Tag Archives: stupidface penguin


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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Turbulence and missed connections

I sat at the gate at Tegel airport listening to The Golden Hour by Firewater while I waited to board my flight to Heathrow. I think I had bags under my eyes. I was breaking my own no-flying-into-London rule because I was too distraught to care. I was eating grapes for breakfast, lunch and dinner because I’d lost interest in food. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, I just knew that I was leaving, that it was the only good option available to me.

It doesn’t really start with the break-up. It starts a year and a half ago when I joined the redundancy club. I was no longer tied to a place. I could go anywhere at any time. I registered as self-employed and earned a third of my former salary. I struggled to deal with the instability of not knowing when I’d next get a well-paid project. I traded financial security for freedom, and decided it was worth it. I started drifting, taking off places. At first it was the trip to Hong Kong, Macau and Australia, which began six days after I said goodbye to my old job, while my colleagues were busy trying to find new ones. Later it was rural Wales, to recover from punishing my liver with free alcohol throughout the film festival, and because I got a couple of free lifts. In the autumn, frustrated by my sort-of girlfriend’s failed attempts to make it to Edinburgh, I found myself a cheap flight to Barcelona and was there the next day.

But now, with this whole Berlin thing … three and a half months there, living rent-free, being generally happy, and now I felt like I’d taken a holiday from reality. What was going on, really? I left, and few people were going to care that I’d left: not that that is a measurement worth looking at. The night before I flew to Heathrow, I raided the bathroom cabinet and gathered my findings together for a game of What The Fuck Is This. Pills labelled in Czech, Danish and Spanish. I wasn’t looking to do anything drastic, I was just desperate for something to help me sleep: the prospect of going through another night like the previous one filled me with dread. I fed the brand names into a search program, used an online translator. Nothing useful. My friends in Edinburgh and Belfast authorised me to have a glass of wine. Just one; okay, maybe two. And it really did take the edge off things, it calmed me down, I stopped crying and was able to sleep for more than two hours at a time.

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T- 4

The thing about Edinburgh is everybody leaves.

I’m used to it. Get a partner in crime, enjoy a bunch of adventures with them, and then eventually they’ll leave town because they fell in love or they can’t get decent work here or they’re from the wrong country and they’re not allowed to stay any longer. It is disappointing, yes. I prefer not to think about it. But when I do think about it, I bear in mind that new partners in crime inevitably turn up and the process repeats itself.

So now it’s my turn.

I can’t believe you’re leaving, says my best friend, who insists on being identified here only as Penguin. I am so over this place. Get me the fuck out of here.

I have lived here since 19fucking96, I explain. I have seen a million people come and go. I am only leaving for a while. I am TOTALLY ALLOWED.

And you’re going to Berlin, she continues, possibly wringing her hands. That is just so totally not fair.

Apart from Berlin being, you know, generally cool, her boyfriend lives there. But the fact I’ve chosen Berlin is largely coincidental: I’m flatsitting, rent-free. If you were already jealous, feel free to crank that jealousy up a notch right about now.

My departure is kind of the last straw for her. She’s moving into my flat when I leave, saving money, and then relocating to Berlin long-term in a few months’ time. On one hand, this means we will get to hang out in Berlin. On the other, when I return to Edinburgh she won’t be here, and that’s going to be weird.

I’ve always seen this city as my home, my base. Somehow even when I was thirteen I knew I would move to Edinburgh. True, it’s overwhelmingly populated by hippies and goths, who, while generally being very nice people, are not quite my type. But I can work with this place. You don’t see what you want here? You make it happen yourself.

Right now, though, the only sure thing I’ve got is that I’m going to live in Berlin for a while. Probably I’ll come back to Edinburgh after that, but technically anything could happen. I have a degree of stability in my life, but I also have a ton of uncertainty: if I don’t get a decent amount of work within the next however many months, I’m not going to be able to sustain the way I’m currently living, which is already low-budget. The flipside of this is the good thing about not being attached to a regular job: I have the freedom to take any opportunity that comes my way.

So right now I’m okay with the uncertainty: at the end of this month it’ll be a year since I joined the redundancy club, and although I’ve worried a couple times during that year, the worry has been pretty low-key, and generally I’m content to just get on with things and see what happens. Still. It’s interesting, to have no idea what comes next.