I know it is coming, and I think about it almost every day. The door closing, the life ending. The peace to know that I cannot change a thing and the acceptance to say that I have had a good life: I have lived and I have loved, and in turn I have been loved and lived my life as best I could with others, with my family and friends. A door is closing, but I am thankful it was ever open at all.
I have been shooting incorrectly for the majority of the time; it took me just one trip with the well-informed to tell me that. I should have known, I shouldn’t have shot from the hip, wasting film and time combined. Honestly, I have learnt my lesson, just hand me that last roll of black and white film and I’ll get your shot, the one that we both dream of on long hazy afternoons – the body laying silently, awaiting a brief exposure with your eyes focused on mine, the twin cradles of hips and shoulders turned towards me and only to me. As if in a dream the thin rivulets of your flesh cascade gently against the cold leather couch.
On developing I can see the flames licking the border of the shot, the deep blacks and greys helping to create shadow against the brilliant white of immovability. The mistaken shot turns into something more, an image captured that I had not originally cared to note.
She never regretted moving to this flat. It was her bolt hole in this fast paced city, a place where she could flutter and eventually fly free of her parents, beloved though they were. In fact, they were the reason why she had moved to the city. She couldn’t quite face looking into their eyes once Robert had been to visit her at her parent’s house. If they had known of all of the positions that they had made love in then her cheeks would be forever burnished, matching only those of rosy fresh apples. No, much better that she had moved away to a swanky new flat with him instead, free to both explore their love and to allow their careers to take a foothold upon the employment ladder in their chosen fields.
The flat wasn’t really swanky in all honesty. Sometimes, especially after a heated remark or two, it could feel like a shoe box and one that she yearned to escape. It was at times like those that she felt she could happily return to her parent’s house, to become engulfed once again in their loving embrace. But she realized that this would never happen again, she had flown the coop and would not return to live there in this lifetime. She visited, from time to time, and had hosted her mother and father in her adopted city, but they would not meaningfully live side by side again.
Robert was her immediate family now, her lover and confidant, her romancer and family man. Her father wrote often though, kept the familial bonds strong and she wrote back as often as she could, though writing was not her forte and clearly her path in life was not to follow her father. She loved his letters though, decorated as they were with doodles on each page. The notes on his latest writing project filled her with hope for her father and his health, as she often mistakenly equated the health of his imagination with the health of his ailing body. Her mother sometimes added a page or two of notes as well, updated her on school crushes and old boyfriends. It was these tidbits from her mother that she really enjoyed, that kept her in the loop of small town life and let her feel guilt-free pangs of happiness. In this raging city of 24/7 access, it was grounding to know that life continued as much as it ever had in other parts of the country, parts that the creeping suburbia of the city hadn’t yet reached.
The illness unhinged her for a while though, the images of her father spraying droplets of blood was not something that she wanted to think about, neither was the fact that her parents were indeed mortal and not immortal, as a childish version of her thought still. Her foundation of independence had just become solidified, yet it felt like even as she started to make her mark on the world, the world instead turned and had started to shake the rock that she built her life upon.
In all honesty she tried not to think about the condition slowly taking over her father’s life. To put death at a distance and to keep love close. That was her motto, though she could never think of the words to articulate it; it was how she lived her life in the shadow of her parent’s slow, earthly demise. Her father would probably be writing a poem at this very moment and she could just picture it, his pen gliding across the paper in what would seem to be a well-rehearsed manner. The words would flow, the inconvertible truth that this man was born to give a voice to his generation would be undeniable.
In her darkest moments, sometimes the ones that followed the passionate lovemaking sessions with Robert where she lay in quiet repose, the thoughts would intrude into her mind like unbidden shards of shattered glass. He would be remembered by the many, not by the few.
It would not be long now.
How could I possibly tell her that I had thought we had a future together when these thoughts alone were just the remanent of fragmented dreams, and that those dreams were recalled by the half light ecstasy of sexual mores that only I could gain personal satisfaction in? No, these feelings and lust-filled thoughts were just that. They were simply a morning temptation before the creeping light of dawn awoke me fully to the realities of the day ahead. I held the phone in my right hand, her number displayed on the screen with a text half-finished underneath. I reread the message and cringed in shame, the liquid warm against my belly whilst I drew deep breaths. Deleted. For the betterment of us both.
Besides I had double English to attend and I still needed to scrub the sleep from my eyes, shower and dress. The walk to the college alone would take twenty minutes and I had an hour at the most to get ready, prepare for the class and to arrive on time. Timekeeping was never a strong point for me, the lack of punctuality ran in the family and infuriated my mother continually throughout her children’s adolescence. My eldest brother, for I was one of four and the second youngest of our parent’s brood, would drive my mother crazy by getting up late, sometimes comically late and especially so if we had to be somewhere on time. This would then cascade a chain of fury from my mother to my father, who got annoyed on her behalf before the fury finally found us, his younger brothers. Once we were out of the house however we were fine and I think Dad sensed this when he saw the frustration spreading and urged us out as fast as was humanely possible.
The house was empty this morning though so I could blast the music, keep the bedroom door open and move about freely as naked as the day my poor mother had pushed me out. I loved it – the feeling of an empty house where my favourite music reverberated from wall to wall; where I could eat quickly before I jumped into the shower, laughing as I did so as the water followed and flowed over the contours of my limbs and ran down my thighs. They were where the thick surgical scars outlined the orthopaedic surgeon’s fixation. I was proud of these scars, they were my personal tattoos of a specific time and place, my memories of pain and pleasure entwined to produce a better me (or so the hope went).
The first lesson passed without incidence, we learnt of the black ram tupping the white ewe and the lecturer expounded on what this meant for the play, for the deft characterisation and turn of phrase the author was so well-known for. I wondered of his contemporaries, of his hopes and dreams. I wondered what became of his loves and hungers, what his reaction would be if he knew that his plays would be enacted out four centuries hence whilst his fellow playwrights would lie largely forgotten in the lands that birthed them. But still, I had the break to look forward to where I would see her and think ashamedly back to my morning scene. I wanted to hold her hair in my hands and look deep into the blues of her eyes. This was a fantasy, the girl who I would later call my partner had brown eyes and curly hair, she wasn’t the person who I had dreamt of whilst I had lain in bed, regretting the passing of the minutes that I was powerless to stop.
This was the contract, signed by us both. Remaining friends but no more, the blushes of a late teenage crush hidden by a mop of hair. Instead I put aside my fantasy of my cheek against hers, my lips kissing hers, my body entwined with hers, and put our friendship on a higher plane. There was no underlying hidden moral heroism driving this, it was purely the shame of not trying and never asking for her hand. The joy of seeing her and sharing stories over drinks replaced this erotic dream of mine, one that I had subconsciously harboured since school and let blossom fully at college. Instead I focused on the give and take of friendship. The unsaid declaration of the fact that she and I were always willing to be there for one another, at the end of a text, a phone call or in person, that it remained hanging in the air never needing to be vocalised.
Taken by the author with a Pentax S1a camera using Lomography Lady Grey film. If reproduced elsewhere please credit as appropriate.
A half finished painting that sits in my room, ready to be completed some day soon. I am an amateur artist at best, rarely dedicating time to painting and thus rarely improving. I do however enjoy the freedom to partake in it when I feel that urge to the push paint across canvas, to see what shapes appear and what ideas formulate before me. This painting sprang forth one day in the garden whilst I was absently scraped paint and, using a brush, picked out the lines of the lips. Lips seem, to me, so human in the variety of the ways that we use them. That simple delicate touch of a kiss, which can be intimate and playful or formal and curt. That these lips also represent another pair found on the human body is, of course, pure chance but they fit within the theme of love and all of the lust, romance and passion that this involves and entails across a life well lived.
Whatever you are doing today and whatever you are up to tonight, know that you are loved in some way by some one in this beautiful and harsh world of ours.
Let the light shine, let me follow the path that I think is the right one,
Cast you aside like I thought you deserved, only I didn’t know you.
Hold on, hold on.
Let me follow my light, let me journey along the path that I know is wrong,
Let me make my mistakes, let them kick me in the face.
Hold on, hold on.
Your body is cold but still I’m warming up, and now I know this is wrong,
But hold on, hold on.
Let me kiss you one last time, let my lips linger on yours.
Hold on, hold on.
Photograph by the author using colour film and a Pentax S1a, if shared please credit as appropriate.
I’m sitting at the table and I have an itch on my head, just above my right ear. I go to scratch it, gently pressing my fingers in against the hair and the skin. The fingers just keep digging in, drawing blood first and then they gently parse aside the fibres of the temporalis muscle.
Deeper still they go, through the border of the parietal and temporal bone, reaching into the bag that keeps the brain whole until finally the fingers penetrate the soft folds of the brain itself.
I look around and my family have not noticed anything different. My breakfast sits before me, untouched and uneaten.
I am slightly sickened by this point so I retract my fingers, hold them steady in front of my face and twist the right hand around, noticing as I do the soft droplets of blood hitting the bowl in front of me. They are red tears dropping onto my cereal biscuits, mixing with the milk to make it a pinkish dye.
I want to scream, to say that this is not normal.
But then I realize, slowly, that each of my family members also have one of their own hands extended deep into their own heads, exploring their own personality and their own individual ticks.
This is normal. This is what we do. We examine our own conscious, our feelings, for hints and tips on how to react to external stimuli as appropriate. We look deep into ourselves and, finally, we also look to each other for social clues, for the nous that we think is missing from the familiar.
This is a routine that we practice each and every morning, the examining of our physical selves to better re-enforce our emotional batteries. We are what we are, we are both flesh and blood; we are but thoughts and emotions also.
The milk tastes okay with the droplets of blood, there is the hint of the mercurial and the taste of the metallic as I crunch down on my breakfast feed.
It is the same every morning, it is the same every week. For better or for worse.
It is hard to articulate the freedom that I feel behind the wheel. As I join the flow of traffic I am you and you are I, only our cars distinguish us amongst the crowd and even then we are both the same. Yet driving is also death incarnate – the flurry of life in flux and of life taken at a moment’s notice. I fear gross trauma, the savaged limb and the non-beating heart.
Yet, even with this fear encapsulated within my bosom, I still love the freedom that the four wheels bring, even as we are constrained by the tarmac and by the signs. It is a chance to listen again to a favourite CD in its entirety, to revisit a band’s discography. It is the time to make me fall in love once more. It is the time to get to know my co-workers that much more, to have unfettered conversations not sanctioned by the workplace. It is the time to cruise the dark streets alone on my midnight journey home, heading back to the family dwelling. It is the time to think of the luxury of a life half-lived.
All photographs by the author, please credit if used elsewhere.
I was nervous at first at daring to enter the world of blogging. What did I have to contribute? What could I bring to the table? Why would people look at anything that I produced? These were a few of the questions that went around my head as I debated internally whether to start a blog or not. Even if I did how would I decide to go about it and what would it be about, and why?
Of course the very fact that I knew I wanted to start one was propelled by the fact that I thought I had something to add, something to say, something different to put across. I looked at a few of my favourite blogs, studied their style and format, and decided on the blogging provider that would give me the most freedom to design and host my own writings. Of course there were little things that I couldn’t change, parts of the blog design that annoyed me at first but has since become more endearing to me. So I naively entered the blogging world with a site focused on something close and dear to my heart. I stuck, largely, to my guns and slowly the style of the blog became my own: I ‘discovered’ my voice in the blogging world by taking an active part in it.
Even as I focused my attention on the small ecological niche of the blogging world that I inhabited I couldn’t help but notice that there was a whole different blogging world out there, one that veered wildly from post to post, site to site. I was, in a way, captivated by what I read and by what I saw. I liked the daring-ness of it all, the sheer bloody mindedness of the numerous authors in persevering in engaging the audience and by the continuous posting of their work online, free for all the world to see, engage with and to enjoy. I’ve been extremely impressed by the creativity of each and every blogger that I have come across, whether they have kept to their own chosen artistic medium or whether they have danced between them, twisting and turning between photography, fictional explorations, nonfiction comment, sculpture, fashion design, painting and all things in-between. In short it has been inspirational, an educational tour de force into the brief glimpses of lives of people who I’ll never likely meet.
Still we, as the audience, can engage the individuals behind the work. We can leave a message of thanks, we highlight what in particular grabbed us about this or that blog entry, we can help spread the word of their work, of their art forms that have helped us think anew. What we can do, as bloggers, as writers, as artists, as the audience, is engage on a meaningful level, to swap ideas and views and to make aware that we both appreciate others and ourselves.
So even as I continued blogging at my specialist site I kept seeing these amazing artistic and informative blogs daily on the WordPress reader. I was inspired, I wanted to be creative again and I wanted the public to see it, even if I was embarrassed by what I had produced. Nothing is forever and nothing is really ever finished – everything is up for evaluation and interpretation. As such I wanted to take part in the great online experiment of emotion that I saw spreading daily across the screen. I knew that the blog I wrote currently had to be kept separate, as I wanted that site to stand by itself in a field that is fairly academic, serious and worthy of reaching a mass audience. In short it was not the place to put my own doodlings of poetry, photography, music reviews or fictional writings. Thus this blog was born as an aside to my original blogging self. I try to keep it active, indeed it is probably more active than my main site but that is due to the differing nature of them both. I can write freely here.
Blogging isn’t easy but it doesn’t have to be hard either. It can be time-consuming. I personally find that it can take many hours writing an individual blog post (perhaps more so on my academic site than here), and that editing your own writing can be quite difficult as you skip over mistakes again and again. The joy is in the trying though, in the communication, in the differences and the similarities between your views and others. Blogging is perhaps the greatest creative output currently on the web, a medium in itself that helps to show the best of humanity’s artistic side. It can be anything and everything that you want, both as a writer of a blog and as a reader of blogs.
It would be hypocritical of me to conclude this post without at least highlighting some of the posts that have both moved me and influenced me. So without further ado here are 6 blogs that are simply awesome!
Reveal Illusions: A fantastic site by Elin Borg which focuses on her artistic outputs. This includes her sublime paintings, photography, illustrations and sculptures amongst other strands of art work.
Electric Puppet: A rather delightful site that largely focuses on archaeology, history and literature. I love, and look forward to, the reviews of the books that the blogger has recently read and the round-up of recent literature purchases.
Markovich Universe: One of the blogs that I first came across is this delightful photograph and short story site where daily life in Russia is often highlighted by Alex Markovich. A real nice touch is Alex’s Postcards from Russia project, take a look here.
Benjamin Studebaker: Studebaker’s site is one that always engrosses me and challenges my own thinking on a number of different topics. This aspiring political philosophical offers essays on a range of different international topics and whether you agree or disagree with his views, it will force you to think differently on important challenges in the world today.
Retiree Diary: A lovely little photography blog based in Hong Kong. I particularly love the fact that the photographer is new to blogging, is highlighting daily life in China, and is engaging with his audience. It just goes to show that retiring means you can start a whole new chapter of your life.
And This Is Why I Will Die Alone Surrounded By Cats: The artwork on this blog is by Sarah Elizabeth Orchard, who has quite clearly defined her own unique style. The blog posts are worth reading alone for their hilarity, but the artwork is simply fantastic and I am sure she will go on to be an artist of some renown.
The above are just a few examples of some of the blogs that I love (although there is, of course, a WordPress bias), but I heavily recommend you also search out your because you never know what you may find. And, if you fancy, why not start your own?
Dinosaur Jr are one of my favourite bands of all time (along with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Knife and a handful of others), and I’ve recently been enjoying watching this 30 minute live set recorded for 96bFM at Roundhead Studios in 2013.
Dinosaur Jr, for me, offer an intoxicating mix of low-fi rock that mixes extended guitar solos sesisons with sweet melodic acoustic music. They are also fairly prolific at producing albums, with the singer-guitarist J Mascis also releasing a number of solo albums and bassist Lou Barlow also producing music with the band Sebadoh (who I’ve wrote about previously). The latest album, 2012’s I Bet On Sky, is a particularly strong album that helps to showcase the variety of sounds that Dinosaur Jr inhabit. Although this is just a brief stub about the band, I highly recommend reading Michael Azerrad’s 2001 book Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 which places Dinosaur Jr within the context from which they started playing. It is a fantastic book profiling a number of important bands including Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney, The Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth and Husker Du among others.
In a quick side note Dinosaur Jr have also influenced my guitar choice as I’ve recently got my hands on a mid level Fender Jazzmaster guitar. I cannot wait to properly jam with it!
It was a job that did not pay, but it was a job that I loved. I was surrounded by books, music and lovely co-workers, kept in good humour by the good cause that we were donating our hours to. It seemed that every week I volunteered I ended up buying at least one or two books from the shop itself, having rifled through the stock during or after my shift.
It was in this busy little shop that I became fully aware of Márquez’s literary works for the first time. His name had haunted my literary periphery for some time by this point, but I simply hadn’t yet read a single short story or novel of his. This changed as I came across a copy of Love In The Time of Cholera on the shelves one day, during one of my weekly shifts. Perhaps somewhat sneakily, as I was still only half way through my shift and thus still on duty serving customers, I hid the only copy in the shop behind the till so that I could pay for it when I finished the shift. I subsequently took the book home and devoured it.
Love, in its many myriad of forms, washes over the pages of that novel in all of its wonderfully euphoric and gut wrenching explorations. Magical realism taints the characters lives and experiences, their town and the very type of the printed words on the pages of the book itself. In short it is beauty, it is love for the written word, and for the value of stories themselves, that is expressed so eloquently in so fine a book that I took Marquez the author to heart.
In particular it reminded me, at a time where I was reading many dense and dry academic texts, of the value of the story as a common human experience and denominator in, and between, various populations, cultures and nations. It was also something that I was lacking at that time in my solitary life, as I shuffled wearily between sleep, food, and the library for research and writing. Essentially Márquez, along with Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, helped plug me back into realising the vitality and depth of human life.
My love for Márquez was further solidified coming across a copy of his short stories in another shift. Later still I came across a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude in another book shop in a different city and I immediately clasped it close to my heart. Where romance makes the characters flush with life (and death) in Love In The Time of Cholera, it is family history (and political commentary) that bind the characters in One Hundred Years of Solitude. The book did help to open my eyes anew to Márquez’s work and words, in how social commentary and political narrative can be combined so artfully within a delightful and fluid narrative to make flesh the stories that need, and must, be told to generations new.
Although my bedside table currently bulges with books waiting to be read and although Márquez will now not write any further novels, short stories or journalism, I will keep a space open for any of his works as, when, and if I come across them. May he rest in peace.