Tag Archives: image dump

Waiting room


Lucky, one of my charges in Llanidloes


My neighbourhood for two weeks


Please feed the duck

I spent the month of January in Llanidloes, Leigh-on-sea, London and Manchester. I stayed in a total of seven different homes. Although I moved around a lot, it felt like a waiting room month. By the end of it, I’d been back in the UK for nearly seven weeks, a period of time so short it was obnoxious to make a big song and dance about it, but still. I tried to be fully present in my day-to-day interactions, but I frequently caught myself zoning out. I was too numb to commit to the traditional January blues; I enjoyed the time I spent with friends and did my best to be engaging, but often I also felt uneasy, anxious, apprehensive, impatient. I translated it as anticipation. What I needed to do was get out of the country again. That way, uncertainty would have a legitimate position as something I could work through. I was counting down the days.

And sometimes, out in the streets or on the tube, I felt kind of invisible, but that was neither a bad thing or a good thing. It felt a little like camouflage; maybe it kept me out of trouble. I realised that although I’d done well in jettisoning a lot of the sadness since I’d left Berlin, there was still some left, and there was not a damn thing I could do about that. It was boring and I had to be patient.


Sky over Lambeth


Emli‘s dog, Tilly


Charley Stone and friend


Everything I travel with

And then I arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan and the above words felt already redundant.

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Repurposed

January to March
The snow at the beginning of the year increasingly struck me as artificial, like it was really icing sugar, or maybe talcum powder. I went out and got drunk a lot, but I mostly abandoned weekends and saved my adventures for midweek instead. I was opportunistic, but frustrated. I frequently woke up with the hangover of the soul; it was like I was looking for something but not finding it. The previous night would come back to me in flashes and mainly it would look like a pointless exercise. I behaved badly. I was just waiting to leave. Correction: in order to leave I was waiting for term to end so I could get my money’s worth from the Polish classes that I got at a discount on account of my low income. Still, in between the many nights full of bad ideas I managed to make a couple of zines, do a couple of readings, DJ a few times.

I went to Anglesey with La Glitch for my mum’s birthday. We rented a cottage and I lit a candle in a church on the day. Hard to tell whether I’d just gotten used to her absence, or whether I hadn’t given myself sufficient time on this trip to reflect. Four and a half years, though, that was a fuck of a long time. By now it just got reduced to brief moments when I was lying in bed hungover and I’d find myself sobbing hard for five seconds and then I’d stop.

We drank in the pub next to the cottage and an old woman with Parkinson’s disease talked to us and somehow, something about her reminded me of my mother, even though the similarities were subtle. She told us about the time she took a bunch of kids to the zoo and one of them stole a penguin. I’d heard this story before, but without the excuse he provided: My mum won’t let me have a cat, he’d explained. When I got back to Edinburgh, I printed out the Snopes discussion and sent it with a card to the pub, addressed to The Nice Woman Who Drinks Whisky And Lemonade. She wrote back.

Mostly, I felt like my mind was never where I was. Penguin had been picking up on it, she said that it was like I wasn’t really there, wasn’t really focused. I didn’t mean anything bad by it, but it left me without much to say for myself.

Term ended. I got drunk one last time in the Wayside and felt mild regret that I would miss the Bon Jovi tribute band playing at the weekend. I went round to Penguin’s and we made badges together, and the next day I left Edinburgh and flew to Brussels, feeling not a whole lot other than numb.

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America, abridged

In rural Pennsylvania I drank cider by a bonfire while people yelled “Fire in the hole!” and launched flaming pumpkins from giant catapults and then boy scouts rushed to put them out with shovels.

In Washington, DC, I killed time in a Salvadoran bar, waiting for Jeremy to finish band practice. The waitress and I conversed in Spanish. She asked how I could travel so much and not miss my family. She couldn’t go home and see hers: it wasn’t just about money, it was about not having papers. She said that if I didn’t manage to contact my friend, I could stay with her and her aunt in Maryland.

I got a lift from Washington to Dayton with a woman who was on her way back to Manitoba. The journey took eight hours but she wouldn’t accept any money for petrol. It turned out she had grown up in the Mennonite town that Miriam Toews described in A Complicated Kindness. She said that she could speak Low German but that it was pretty useless. “I can speak backwards,” I offered. “At least you can communicate with someone.”

I had decided to try not kissing anyone for a year. I got as far as Ohio with that plan.

I walked into a bar in Indianapolis with my rucksack, and the owner sent over drinks on the house because a couple of bands I’d never heard of had cancelled their gig at the last minute. “John Dillinger used to come here,” said my host, a disarmingly cute conspiracy theorist. I nodded like I knew anything, and thought to myself: Four? Or Escape Plan? He drove me to a house on the outskirts of town, a work in progress that had been classified as uninhabitable. It was like the houses in the dreams I’ve had all my life, expanding: when he moved the boards and mattresses that were propped against the walls, they revealed doorways leading to more rooms. I slept on a couple chunks of foam in a cold, bare room; killed time in the morning by studying Polish until he came downstairs and apologised for waking up so late. “My bad,” he said. Outside, a mountain of bin bags filled with leaves awaited an ambitious composting project. He took me for brunch in a Mexican diner and then saw me off at the bus stop.

In Chicago I met up with a friend of a friend, an activist. Green tea turned into dinner and drinks in a pub till the small hours of the morning. We put the world to rights. “Hey,” I said, “we’ve spent several hours together but we’ve only just started using the word ‘dogmatic’ and I think we should throw it around some more.” She smiled shyly and then said, “My place is kind of a mess, but you’re welcome to come home with me if you’d like to.”

I went home with a girl in Somerville, Massachusetts. In the morning we lay in bed talking about ligers and the time she went to Canada for three hours. I wondered how long it would take before her bruises would fade. I wanted to see her again but I didn’t know if she was interested in a repeat performance. I cooked risotto for everyone and when she tried to summon me into an empty room I declined before I realised what that probably meant. But it was okay: my time in the States was ending, and it was what it was. My time with her, my time with everyone. I could be sad about leaving or I could be happy about all the experiences I had had, and I chose the latter.

What August looked like

A small selection of pictures:


Tous les jours. Murcia. I know, it’s kind of emotastic and everything, but I had to take a picture of it anyway. Another one (in different handwriting) proclaimed: Carmen, vuelve, eres mi vida.


Juaaaaan.


Backpackers’ washing machine, Republic of Užupis, Vilnius.

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What I did to say goodbye to Berlin

I
I visited Silver Future again, the queer bar of my dreams (at least apart from its somewhat mind-boggling anti-anti-zionist policy). On my final visit, I got drunk and cried, but I guess that was kind of inevitable. But I also managed to distract myself for a little while by crushing out on the cute bartender. I thought about my heartbroken friend visiting in June, and how she’d regularly report: I think I am actually having fun! Hey, I am finding people attractive! And then she’d follow it up with: No, no, I think that was just a false epiphany. I thought about how curious it is that we have to analyse all our symptoms. I thought about how we had drank Prosecco outside Silver Future and I had written her a two-page list of compelling reasons why she shouldn’t contact her ex.

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Tonight, 2am

Before

Then

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Schlaaaaaand!


Last week a herd of children dressed in animal costumes passed me by on unicycles, and I failed to get a picture. Instead, here’s a faint trace of the rollerblading procession that appeared on Schlesisches Straße last night. There were a couple hundred of them maybe. Minimal techno also played a part, as is customary.

I walked home today in Saturday’s clothes, which was of course classy, and bought ayran on the way, which I promptly spilled down said clothes. I don’t feel I have the right to complain about the heat, seeing as in my own part of the world we’re always moaning about how cold it is. However, the past few days have seen a shift from cool summer breezes and no need for sleeves to that horrible sweaty stickiness that makes you want to just sit in a paddling pool and never move again. One reason I didn’t make it home yesterday was because I took a walk around the block in Kreuzberg and swiftly realised that even standing up felt a bit too much like hard work; ice cream sounded nice but there was no way I was going to queue for it. I spent the evening lazing around in the Berlin Welcoming Committee’s flat, drinking wine and watching Press Gang.

Three months in Berlin now and the current plan of action is to stay on here after mid-September, in between various travels. This means I will need to find accommodation that I actually pay for, which may necessitate living with other people for the first time in six years. I will also need to return to Edinburgh to sell a bunch of my stuff in a hurry and put the rest into storage (I’m kind of scared to investigate how much this might cost). I saw a video on YouTube not so long ago of hippies dancing in mud at the Meadows Festival. All I could think was: I do not miss this. Sorry Edinburgh.

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