rebuffs out the open windows into the dark road; the stream of headlights that keep appearing and tipping past where the road glows from the tail ends disappearing far up ahead.

Black clad men sway and lurch dangerously into one another propped up in the shell of each other’s arms, their white shirts showing as the black yawns open from their dishevelled bodies.

There are soft furry animals in the street. Children dressed as bears, cheetahs and birds. Others are in elaborate silk, chiffon pink, white and blue party dresses. There are boys as fire-men, policemen, beggars and in combat camouflage with painted on moustaches on their soft downy upper lips.

I stagger around the cellophane wrapped and bound platters of sweets and presents carried at arms’ length by women walking earnestly towards opening front doors. Children pour in and out from the cracks of these buildings. They linger in groups, watching other groups up and down the street. The air is full of whisperings.

A small boy in dull everyday clothes walks beside his mother carrying a violin case by his side.

I am early. The lights are ablaze above the table decorations. My plastic bag is tucked away under a chair- the presents will not reveal themselves this evening.

I am an outsider. I feel foreign. My neighbours have not yet arrived. I leave hastily. Get on my bike and begin to cycle through the myriad streets of colour, sudden noise eruption and festoon.

There is an old man sitting on the wall opposite the library just before the light junction with a dry pulverised face and a clown’s wig of multi coloured curly hair on his head.

As I continue to cycle the colour begins to drain away until it is just an everyday Sunday evening and the bike is carrying me to a place I know so well that I am there without thinking. I pass a woman whom I think I know, smile and go past. The gates as I knew I would find them are closed and locked. There is white opaque plastic on the other side of the gates cutting off the view. In a gap between the plastic I peer. Where once there were buildings there is rubble. Where once there was a garden the rubble like a thick uneven scree from a deserted sea-less beach covers the ground- a new sediment. Even the contours of the landscape have been altered.

I remember for instance the gradual decline of the land so that when the rain came it sifted downwards watering but never clogging the roots of plants and trees that over the years had been dug into the soil one by one.

The land now is perfectly flat. A total erasure. Only the one nut tree at the far end remains beyond the circumference of a looped fencing that now demarcates the given area of the new development. An orange digger rests up on top of the rubble its shovel face poised mid-air tilting slightly.

I wonder if sections of the path still remain leading directly up to the nut tree. I can not tell from here. In the final plans evidently the tree was ringed to survive due to a long-standing preservation order or something like that. All else seems to have slipped through the net. Beyond that tree there is a thicket of Japanese knot-weed, a scourge for most gardeners but for us, with a garden of hyper-sensitive Autistic children affected by the sharpness of undiluted light and our own sensory volatility, it was a blessing to have this leafage that rinsed out and mediated cruel brightness. There we built a toilet- a hole in the ground with a loo seat on top and a tent-like structure around it. Edward would sit inside that tent looking out between threading fingers and the woven branches that supported the sacking from Brazilian cocoa bags and still smelt of chocolate. That was before they begun to smell of mould.

Peering through the opaque plastic into this levelled ground I feel a kind of lightness- an aeration slipping through my skin- as if the molecules shifted slightly from their oaring. As I turn I see the hair-dresser in the shop window where I used to get my hair cut, looking through the window back up towards me. His scissors are poised in the air above the head of a seated woman.

I cycle to the local park past the neat rows of newly planted spring flowers. I sit on a bench by the side of an artificial pond. Between me and the pond a looped path runs. Two swans are in the water their necks curving and un-curving, dipping down and up again, their tiny heads like single eyes on the end of a bendy string. My face feels blank- numb; scrubbed of all affect. People pummel past. We are blinkered- protective.

The Japanese Tsunami was one week ago. I have been transfixed by pictures on the news and in the web, of whole towns laid to waste; people sifting through soggy belongings. The little girl who had found her white party dress unscathed still on its hanger even as the house that surrounded was flung high and smashed to pieces on the surge of a great wave. She sits on a chair on the foundations of her house petting the dress resting on her knees. Her father stands by her side. The voice of an English girl over-dubs her Japanese voice.

“I only wish I could find my two kittens. That is really what I would like to find now more than anything else in the world”

A girl on a bicycle sweeps past me. Suddenly I take her in fully and find myself smiling. A woman on a bicycle follows behind. She smiles broadly. Something dissolves. I cannot put my finger on it.

I head back to the party. They sing loudly- lecture me on the need to light candles on a certain night. I ask if the open heartedness at the root of this Jewish practice can extend-To the Japanese for instance. It is left hanging.

The girls are all chatting and laughing, looking at pictures on a digital camera together. One girl is holding and stroking a wig dyed two shades laughing hilariously as if holding a volatile feckless animal. It is the wig belonging to one of their mothers.

The woman next to me has red rashes up her hands. She gave birth to her tenth child two years ago. The child climbs up on to her mothers’ lap from the ground where she has been running back and forth by herself. Her body is lurching forward as if she would take to the air.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


It is a magpie that is battling against the brick chimney pot. It can not go round yet neither can it go through. It is levitated there, almost static despite the flapping of wings balanced against the bulk of a body.

The Dixie chicken shop was the last one allowed to stay. It is shored up with red steel girders strapped into place at criss-crossing angles, buttressed with wedges of wood cut and inserted to make good the constant lean and sway of the end building in its changing weight distribution. This bares a reflection on the many changing temperature readings that crack and contract, thaw and spread not only the aged brick and mortar of this holding, but the London clay in which it is partially buried.

Beyond the chicken shop there is a large hole, a digger by the side, tunneling out muck and putting it to one side where it rises as a hill of loose earth, clods of clay and stone in equal measure, an inverse of the hole.

The tracks are being put down just behind this operation. They run the length of the absent buildings then tunnel underground when they come to the Dixie Chicken just before the turn in the road, which is in fact, a bridge. Behind the tracks there is a Pentecostal red brick building with a small Cross on the top and a flapping white banner attached to the outer wall that reads "Church of the Pentecostal reaching out to all the Community". Traffic continues to thunder down the road. Behind the church is the burnt out remains of a Victorian building, its roof blackened and punched in. Every side of the building is heavily caged in strips of dull silver metallic scaffolding with the struts of plank-wide walkways interspersed and looped around its body at meter intervals.

Rising above the road, past the main junction now sealed and boarded with blue placards to all but pedestrian single file commuters are the steel and wooden frames of the high rise buildings. Men in yellow jackets, picked out on this cold sunny morning from the buses and the streets below, can be seen here and there on this level or that. Most of the floors are now sealed enclosures with panels of glass running and wrapping around the skeletal blocks bouncing back out the sun on this particular day. But a few however remain open. Men stand daringly at the edges.

In the foyer the furniture is arranged into groupings. There are wide leather settees, low tables, then more settees. There is the distant echo of footsteps, the sound of voices and the occasional raised voice over at the bar. There's an unspoken rule of silence over around the settees. Some people have their lap-tops flipped open. A toddler walks around eyeing anyone with food from behind the sofas. He opens and clenches his hand. Then puts it to his mouth. Another child is being swung by the arms by two women.

The child keeps arriving in a different spot further from before. The other toddler runs behind this pogo step. Then overtakes and runs in front. They all disappear behind the black folds of a curtain that runs along the far back wall.

Uniformed Stewards approach. I am eating a green apple, saliva nearly escaping from my mouth.

The steward asks me to leave. They are clearing the space of all the furniture for an event later in the evening. Then he goes on to someone else. With each whisper somebody rises.

I go and sit down on a similar sofa above the foyer near the bar. Pink helium balloons are attached by long strings on to the sides of prams. Women and children sit together below this display.

There is another level below the bar that one would almost fall into if it were not for the low glass barrier at the end of the sofa.

There are more chairs and sofas down in the semi darkness at this level that I can see through to through the transparent smoke glass barrier. Crammed shoulder to shoulder on these settees are sleeping men. They are dressed in many layers with rough shaven faces raw from the cold. Some of them clasp cans of beer even in their sleep.

The event is a film showing of a concert given in Ramallah behind the concrete security wall involving people from both sides of the conflict. The Jewish Musicians unlike the Palestinian members of the orchestra, were ferried in with military protection, allowed to play, then ferreted back out to the airport where they were flown over the 4 meter thick wall before they even had time to change out of their formal black and white dress. They never got to walk in the streets at all or do normal things with the other members whom daily they rehearsed with and with whom they gave this moving performance "At the heart of the conflict". Everyone was nervous about this concert which was only just allowed to take place under these strict conditions.

I pass red suitcases on the way home. They are in a doorway creating a kind of wall- almost a barrier- behind which people stay.

The Violinist could not help herself; her camera paused on the gap in places as she was being driven to the airport. It was already evening but still the bulldozer worked.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Bottle

Perfume boxes towering inside the shop. One on top of another. Two tone turquoise gold and blue-silver. Metalic sheen in the textured fold of individual boxes. Delicately coursing skywards, spread wide and seperated out at the base where length-wise other boxes straddle them and as the placement continues, further and further they become taller and narrower. The final two or three of them stand uppermost nearly
at the top end of the window- singular.

Past the window there's a counter behind of which are rows and rows of these coloured sheen surfaces. Panels that stretch for some distance then give way to other panels. The Purples, the greens, turquise and reds. Even some pinks that blink on-off between their colour and another. There's an orange section at the far corner deeply engrained with brown inscription on each compartmentalised block, lying head to head.

A man takes down a box, places it on the counter and with the other hand lifts up the lid. He slips out the glass bottle, holds up the pale liquid above his head to the window, then swivels and brings it down very lightly into the hand of the woman standing on the other side. He goes round to join her. She takes the bottle in her hand, presses her finger down on the white spray button so that the fine mesh of particles reach across the revealed vein of her extended wrist. She brings the wrist up to her neck, turns her head slightly to reveal brown hair that precludes her face, and smells.

The man stands back, composed and still. His lips never move. He does not so much watch the woman as trace the vapour as if listening to its widening exposure. When at last the woman hands back the bottle to the man, before he puts it back into it's box he does something. He sprays it infront and around of his face several times. His arms are fleshy and full- white with a propensity of dark hair just below the rolled up shirt sleeves. The woman is half turned away when he does this but her head adjusts moments before the bottle is put back into that box. The lid flap is tucked under. The man now has his hand lightly on the top of the box as if the box and not the counter supported him. He is talking to the woman. With both hands he now lifts the box up infront of his chest placing it carefully up there, in that vacuum that was first left when he took the box down from the shelf. The woman watches. It happens over some time.

Over to the other side of the shop and all the way through the back of the shop there are rows and rows of bottles up upon the shelves, boxes of cigarettes below. Sweets and confectionary extend from a rack out front. To one side there is another rack extending from the floor with a selection of salted crisps. The man behind the counter is swaddled in his merchandise. Customers; hard men over from the betting shop or younger men with some money buying in bulk, come over in ones and twos to buy the merchandise.
To make a bit of extra cash the shop-keeper leases out a counter that he doesn't have to use and the two arching windows.

The other window is taken up with a trader who sells small digital devices; watches, clocks, mobiles, batteries, computer gadjects, that kind of stuff. He prefers to work outside directly in front of the window which has been adapted, the elaborate bay glass window flattended to provide him with a small protected enclave off from the main street. The window that he now occupies is the twin to the other with the perfume merchandise. The doorway is an indentation that runs between the two.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


There is a van. It is parked outside of a building, right in the middle of that building at it's centre. The building extends both ways just behind the van as if growing out of that white van, bothways. It has unravelled into what it has become, a wide squat square building several floors high made out of red brick with square window-frames and balconies.   It runs the entire length of the pond in front of it. It has been there for some time. Maybe sixty years. It arrived after the war. After the bombing. Before the van ever got there.

The van is parked outside the doorway and every time I go by on the bus there it stands. It is hardly a van anymore. It is all fixed up and not going anywhere. Wires extend out of the windows and the back end and have made their way or been directed into the broken wire enforced windows of the twin doors that are always closed at the top of the white and peeling steps. That is the entrance to the building. No one goes in.

Inside the van I can usually see the head of a man at the wheel. He just sits there. He is not doing anything. Then I realise that no, that is wrong. He is doing something, though it is hard to tell from the bus because the building is set far back, past the drained pond in the middle of the common. He is watching television from a screen that has been hooked up above on an upturned wooden crate directly infront of the closed doors.
I expect the power is coming from the van which must be switched on and running on low energy. It is enough for the flickering picture which can not always be seen in the rain or dappled sunlight, the foliage of large fully mature trees arching over the double-decker buses, or the lingering falling of leaves later in the year. There is also the hubub of people getting on, moving through, getting off. The conversations and inconveniences of that journey on that day. Horns. Wheels. A siren blasting- deafening- that causes heads to swing around towards the road. A road that can be a death trap if you do not have your wits about you.

It is uncertain how many times I have passed that building before noticing that the man who barely moves his head is watching T.V. There is a bottle of  pink fizzy drink on another crate sometimes and some other bits and pieces that I cannot make out because they are always changing.

Even at night the building is dark. Apart from the T.V flickering and a single bulb always on, attached above the entrance. Windows are punched out. Blue board covers some of the doors. Ripped curtains fly in the wind escaping the holes of the lost window frames. The building is condemmed. Nobody knows when something is going to happen.

The building next to it is used for religious prayer. A van pulls up. A man gets out. He opens the back of the van and takes out a two litre plastic container of milk. He goes towards the building carrying the milk, soft curls to either side of his shaved and coupled head on a large frame.  He used to collect the kids down at the Special School and was always there ferrying them back and forth. He's a gentle priest.


I am carrying a rolled up blue mattress under my arm. It is tied up with a belt. When the belt is exactly half-way along the lengthwise of the mattress I can use the belt as a handle and hook my fingers under the rim of it, the smooth leather on the outside, the rougher leather on the inside where I pull it away from its contact with the blue material. The mattress for a while is perfectly balanced, wavering and tipping in the breeze but never falling so completely into one end or the other so as to pull into gravity. The baggage is a rolled up version of itself, the inner and outer ranging between the first roll and the last tuck caught and secured by the pull of the belt. It is a suitcase to be navigated along the narrow lane. Past the prison walls and housing clusters designed to detract from the stark fact of that gate that only opens and locks. Traffic is on the road. Well that is nothing new. I wait for the pockets of space between each engine blast. It's in the pockets that I nearly reel over no longer enfolded in the buffering of sound and fume. The bundle tilts haphazardly. I dare to go. I dare the traffic. In the slithers of vacancy, reeling from momentum, I stop/start with the bundle under my arm like moving up a hill and falling down again between the vehichles.

At the door, I open it, go inside have a look around. Leaflets scattered on the counter a bit of a mess.
The thud of base and rattle of snares comes up the narrow staircase or is it through the walls? It seeps through the space. The office door is closed. No one leaves their desk. Well one person does cross the corridor that I am going down but they seem not to notice or maybe they are not bothered. Am I an intruder or a guest? I can't tell. I don't feel like either. I am running dangerously close to the stair-well. To that sound of drum and base. I could easily be pulled down the stairs but hesitate and veer into the coloured mass beyond the open door to the left. It is startling and arresting. It is the studio. There are kings and queens on the walls made up of tiny blots of colour that establish themselves and are the reason for each addititive in an extreme hue far from their range. Far from their place of origin. This proximity of difference collected within the confines of king and queen creates a reckless order. I look up into the bare bones of this desanctified castle or is it a church?. Cold walls. Soft plaster. I leave. Go into the cafe,  pass someone on the way through who nods and passes beyond the door into the office. I am left alone. There is a piano by the side. I open it. There is so much delay between the hitting of a note and the sound that finally rises up or does not, that it is hard to draw a conclusion about cause and affect. What act has made what thing to occur. There are tables and chairs everywhere and more pictures on the wall. I place my mattress on a table lengthwise its ends potruding off either side. I go into the heart of the room.  There are pictures of children with large faces painted by children. There are these spiral maps too like snail shells that are portioned off into little captioned squares that get smaller and smaller the more into the centre you go.

I go over to the counter. Used cups line the surface. There is a small transparent glass display area. The lights are shining on two Kit-Kats, four Mini Twix bars and two Flap-Jacks. There are some small chocolate cup cakes in a seperate white dish. There's  a coffee flask which has perculated coffee in its round bowl by the basin past the counter. It's quarter full. Two coffee mugs are by its side. I look at the coffee, look back into the room, walk around the wall display in between the assorted seating and tables. Stop. Look around. Face towards the office door. Stop. Move towards the table where my blue mattress is. Veer around. Walk back over to the counter. Stop. Look at the counter displays. Half-turn back out. Walk into the middle of the cafe. Stop. Turn back towards the counter. Look at the transparent glass bowl of coffee by the basin. Walk through the small gap between the  outside counter and the back of the wall towards the coffee. Select a mug from the wash-stand by the side of the basin. Pour a measured quarter cup of this light brown almost transluceint liquid. Move back around to the front of the counter. Look for milk on the counter. Do not find milk. Walk back over to a table and sit down facing the window with my back to the office door. Put my hands around the cup. Drink.

Then I do something else. I get up and walk back over to the counter, I put my hand around to the back of the counter and into the display area pull out one single Mini Twix. I enfold it into the palm of my hand, feel the celophane wraper snug against my centre-palm and I walk back over to the table where my coffee is.  Half way though drinking my coffee and eating my twix I hear the door to the office opening. As the door opens I stand up gradually and look into the spiral drawing over my head. The little figures in the compartments of the spiral are standing up, sitting down, moving to and fro. Then for the next few squares nothing much seems to happen and the box is empty or just has a simple grid of lots of dots and lines.
But maye I am wrong. Maybe something is happening here but I just can`t read it. Other figures soon emerge. Then drift back through into the dots and lines. As I look from picture to picture I see that they are all done in this way, some in elaborate colour, some in black and white. Simple and complex yet all done within the grid of these ever descending squares. Squares that spiral into the centre. It must have been the project on that day.

Footsteps end. Silence. A silence that extends into the space. Remaining. Footsteps lessening.
A door opens and closes.