Archive for November, 2011

The concert finished. The audience applauded. Not bad for a free concert by students so early in the academic year. Up out of the seat and leave the concert hall before most of the elderly audience has managed to struggle into their coats. Through the cafeteria thronged with young people noisily chatting, eating, guarding their cellos, discussing sheet music. Out into the busy street. Wet, cold and lonely. A good contrast to the dry, warm and busy interior.

Right of left? Is it a good day to be a flâneur? When setting out on a psychogeographical dérive how do you choose which direction to take? There’s no answer, so right it was. Within a few steps I’m out of the buzzing, people dense student zone and into the neighbouring low rise, high density social housing area. Lots of houses no people at least on the streets. They may be inside keeping warm. But it’s wet and deserted out here. Although the street sign says, ‘New Welcome Street’ it doesn’t feel very welcoming. Signs everywhere, ‘Controlled Zone’, ‘No Access’, ‘Permit Holders Only’, ‘Surveillance cameras in operation’.

Through the park. A single empty fixed wooden picnic table in the shadow of a tall perimeter fence. A walkway between high wire fences. One side the school the other a block of apartments. No access except through locked gates. Across the dual carriageway dodging the traffic. Onto the canal side between the canyon walls of new, expensive apartment blocks. A young man in jeans, thin jacket and scarf appears from ‘Block 5’ and hurries off towards the city.

The canal towpath is muddy and well used. Joggers, cyclists and who else? It soon leads into an urban wasteland. Empty old docklands waiting for regeneration. Now home for graffiti kids. They do wonderful work on the concrete supports of the tramway. Onto the tram to go home.

A short journey across the city led from cosy high culture to cold wet desolation. Typical city life.

Words: 330

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I count the change out into the boy’s hand. He must only be five or six and his pockets are bulging with change. I bet he’s been saving up for weeks; swapping a 20 pence piece with his dad for a tower of bright pennies, just to make sure he has a morning’s worth of coppers to spend on the pier.

A gleaming pile teeters over the edge of a precipice, waiting to tumble clattering down and be fished out by little sticky fingers; my brother and I elbowing each other out of the way to snatch up the lion’s share.

The hands on my watch seem to have halved their speed and the morning crawls slowly toward lunchtime. I know she’s back. I see the flash of her pink jacket as she saunters past the ticket booth, turning her head to grin back at the face behind the glass. I won’t stop her; she’ll not stay long.

She presses against the railing, holding on tight but leaning right over; wind whipping through her long blonde hair, its full length picking up the flow of the current and ribboning out. Her hair is tangled now and she desperately rakes her fingers through it, trying to loosen the knots and smooth it out.

She looks expectant, checking her watch. Her dark, hopeful eyes scan the prom at the end of the pier. Turning her back to the railings, she puts the heels of her palms on top of the cold smoothness and sinks back, nervously drumming her fingers on the hollow, ringing metal; waiting.

I recognise what her bit lip is telling me. I breathe in the salty air, sighing deeply to release the breath, the ghost, the memory. I turn back and she has gone.

Words 305

Painting details: Untitled (2010), Laura Lancaster, Workplace Gallery, UK

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Hunched in the corner of the room, his bony ribs scrape against his legs; sticks which fold awkwardly into grooves across his chest. He is a thin man. His grey skin stretches taunt across his bones, too small for his delicate frame. Straining at the corners.

But for the frenzied darting of his jaundice pupils, Cupid is completely still. His eyes roll around in their sockets, flinging themselves across the derelict room.

Before him, countless pieces of string stretch across the hall. The threads snake across the landscape, weaving in and around each other; a thick mesh of grey wire which smothers the splintered, wooden floor and cobwebs up into the dark air.

Cupid has come to a decision.

His pupils dilate and he snaps his head up from his chest. The laboured breathing which crawls out from under his brown, chapped lips begins to quicken and, slowly, ever so slowly, he begins to uncurl his delicate frame.

A thin, toothless smile crawls across his scabbed face.

Darting across the floor on his hands and knees, Cupid silently scuttles over the wires that blanket the world. As he bounds across the great hall, a billion threads sway in the rotten gulps of air bleeding from his mouth.

Later, when he has found the particular wire he needs, Cupid snatches a pair of rusted scissors from the frayed leather belt hanging from his hips. He snarls as he cuts the thread in two.

Slipping the tool back into his belt, Cupid grips the frayed piece of cotton with a rotten claw, before scuttling off into the darkness, dragging the string behind him.

The joints in his grey fingers crack as he knots the thread to another wire further down the hall.

Somewhere, someone’s heart skips a beat.

Cupid grunts in satisfaction, rises to his feet and slouches back into the darkness of a billion loves.

Words: 314

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We lasted a day, you and I, in the bright autumnal sunshine. We lasted a day and never spoke but listened instead to the dusty shuffle of feet. Around us, the curtains hung like shrouds, shredding the light and laying shadows upon your face.

We lasted a day before you faded away.

It wasn’t love that brought us together, your heart too fragile for such frivolity. I just had time to kill. Time to sit beside the stranger for whom an entire hospital held its breath.

Led to your side I wanted to talk, but my news seemed too full for your already bloated belly and my word died on your cold lips. So I sat, shyly at first and a short distance away, remembering how I felt on a first date or as the new boy at school. I tried counting time against the clatter of cutlery at neighbouring beds but time seemed patient and I stayed.

I even, briefly, held your frail hand.

But no words.

Instead, ours became a love affair of listening. With me hearing each tiny sigh you sent back into the world, and you the tectonic shift of tumours colliding within. Our relationship held steady and nurses brought sandwiches and drinks as though to keep me sweet, embarrassed, perhaps, that you were ever alone. We were strangers, sure enough, but all love starts that way.

I fooled myself into thinking it could last, into thinking I could stay or maybe you could stay. But it couldn’t last. You only get to love a person once. Maybe for a few hours, maybe for the rest of their life. Sometimes it is both.

I left first. Leaving you alone once more, as I ran the length of the corridor towards the sound of my second son being born; a new stranger to love.

Words: 307

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Next March I’m not giving the hour back without a fight. My body clock does not appreciate this hourly tweek every six months. We gain an hour then we lose an hour then we gain it back…its like yo- yo dieting except its our body clock thats gaining or losing. It will take me at least a week before I feel normal again.

Driving home in the dark is depressing and later on when I go to work in the dark and return in the dark I will want to hibenate like a bear or a tortoise. I will want to go to bed at 8pm and refuse to believe its time to get up at 6.45am when its pitch black. I work in an area which has no windows so some days, unless I go looking for natural daylight at lunchtime, all I will see is the artifical light or natural darkness.

Did I use the extra hour for good use? Yes I had an extra hour in bed, then felt guilty that maybe I should have done something creatively. Next March I wont have to worry about that aspect because the hour will be taken from us. I’ll be wondering where it’s gone and will it be back next October?

Words: 212

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