Tuesday 31 August 2010


The pleasure this gives me is quite disproportionately immense.

Sunday 29 August 2010

Saturday 28 August 2010


I feel like this should come with poetry. The soft blue sheen on the bronze that seems to drift up from the lake and turn everything bluey-bronzey. These long, singing curves and shy, endless beak. Still thinking of beak and stillness, waiting to pounce, when this creature rose up at the other end of the  lake - the mythical version. What a lovely statue. It is poetry. The pictures must be their own song.

Friday 27 August 2010

Very red

 Tree outside the very red Serpentine Pavilion.

Thursday 26 August 2010

No metaphors

It's when life gets too small for metaphors that you're in trouble, I think - when there's space only for the baldest, most literal and immediate realities of things. That's when you can't write, when you have no stories.

Reading Beth's and Peter's engaging discussion of Faulkner's novel, Absalom, Absalom!, I appreciate how allusive, how multiple it is, how it's about themselves and each other, their own intellects and accumulated knowledge and opinions, as much as it's about the book. How every shape carries [metapherein] their conversation towards another, related, shape. How they have much that is rich to say because every exchange brings them to something else the book reminds them of, and so around and back to the book itself again. This is why I will continue reading.

Metaphor is necessary as the ground beneath our feet, the food and drink in our mouths. WIthout it, no flow, no fiction, no poetry, no art - no human as distinct from animal.

On bad days in the invisible prison, I'm an animal. A legless, eyeless, earless kind of worm, at that.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

How to make a space

Why is it that when I’m despondent, when I feel trapped, I cannot write? The sense of imprisonment repeats itself over and over in my head, the words reducing to a smaller and smaller box of closed-in thought: I hate this. It makes me crazy. There’s no way out. Bored. Empty. Burdened. I hate this…

It helps if I focus on other people, shifts the energy, restores a sense of myself as more active, less isolated. But it’s also tiring, and there’s so little oxygen in the closed-in place. I hide away because my resources are so small.

It helps if I take my mind somewhere else by reading, watching a film, looking at paintings. This is a respite, but it dumps me back in the same place, because it’s losing myself and what I need to do is find myself – the self, the words, the visions that get stifled in the trapped place.

It helps if I move, walk, just breathe, pay attention to something other than the thoughts. But the thoughts are loud, loud: I hate this. It makes me crazy. There’s no way out…

I have to keep pushing and digging, keep the doorway open. Life cannot be this. I have to make a space to nurture stories, metaphors; a space to spin a multi-layered cloth; a space to spin and spin until I’m laughing and dizzy - I’ve forgotten what that feels like. I don’t think I’m too old. As long as I’m still breathing, I am not too old. I have to stop the trapped place getting so small I can’t breathe.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Heron in Hyde Park

Grey-green in the rain, a heron by the Serpentine, like a statue by a garden pond 
- a long, still minute... then a barely discernable twitch of the head. 

Monday 23 August 2010

Movie sequels: no

Oh dear, no. Not even when number one was one of my favourite films ever. The Girl who Played with Fire was a big non-event, alas not subtle, absorbing or delicious at all. And now I come to think about it:  how could it have been otherwise? A feature film is quintessentially a single, self-contained artefact, a quite specific form that builds, climaxes and resolves in a couple of hours. And the building, in order to satisfy, must be a building of scene, characters and relationships, as well as of plot - the arc of climax and resolution then sweeping all of these along together. But the makers of a sequel are not, of course, going to spend time on constructing all over again the characters and scenario already constructed in part one, the assumption being that the viewer already has all that information. This must have seemed like a gift to the makers of The Girl who Played with Fire. Faced with the impossible task of adapting a 600-page novel, at least they could leave all that stuff out and proceed directly to the narrative. This meant excising the first, enchantingly digressive, one-third of the book, along with all the poignant personal detail throughout which is what makes us (well, me anyway) care about these people when they start rushing around and risking their lives. Frustratingly pointless. I may have to see the third film for the sake of completion and as the maximum gesture of fandom towards the novels I enjoyed so much. But not for any other reason. Shame.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Vicarious travels

Stuck in London myself this August, I've been privileged to travel vicariously to China and Nepal. While philosopher and novelist Will Buckingham, more often to be found at ThinkBuddha, journeys around China to research his latest novel and blogs a travelogue as immediate and funny as it is learned, artist Samantha Zaza, whose beautiful blog Harika comes usually from Istanbul, is volunteering in Kathmandu and sharing her sketchbook, photographs and writing from there. An almost daily flow of words from a terrific writer. The eye and heart of a talented artist far from home. This is the internet at its most miraculous.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Wednesday 18 August 2010


Caroline Proust et al in Spiral, Noomi Rapace in The Girl who Played with Fire

Browsing online cheap-offer DVDs of continental European films and TV series, I came upon Engrenages (Spiral), a French TV policier which had passed me by when shown on UK TV, since I don’t have a set, but whose blurb was immediately attractive. Cutting-edge stuff in the style of the best US cop shows, apparently, and unique of its kind in France. I ordered the DVDs of Series 1 at a ridiculously low price and was hooked. Series 2 arrived in today’s mail. So that’s the escapism quota for this week.

But then I read about this weekend’s London preview of The Girl who Played with Fire, second film in the trilogy that began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. So here comes a mega weekend of on-screen EuroCrime.

My enjoyment of this stuff will always be slightly queasy: horrific violence as entertainment is not a concept to be swallowed unproblematically. But, oh, the genre games, the sexual politics, the terrific acting and spiffy camera-work, the languages, the intercultural similarities and differences – it all offers so much subtle and absorbing deliciousness.

Tuesday 17 August 2010


The new issue 25 of BluePrintReview is going live in stages - more to come. The latest stage includes an image of mine, paired with a short-short story by Susan M Gibb and together entitled Descriptions.  I like the story a lot, and I like the mind that put these two together, teasing out the shared themes of melancholy, distance and surprising affinity.

BluePrintReview, edited from Germany by Dorothee Lang, draws together a new thematic web for each issue from a wide range of contributors, with an ongoing feature format that pairs independently created words and images from two different authors - linking them aslant, making connections not always obvious but always resonant. I like this very much. It's what I often try to do here in a small way, but has much greater potential, of course, when text and picture come from different authors.

Dorothee improved my images, too, with her much better photo-art skills: the dream editor, really, acutely perceiving what I mean, helping to make it better, finding the right context - the kind of editor who, we hear, is rarer than hens' teeth in print publishing these days. Hurrah for small and exquisite online literary magazines!

Monday 16 August 2010

Bus, taxi, bike, foot

The way that walking in the city feels, that blurred fluidity: you are the intersection point
- you just might dematerialise and reappear in a different picture.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Friday 13 August 2010

New blog template

Apparently what I do in response to feeling wretched is redesign my blog template, which must be better than picking a fight with a dear one or getting drunk. I've long wanted a template with tabbed, static sections, and tried out many an incarnation in Typepad, which seemed probably the best I could manage since the workings of Wordpress are a mystery to me. Nothing I came up with pleased me. The final provocation/inspiration was the really stylish and spacious new template at Via Negativa - I can't do anything like that, but for god's sake, stop pissing about and do something with this small project!
Meanwhile, new Blogger templates have been busting out all over, and in the end I've found more of what I wanted there than in Typepad. It's an improvement, I think, on the unobjectionable, formless page I've been using for ages. Main gripe is the photos, which I'd like a little smaller (if anyone knows of a way to customise this in Blogger with one operation rather than fiddling with the code for each photo...). The original lure was a new title and more focused content, but I seem to be attached after all to the all-embracing notion of life as rhubarb - remaining of the other plan is the sidebar text, and a resolve to try and write more regularly about art and stories and creativity. No doubt there'll be much tweaking and it'll take a while to put an initial selection of stuff on all the pages. Setting up the links page - something I lamentably haven't had for a long time - will be a priority, and getting a domain name, looking into search engine optimisation...

Thursday 12 August 2010

Reasons to be cheerful

spots ofglory
in the grey

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Rain, shame

Raining hard this morning, the smell of petrichor replaced by damp exhaust fumes, and I feel chilled and assaulted by it, reminded of my mother and the way she always took the weather personally - how absurd and infuriating I found that, how victimised and bitter she must have felt.

Do I feel then, these days, just as victimised and bitter? Probably. The best I can do is try and not take it out on others the way she did, not spread the same twisted misery around me (except here - sorry).

The middle of summer, and I have a fearsome workload, as usual, but no immediate deadlines - up to me how I organise and prioritise it all for completion in the next four or five weeks; up to me, more or less, how many hours I work, since there's untaken holiday.

I have just enough energy to rage at the slowly trudging through it, not getting any more behind at least, that is all I can manage. Just enough to wish I could seize my life and shake it, do better than this for god's sake, but not enough to act.

Not sleeping much, too vague and numb to read much, even more alone than usual with most friends and acquaintances away. Intermittently horror-struck at the thought of the relentless cycling round into a new academic year.

Cope, breathe, cope, so tired of it all, and now soaked and coldly clammy at the edges... hard not to take it personally. Hard not to furl my umbrella, lie down in the soggy street and let it rain on me, rain on me, wash me away. And thinking, damply and with shame (yes, of course I am), of Pakistan.

Monday 9 August 2010

Saturday 7 August 2010


In and around Tate Britain on a damp, blue-tinged afternoon - more photos here,

Friday 6 August 2010

Thursday 5 August 2010


I learned a new word this week from Marja-Leena: petrichor, which means the scent of rain on dry ground, and thought of it as I was sitting in a cafe after work last night and rain began to fall. Just a shower, but it was real, heavy, sluicing rain that soaked into everyone and everything exposed to it and quickly lowered the temperature. It came as a sweet relief after too many hot, humid, but rainless weeks. And then, floating on the air, rising from the wet pavements, from the grateful lawns and flowerbeds of the park across the street, yes, I could smell it!

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Still not about Alice Neel

portrait of Ethel Ashton, 1930

Not managing to write about the Alice Neel exhibition. It was such an emotional experience. No paintings have ever affected me so much - and paintings often affect me a lot.  Wow, just wow, but good grief, hoping to come up with more than wow.

Monday 2 August 2010