Issue #6 / December 2013

Walking in line over the bridgeWalking In Line Over the Bridge by Chie Hosaka

From the editor

I’m going to call this post something like ‘Making Connections’, only less crap.

There isn’t a logic to my drawers. I stocked them lazily one day, and the order stuck. So now, when I try for jumpers, I find underwear. And when I try for underwear I get trousers. Even when I double-bluff myself, secretly aiming for socks whilst pretending I want t-shirts, somehow time and space contrive to cheat me.

Preparing for long haul trips evoke all kinds of feelings for me:
…Fatigue, of course
…Fear, of dying in a blazing inferno only extinguished by the bottomless sea, of course
Child-like excitement at the adult world, when transferring liquids into miniature bottles
Longing, for which I will draw on the Portugues word ‘Saudade’, meaning a sadness for something past, or something that hasn’t been

The Portuguese have laid claim to ‘Saudade’ as a unique experience of their people (typified in their traditional musical form of ‘Fado’). But it is something we can all relate to in some way: The Japanese call it ‘Wabi-sabi’, whilst some old men in English country pubs with beards yellowed at the whiskers around their blow holes, seem to stew in a permanent state of universal non-specific melancholy.

And it is this ‘Saudade’ that grips me most tightly, like a weight to my chest, somehow subsuming the wonder, fear and fatigue into a compounded wistful anxiety. To counter-balance these tides of irrationality and address the overwhelming fear of forces beyond my power, I engage in games of karmic chess.

…If the next drawer I open is full of pants and socks, I won’t die in flight.

Pants and socks. Crisis temporarily averted.

But somehow, it seemed too easy, like I have cheapened space and time’s authority over my existence, to a set of codes that need cracking. And so, in the process of packing, now and again I will engage myself in small tests:
…How precise and compact can I make the packages with which I fill my suitcase?
…What is the most aesthetically satisfying arrangement of my suitcase contents (see Japanese Bento boxes for inspiration: https://www.google.com.br/search?q=japanese+bento&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=ap61UsOkL9DNkQeNpYH4Cg&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1920&bih=951)?

It is a game of nullifying negativity through action. How long did I manage this time? 22 minutes. Back to the list, and back into the game. In these moments of pre-travel anxiety, the objects that surround me become cheerleaders: my greatest fans.

To say they took on a life would be lying. But they do take on my doubts, for sure, and as I pack away my pants, socks, trousers, t-shirts and jumpers, I also pack away my anxiety. Until I am in the taxi on the way to the railway station, that is, and double-checking my passport is in my skin-coloured bumbag. And again, triple-checking on the train to the airport, and quadruple checking at the airport at check-in, and quintuple checking on the plane itself…

Actually, ‘Making Connections’ is good. I think I’ll go for that.

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Saturday

07:00 – The room is empty.

Today is move day, last night I packed a duvet and a pillow into a suitcase so I could wake up in my new room.
Until a week ago my housemates were total strangers, but this morning I awoke from a deep sleep induced by a glass of bourbon served with some excellent kitchen table chatting.
In two hours I need to be back at my old house to meet my crack team of expert house movers, (aka very good friends who are free on a Saturday). The trains aren’t running this early so my bleary eyes are glued to my travel app as I muddle my way onto the first of two buses.

08:01
Whilst I wait for my second bus at Stamford Hill two guys in their early twenties swagger past. One turns, and his steely blue eyes catch mine. There is nothing friendly about his stare. Both are slim with shaven heads, matching black jackets and I detect a surprisingly strong odour of peach schnapps. They carry on walking up the road, turning back to look at me every few paces. I do my best to avoid further eye contact, the bus is due in 1 minute…and now I can see it break the crest of the hill. My anxiety subsides and then utterly consumes me when I see the two guys turning on their heels and walking with purpose in my direction. I stand up and put my arm out to signal the bus, pleading with it to reach me before they do.

08:09
My fears are totally unnecessary and very possibly the by-product of watching far too many two-part police dramas. It is now apparent that this schnapps soaked pair’s only purpose was to also catch the same bus as me and not to stab me for the sake of my smashed up iPhone and the £1.40 change in my pocket. Instead they quietly take their seats on the upper deck. Still, just to be on the safe side I’ve decided to get out two stops earlier and pick up some pastries for my helpers. If I am followed I reckon I’ll be able to summon the assistance of the friendly looking check-out guy with the same glasses as me or that nice security guard who has the sort of smile which only comes from being a grandparent.

08:26
I’m obviously not followed and carry my pastries and 3 cartons of juice home with me. Except it’s not my home anymore…I must stop doing that.

08:34
I unlock the door and am greeted in the kitchen by my now former housemates both in matching dressing gowns.This strikes me as odd seeing as in all the 3 years I have lived there I don’t recall ever seeing them anything but fully clothed. They’re both very cheerfully sorting through the kitchen stuff and I join in what turns into a rather enjoyable debate over which of the four balloon whisks, two ladles and six half-empty packets of couscous is whose.

09:06
The counters are now groaning with all my assorted kitchen paraphernalia; including hundreds of charity shop plates, cake forks, a rusty carving set (which I simply cannot bear to part with) every size of cake tin (in varying conditions) and two boxes of Ikea martini glasses. My ex-housemates shuffle off to get dressed and hit the cookware shops, to replenish the barren saucepan cupboard and cutlery drawers.

09:28
I find a corner of work surface and mix up the batter for a coffee and walnut cake. There is so much left to do that I thought the promise of a warm slice of cake might take the edge off. I’d thought I was about two-thirds packed but looking at it in the cold light of day it’s perhaps less than half done.

10:32
My reinforcements arrive in the form of Carrie, Becky, Diriye and Ruth (a manager, a teacher, a writer and an actor respectively – can’t go wrong!); all making a beeline for the coffee machine.

10:45
Once suitably caffeinated I sheepishly gave them a tour of the house and each takes it in turn to say things like “so this stuff here is yours right? What about that over there? Is that staying?”
Then, on seeing the kitchen with its contents laid out all over the surfaces like it’s been crudely gutted, ask in unison “so where are your boxes Miriam?”
“…I’ve got bags” I reply
“BAGS?! Oh my God Miriam what’s wrong with you? That’s classic boy packing!”
The door closes as the team head out to the shops in search of boxes. Moments later they’re back clad in cardboard and we get to work packing up my old life and collection of glass cake stands. The next part is a blurry whirlwind of black bin bags, cardboard, gaffer tape and cake.

12:39
I’m being ushered into the passenger seat in the now totally full mini-van with one box of martini glasses on my lap and another in the footwell.
Diriye and Becky wave me off and insist that I don’t come back to help load the van the second time. The van door closes and as it does the heavens and my tearducts open. It’s not a full on sob, but a just a little 5 minute sniffle. It seemed appropriate and quickly I felt better. The rain eased off then too and I drift off in a daydream, but tune back into my conversation with Carrie suddenly when it turns to the number of red lights we might have been through and why the sat nav is insisting we go down a road only to be used by buses and pedestrians!

13:40
Ruth took the train and is here to meet us at the apartment block. Another van pulls up and two blokes jump out and prop the entrance door open with a box of books and vinyl. Straight away they start piling pot plants and bits of bed frame into the miniature lift. It appears I’m not the only one moving in today.
My flat is only on the first floor so taking the short flight up was no real hardship. Ruth is doing her share of heavy lifting with particular style; dressed in a sequin vest top (having rocked up this morning straight from a night club). She sashays past the opposing moving team carrying a much heavier load than them in just one hand, with a smile, and effortlessly climbs the stairs. They look embarrassed as they stack small boxes one at a time into the lift whilst sweating.

14:00 – The room is half full.

We’ve been scurrying in and out with bags, boxes and pieces of my Welsh dresser for the last half an hour, hoping both that we could fit everything into my bedroom and that my new housemates didn’t see the scale of my hoarding.

14:20
Finally everything is in…from the first load! Carrie drives off in the trusty van to get the rest of my things.
I clamber precariously over the chaos and attack the unpacking of clothes first. I want to avoid any chance that my clean laundry could take on the stale smell of bin-bag plastic!

15:27
I love the fact that books are so easy to unpack; especially from bags (just saying!)

16:02
Carrie and Becky return and the to-ing and fro-ing from door to van resumes.

17:11 – The room is too full.

I wave a thankful goodbye to my helpers.
In my new room I can stand by the door, but that’s it.
I slide a mound of boxes into the hallway to access the dresser which had to be separated into two pieces for transporting.

The base is a large pine cupboard and when complete it supports two display shelves. I’d used my ex-housemates screwdriver to take it apart earlier but hadn’t the nerve to “borrow it” to put it back together again. I had a provisional rummage in the cupboards in the hallway but couldn’t locate a toolbox. The best thing would be to use a table knife, but as this is only my second day here I don’t think it would make a brilliant first impression if I so obviously left bends, notches or worse still breaks in their nice cutlery. Now, the end of an old teaspoon…that will do! If it gets ever so slightly misshapen that’d be a lot less noticeable, right?
I head to the cutlery draw and find the least fancy teaspoon and it fits the screws perfectly. Once the dresser is reassembled I can start putting things in and on it and maybe clear some space.

18:01 Rhodora (stage manager) arrives.
I can now see more of the floor and the bed is cleared as glasses, plates and books make their merry way onto new shelves. Rhodora is in charge of the dresser which is now groaning with glasses and vegetable dishes.

18:14
The second stage of unpacking is now in full swing, Ruth has returned and is clearing my desk, systematically plugging in lamps and arranging pens.
I brought with me the dregs of a drinks cabinet so new cocktails involving limoncello and gin are being sloshed into espresso cups and the conversation turns from unpacking to gossip.

19:00 – The room is comfortably full.

 

 

Miriam Nice

Miriam’s cookery book “Cooking Without A Kitchen” is comprised of 20 delicious recipes which can be made without a hob, oven or toaster in sight!
Limited edition copies available now from http://www.pedestrianpublishing.com

Issue #5 / October 2013

Encounter with the wave moths' mating season
Encounter With the Wave Moths’ Mating Season by Chie Hosaka

From the editor

Newark Airport. Just passing. In transit from Brasil. I have two massive bags. Not my own. For friends.

Did you pack your bags yourself? Are you carrying anything for anyone else? –These regulation statements ring through my head as I lug my unwieldy loads from the conveyor belt.

Trolley. Trolley.

$5! You must be kidding me!                     You’re not.

I give an investigatory yank of the line, like metallic buffalo mounting one another, locked in place. No action for me. I eyeball anyone who looks vaguely American. This is your fault. Two Latino guards relax on the cold, uncomfortable bench to one side of the travel rabble.

To be honest sir, I think Newark Airport is the only airport I’ve encountered that charges for trolleys.

He is relaxed, unoffended by my indignation. It surprises me, as I expected a fight. I ask him why the charge exists. His eyes brighten with world-weary sympathy. He offers a wry, short smile.

Welcome to America. That’s Capitalism.

I unwillingly pay the ransom, and join the security line, allowing myself a moment to enjoy a Homeland Security poster.

We are the first and last line of defense. We protect the Nation and our way of life.

Damn right you do.

-How long were you in Brasil sir?

-One month.

-And these are your bags?

-They are.

-Do these bags contain any commercial goods for sale?

-They do not.

-Did you buy anything whilst you were in Brasil?

-I did not.

-Nothing?

-No.

– Any gifts for other people?

-No.

-No presents?

-No.

The suited man looked at my tired “I fucking dare you” face, numb through over air-conditioning and internalised anger. I’m clearly lying, but I’m no threat. Let me go, and we’ll both get on with our lives.

A pause. I get the nod. Keep walking.

My beloved trolley and me part ways. There isn’t even a proper bay to slide them into. They are just to be abandoned, like their supermarket cousins, rusted and abused in car parks. What can $5 buy you at Newark Airport? As much salt as you can physically rub into your smarting wound. Life is cruel: I thought we would get to know each other better. I will think of your squeaky wheels when I am next in Tesco. Sigh.

We hold our arms above our heads, like at gunpoint. In American airport ordeals, the security scan booth takes on a humourously sinister edge. Later, I find my victim pose mirrored in a gargantuan fibreglass Ronald McDonald, looming, arms raised in double Nazi salute.

In the toilets, two young soldiers shave their wispy boyish stubble with four-blade razors, ripped from their plastic packaging. I shameless squeeze spots and consider how to kill an hour without unzipping my hidden, flesh coloured wallet.

two roads down

nowadays there are gods everywhere on tv on the radio in magazines in your walkman amongst us in the streets They are in my hometown all the more prominent because it is small comparatively and the gods loom large Walking round the market square all this stuff comes back to me a waking dream my frontal lobes in charge now walking in the present the past the imaginary all at once trying not to bump into to anyone exercising my artistic right to detournement et derive

now when i think about it after ive slept on it or daydreamed on it maybe its more like ulysses all this continuousness like the last bit the last chapter is it a train of thought or stream of consciousness and whats the difference either way it seems endless I read ulysses when i was fifteen or maybe sixteen either way i was too young to really completely understand it to completely appreciate the artistry the concepts what he was trying to do I thought i was really clever too well i am i am and i was but not enough at the time or my brain was not developed enough i didnt understand all the concepts not enough of them i was just pretentious i wanted to be better than my peers more knowledgeable Anyway i did learn the word cuckold so all was not lost how useful thats been i couldnt even begin to articulate

i could read it again i suppose jog my grey cells

odysseus the greek was ulysses the roman We did the odysseus at school we studied it primary school i mean Weird but wonderful when you think about it when you think about all the dross they pound into your head what they teach now students are back to learning latin but are they learning about the gods or just learning the lingo

it is odd learning about odysseus when you are eight nine thats not going to help you get a job but maybe back then back in those heady days of the early nineties there was less emphasis on that more on just developing your brain learning about culture classics creativity imaginary worlds fighting the odds striving to get what you really want from life I would like to study it again but in exactly the same way the teacher reading a bit of the kiddies version of the story the abridged simplified one then we the students illustrate it write captions under our coloured in pencil drawings describing whats happening thats how you learn listen and repeat listen and repeat like singing and praying

it was the early nineties and we were all learning odysseus and the classroom assistant was the girlfriend of nottingham forest footballer ian woan and we were in awe of her

– i know ian woan

– wow you know ian woan

– yes im his girlfriend

stunned silence whispers then back to odysseus back to helping him on his quest

a legend as all the footballers were then they all used to live locally A few years later youd see steve stone driving to work he had a pillar box red ford mondeo covered in club stickers and advertising a company car truly He lived two roads down from me and me and my friends used to go and stand outside his house and look at his car diminutive iconodules in replica sports clothing

then later than that youd see marlon harewood walking up the ring road to the city ground already in his kit in his red and white football socks I always thought but he will tire himself out wont he be tired before he gets to training it’s a good three miles why doesnt he get the bus And he wasnt so good not so impressive not popular with the fans maybe it was the walking after all

then brian clough regional mourning which felt stills feels like global mourning when you go back the man the legend our own personal god

we helped our god our hero on his quest his people adored him his players feared and respected him in equal measure he used his magic his powers lightening bolts spells and hexes only he knew created heroes in his image together they slayed demons enemies and conquered

although the prodigal child could never live up to his father Come on my son

Im yet to see a footballer in London You only see screen types here Near monument there is an abandoned tailors shop empty beautiful varnished fittings but untidy no suits no dummies no displays bags of rubbish all that remains in the window a large colour photogragh of michael douglas as george gekko Tells you all you need to know The proprietor not fierce enough not strong enough not competitive enough A zero sum game somebody wins somebody loses

Back to the game brian the conqueror he did it for us he did it all for us for his people

there is a statue in the market square nine feet high a reminder in memorium ad infinitum that our gods our new gods they are bigger than all of us

 

 

Charlotte Young

Issue #4 / August 2013


The Calling and the Freaky Bright Clouds by Chie Hosaka

From the editor

I am not the adventurous type. I seek home wherever I am, and familiarity in the faces of strangers.

This blog post reaches you from Brazil, through the Magic of the Internet, which casts me homeward like a neat digital boomerang, or surveillance drone, checking out your web history for Communist pornography. Is it sad that in the land of sun, Samba and sandy-Speedos, Microsoft Word makes me feel somehow calm, rested? (Not withstanding the rude red line under every word)

I am sitting in an internet café, trying my best to keep the world out. In Brazil, this is not easy. Let me use the idea of Nationalism momentarily to illustrate the point. Whereas in England, flag waving and anthem singing is at best the semi-ironic preserve of sporting events, and at worst the markings of racist tendencies, in Brazil, wearing a t-shirt in yellow, green and blue, proclaiming Brasil! Brasil! is not only ok, it´s common… even cool. Maybe it´s the colours themselves that make a bit of difference, but I have a feeling it has something to do with them having been a victimised nation for so long. They wear their flag with pride because they have been through so much. Us English, however, wear our colours with guilt, detachment… we are after all still reaping the rewards of our rapacious history. It wasn´t me. It was my great-grandad, honest.

But what does this mean, really, for me, a small, balding (let me hold on to the ´ing´ for a bit longer, please. The follicly-challenged derserve at least that) English man in his late twenties, cast adrift in hot, hot, hot Brazil. (It is supposedly their Winter currently, as this soothing breeze on the back of my neck illustrates.) It means that my private, detached me cannot, does not exist. It begins in the morning, at 7am. Baby parrots scream out for morning sustenance. I never thought I would miss pigeons.

Here, everything makes noise. TVs sound from every room, shops boom out promotions, passing cars induce colonic-collapse with bassy pop crap… Here, life is turned up to 11.

Brazil has many entertaining and ridiculous soap operas, full of treachery and romantic duplicity. What initially seemed like fiction, I now know certainly bears more resemblance to real life here than EastEnders does to the British.

A friend asks a seemingly innocent question.

What do people say about us Brazilians in England? That we just spend our time chasing girls?

Cue awkward pause whilst I assemble all my sensitivity to offer a measured response… In my hesitation, my friend laughs, proudly. I guess that stereotypes sometimes exist for good reasons.

It is eleven years since my first trip to Brazil. As a young Capoeirista I was wide-eyed (in fear and awe) at this land saturated in light and vibrant, loud life. I felt out of place, as most 17 year olds do, even in their own bodies. I had intimated, too, that this out-of-place-ness was wrong: that Brazil was welcoming me, and it was my faults that were making me feel small, nervous.

However, today in 2013, aged twenty-eight years and three-hundred and fifty four days, I know that this is not correct. I am not wrong. It is merely cultural difference.

My discovery of Capoeira came just at the right time for me: having been nervous socially I was forced to come out (not in a gay way- happily married to a female human, and not as a cover-up). Now, older, wiser, I can see more clearly what travel in Brazil, and within Brazilian culture, has done for me; how much it has changed me, and  yet, within that, what is resolutely me, and my culture, and what it can never change.

So, No. I am not interested in discussing car prices and exchange rates and the benefits of HD television and action movies and shiny shiny trainers and investments.

And, Yes. Microsoft Word does feel like home. Even with the misplaced punctuation shortcuts, which make me feel like the cleaners have been in and have moved my lucky pants. Speaking of which, I must get on, and wash my pants. Oh, the joys of hand-scrubbing gussets.

Like experience but faster and more real – August 13th 2013, London

I’ve made it to the top deck. Heart thumping from the dark walk; rushing under Tom Thumb Passage, with its jolly coloured up-lights that strive to dissuade opportune muggers. Whitechapel Station. REM plays on someone’s phone, an unexpected shard of familiarity. That’s me in the corner, that’s me on a bus in 1997, crawling through suburbia.

Aldgate East Station. My page is already full of crossings, dashes, scribbles, re-workings. St Mary Axe. Axe? Jagged spider legs of ink, teardrop mascara smudges. Gucci, Tateossian, Imperial City. Bank Station Corn Hill. The Ward of Longborn. N551 to Galleons Reach approaching.

25 to Oxford Circus. There are only men on this bus, a fistful, about 7. All young enough to do a day’s (or night’s) hard work. Are they going home or starting off? Are they cleaners, security, builders, working on the cross rail?

Clear passage through the City tonight, over the Holborn Viaduct, one of my favourite places in London, the streets of Farringdon unexpectedly falling away to reveal a medieval underbelly. Saffron Hill, Bleeding Heart Lane, The Fleet.

Fleet of foot. I am sitting at the front on the top deck. I look up at the reflection. I see three people behind me. Two are asleep, slumped over at complementary angles, one is behind me staring straight back. High Holborn.

I love One New Oxford Street. A fork in the path. An art deco ship carving the tidal traffic; either straight across the central artery, or peeling down towards the disarray of Covent Garden and China Town. Tottenham Court Road, I’m off.

02:47. Downstairs this time. 24… pause… to Pimlico. Talk about Art Deco, this bus glides as a dream in safety glass and powder coated steel. Deep red and mid grey op-art upholstery. The direct bright light of a jeweller’s shop window. Back stairs curving like a seaside pavilion. I’ve not been paying attention and don’t know where I am. Unlike the 25 (my first ever bus from my flat to college at age 19) I’m unfamiliar with this route. I realise I’m gazing at Trafalgar Square from some oblique angle. Horse Guard’s Parade. The buildings are bold and proud. The company is awake, well dressed, both male and female, in pumps and jackets, loafers and crisp white collars. I go past Westminster Abbey, dark void of unlit park, Great Smith Street, no people.

02:59. Safe. Straight on the coach. There’s a distinction between the connected species of bus and coach. National Express – deep dark grey, cocoon, sleep inducing, blue strip lights on the floor, the gauche, overweight sister of airline travel.

03:04. We’re heading out onto Buckingham Palace Road. There’s a screen at the front of the coach relaying our journey in real time; the view is bird’s eye and over saturated. Like experience but faster and more real.

It took no time at all to get from Tottenham Court Road to Victoria. When I arrived I was disorientated. Never made that journey before. I now pass the elaborate gates of Hyde Park and the car show rooms of Marble Arch. I spin around a sculpture of a giant horse’s head. At Victoria I grabbed my luggage and leapt off, notebook in hand, evidence of an inappropriate activity for public, nocturnal transit. Navigating the Crossrail works that have destroyed the front of the station, I march to Buckingham Palace Road, where I hit a confluence of wheelie case walkers. I recall the exhausting bike journeys to Battersea during my MA. It is a route layered with emotional paths into adulthood. Victoria Coach station, a tumultuous terminus. Offering regional connections for poor young hearts, first embraces and parting kisses. I remember reading in Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes that there used to be an airport here. The book’s protagonist tries to leave London from it during the riots of ‘58.

03:16. I return to looking out of the window. Blocks upon blocks of flats in sweet yellow brick. Hillgrove Road. The wide panelled windows of North London. Waitrose occupying the ground floor of one block. Finchley Road and Frognal. Mandeville Court. Fur thrown over modern sofa in brightly lit furniture show room. An estate agent called RENT. Temple Fortune Mansions. Secured by VPS. For some unspecific reason, I know I will never live in North London. Too domestic, settled, expensive? Further out, the houses take on suburban scale, swollen with mock Tudor.

We pause at Golders Green. I feel I should stop writing. I am tired now, after the adrenaline from night walking has subsided. I have a comfy seat and dim lighting. I am not sure if it is yesterday or tomorrow.

KisharonMi Dentist Del’mio Waitrose Liebergs Temptation Chemists New Goldlite Kosher Paradise Salt Beef Bar Holiday Inn Express.

We’re going fast and I can’t focus. Descend into reflections. I am really cold.

Mill Hill Broadway. Bus brain. Tripping from instant to instant. Atmosphere and recollection. Familiar feelings, always forward, into the next situation and moment, circling on loose themes, fragility, forgetting, fantasy, passing, trespassing.

03:39

An inability to sleep casually, or anywhere other than a bed. Bloody consciousness.

03:55

Fields of oil seed rape. The over saturated screen gives the road a bruised purple hue and the hedgerows are acrid. We are turning off.

04:00. In the cyan light my yellow notebook is rusty.

04:33. I’d forgotten how shit Luton Airport is. Or perhaps I never knew. You have to pay £1 for the pleasure of putting your skin cream in a clear plastic bag. There were 2 armed policeman patrolling the entrance like droogs. This ham and cheese croissant is good though. There is an abnormally high proportion of white blond women in the airport. Peroxides in every party; some young, some mothers, some seasoned. I look up at the screen to guess where they’re going:

6:00 Palma de Mallorca?
6:20 Alicante?
6:35 Faro?
My top 3 guesses.
Is this racial profiling?

I only had dinner a few hours ago – is it wise to begin breakfast? I’m very early for my flight. Will I have to consume two breakfasts just to remain conscious?
“Listen through your bloody ears!”

No-one else talks – everyone stuffs their faces with egg and bacon muffins, fuelling up.

This place is inherently uncomfortable; the cool air-conditioned breeze tightening around my neck. The hard seats, lack of softness, no walls, no privacy. No cosy corners to dose in.

When entering an airport waiting area I always employ the same strategic approach. As spaces they are new and exciting, yet full of familiar things. I need to know what is there, where the limits are. The shop fronts and cafes nod to the high street, borrowing from urban town centres. Yet, airport spaces don’t carry on the way streets do. They have defined/discrete edges. A commercial sprawl that comes to an abrupt end. I always circle before I sit anywhere. I need to know my terrain, understand what’s at stake, what’s possible during this purgatorial period. There’s much to discover; clandestine views of the runway, idiosyncratic notches at the back of Wetherspoons. But is there anything truly idiosyncratic in these places? Or is quirkiness built in from the beginning to appease a few fastidious trailblazers?

“You put that back!”
“I did”
“I remember because I buy these things for you”
At least I don’t have to travel with children, or parents for that matter.

04:52. Sullen soggy gobs full of cobs – munching and mashing. Gawping and silence. Mothers doubly annoyed at their lack of sleep and their toddlers’ uncontrollable excitement. Smart man eating breakfast with purpose, surveying the scene from a high bar top. Swollen teenadult with i-phone, treading the threshold of legitimate cap wearing age. He tentatively rubs his stubble, ruminating on the inevitable. The Benugos is now full. Still an hour and 15 minutes until my gate opens.

I am also aware of how ridiculous I look, wearing faux snake skin monk strap doc martins and denim cut offs, choosing to sit at the café with reclaimed wooden school chairs coz it looks the most like East London. Scribbling away. Writing! With a fountain pen, of all things! Is that better or worse than tapping away at a mac? There is a distinct lack of macs here. Who the fuck chooses to pen a novel at the airport? Who the hell do I think I am? Martha Rosler? Alain de Botton? Iain Sinclair? If you walk the periphery of the airport waiting area you trace the path of an ellipse, a gnarled arc that when marked on the map resembles a giant turd.

I discover why the couple next to me are silent. The woman is quietly crying, slowly, painfully. I feel bad for looking around.

The editing process is going to be important – the re-reading and typing onto a computer. Shifts in grammar and small substitutions are bound to happen. Eloquent revisions. Forever erudite in past tense. It’s not so easy scribing on the spot, on demand. It´s work, a work-out, a performance. I haven’t done this for about 8 years. I think back to all of those essays painstakingly constructed on reams of A4. How did I manage? Writing by hand and typing straight to computer are two different processes, odd looking twins who grow up adopting opposing lifestyles.

Typing lends itself to structure; to collage, montage, flexibility, modularity, fast editing, Ctrl+F, copy, paste, send, delete. Writing connects sound to movement to line – form and gesture – similar but unique – imbedded –curved and connected – a thread – marks and scars and scribbles – a palimpsest – evidence – a face full of hard earned lines and wrinkles.

05:25. That’s 8 pages! I’ll definitely need to do some editing. Although, perhaps Hugh can do that. He’s pretty good at editing. This exercise in writing (or recording) in relation to thinking about Hugh reminds me of an idea we had at college about age 17. I’m sure we discussed an experiment that involved locking people in room (ourselves included) and staying awake for as long as possible with the whole process documented, (probably through writing, drawing, photography and video). This desire to push ourselves (our capabilities, sanity and consciousness) to the limits excited us. Today, this idea sounds terrible. 12 years on and creativity has revealed itself as a service, just like everything else. Producing, performing and the ability to do both is of paramount importance. Sleep is a fundamental part of the deal. Avant Garde is the name of a new housing development on Bethnal Green Road.

05:35. Everyone at Benugo has changed. They are older, more sombre.

6:35 Dublin?
6:45 Reykjavik?
7:00 Glasgow?

I’m going to go and buy some edible presents and then head to WH Smiths to see what novels they have.

Orange refreshment. Try our great range of organic drinks on board today. £2.50 or €3.00.

Circa 07:00. A bright morning. From my plane window I can see:

–          Pre-castconcrete laid in squares, jammed together with tar. Some are lined with stripes of colour, like a playground.

–          4 different types of air hanger, the biggest with ‘Gulfstream’ emblazoned across the top.

–          A small WW2 looking air control tower. Square and squat in brown brick.

The heat of the engine causes shadows to ripple across the ground. The clouds are like layers of sheer fabric shifting over each other. The passengers on this flight are not very glamorous. There is an atmosphere of domestic utility.

At WH Smith I bought a novel by Ian McEwen called On Chesil Beach, more for its svelte form than its title. I have avoided McEwen since my AS levels, when we were forced to write about Enduring Love for our English Lit coursework. I hated this novel. We called it Maturing Muff.  It lacked the revolutionary and transgressive spirit a teenager craves and instead was riddled with middle class middle-age anxiety. Which is perhaps why our tutor loved it. Maybe I am opening a new chapter on anxious middle things.

Brace. Brace.
There are 8 Emergency Exits.
Little Miracles 330ml
Orange Energy.
For your safety, Ladies and Gen…

The recorded sound fails and cuts out.
The distant car park glisters.
I see a wrecked plane fuselage on a nearby bank.
The sun glares through the window.
We hesitate
“Goodbye ground”
The grass looks perfect. The breeze sends shivers through its skin.
I always say goodbye to the world just before I fly.
I am a little scared of flying. Not in any outwardly visible way,
Its just that I don’t take the act for granted – a lump of metal
Inconceivably heavy – flying through the air.
We’re off – we pass a floppy wind sock.
Tire marks on white rectangles.
Shit – we’re rushing, I’m pushed back in my seat. Being thrown
Back and forth – dragged up – ground shrinking – I’m exhilarated
Quickly – bye world – if it all ends now – it’s been good – I’ve enjoyed it
If this is my last view. It’s quite a good one!
A kilometre from the fields.
Corn rows of corn rows.
Conifers as moss
Tractor tracks around a tree, forming a giant ’Q’
Tennis court postage stamp
Patchwork quilt of warm textures
A 70’s bed spread
Golf course puzzle, littered with cashew nut bunkers
Woods – erupting like clumps of public hair across a scarred body
Crescents, lanes and main roads, industrial zone, quarry. Ears pop poppop.
Real distance between me and the ground, full of mist.
Hedgerows like broken veins
I can see an estuary and a long bridge, another estuary with boats.
And now the coast, like pause in the black vinyl between tracks. A thin lip of beach.

I am on 12 pages now. This is unexpected. Easier than I thought. Perhaps the reason why it’s more difficult to write a text digitally is that it conflates both the generative and editorial processes. They fight against each other to beget a well formed and succinct child, post produced at birth, to the expense of charm and character. The screen distances your text before your every eyes. You are aware of shovelling out clichés. You know what your words look like as if they are not your own. Like looking in the mirror and seeing a frozen selfie, a selfie that wears a mask of your face, with the features all converted into Arial point 10.

But NOW, well, I just don’t care! Clouds! The clouds are a scatter of equally spaced blotches, close to the sea’s surface, casting dark shadows, inverted echoes, a misaligned print. Colossal chunks of the stuff float above; a space palace, sky liner, architectural vapour. Expanded foam vista. Atomic explosion in stasis.

And now, the second track begins, we approach the complementary coast. Fields are gridded, Easyjet Boogie Woogie, not a blanket but a matrix, of dirt, labour, sustenance. Forests deeper and more vast. I’m told we’re passing over the Netherlands. Flat clouds drift like sting-rays.

Landing. Gliding down to sunny brown fields identical to Luton. Fields, forests, villages, homes. Looks warm and welcoming. Familiar despite never being here before. 3 wind turbines, canals, train lines, below the clouds into haze, an unspectacular landscape. Rows of poplars, turbulence, juddering, halting, dropping, hesitation, down, dip, stomach tips. Church spire and factory chimney. Zurbruggen. Caravan sales yard. Gravel pit. Pond.

Breath.
Bang down.
The man next to me is looking at my notepad like I’m mad.
Finally, I am stationary. I stretch and rub my neck, reading the bad skin like braille.

 

Fay Nicolson

 

Issue #3 / July 2013

at the foot of the lighthouse rgb
At the Foot of the Lighthouse by Chie Hosaka

From the editor

Besides working in bare-feet (cartwheels are my spreadsheets), another perk of my job is to travel quite a lot. Not in the International-Business-Man-Continental-Breakfast-Sowing-His-Superior-Oats-In-Every-Major-Capital kind of way. More the, 45-Minute-Busride-To-Forgotten-Towns-With-A-Budgens-And-A-Jobcentre kind of way. Not glamorous, but definitely a plus.

It is through these serial attempts at earning enough money to be able to live that I see a side of England that most people avoid. The one-horse town, I guess they were once called. Now it is the one-pub town. As in, that is all they have, apart from houses. A pub. And probably a disused coalmine.

It is the coalmine, in fact, or another equivalent dead industry, that qualifies these villages as non-villages. They are gatherings of houses, suburbs afloat, meeting only motorways, quarries and fields on every face.

An English village will have a post office (probably), a church, a school, and probably a society of old women who operate a militant policy to the standard of neighbourhood shrub-pruning through passive-aggressive town meetings.

These other places, however, have nothing. To shop, you drive for 20 minutes to the Tesco superstore. For work and education, the next town. There are often as few as two buses each day: the first leaving in the morning, the second returning at night.

Rarely is it required of me to break much beyond the surface-crust of these places. I turn up, do my thing, and leave. Sometimes to come back again, but never often enough to establish anything other than a superficial rapport. Often I feel as if I am peering through the window of a glass bottom boat: close enough to see the shapes and qualities, but not in the water. Not wet.

Occasionally, however, small things happen that colour my experience.

At one such “gig” earlier this year at a Nottinghamshire outpost, I found myself obliged to enter the local pub, to shed my determined aloofness for an hour, before my bus could carry me home.

Stood at the bar, I ordered my blackcurrant and soda (not a man’s drink, I know), and was instantly engaged in conversation by a man in his fifties, who’s name escapes me, along with most of his physical characteristics. What I can remember was that he was a big man, with big fingers, like you’d kind of expect a former miner in these towns to be.

And so whilst a young disabled guy and his friend played pool in the far corner and the barman threw camp banter around the room, I discussed town-life with my temporary ally.

His daughter, he said, lived round the corner from him- 5 minutes walk at most. He never saw her though, nor his young grandchild. You should get a Facebook account, his friends kept telling him, so you can be in touch with her.

“She lives round the corner from me, and they tell me to join bloody Facebook so I can see my own daughter? To see my grandson?”

She used to come round often. It got more and more infrequent, and now, they don’t even talk on the phone. They never fell out, exactly. As an outsider it just seemed to me as if they were locked into a kind of stalemate playoff: both of them waiting for the other one to break the deadlock, and ring their doorbell.

“I’m not gonna go round, if that’s what she thinks. I’m her dad, for flip’s sake!”

And so he moves on to happier topics. His son (again, the name escapes me), who runs a youth centre nearby. He’s only 26, but he does djing courses for teenagers, archery, everything. Have I met him? 

I say I think I have, but only out of some kind of obscure act of charity. How presumptuous of me. But in these situations, as a passing, soon to be forgotten note in his life, I find it easier to lie just a little bit. So I give a false name (for what reason, I don’t know), and head out for my bus, though it’s not due for another 20 minutes. After 10, my friend comes out for a smoke. From across the road I raise my hand to him (out of guilt? I’m such an idiot). He doesn’t see me.