Ran into St Pancras, hit the barriers out of breath. Asked the staff if I was too late, ‘just missed it’, they’d said. 30 seconds. Bastards.
So I’m going to be a writer.
This is something decided for me, because I’m both lazy and ill, unwilling to think of anything original and unable to get a proper job. Apparently I’m good at writing, or at least so I’m told by people who follow me on twitter and friends once they’re a few drinks in, and who am I to argue?
If I could do it all again I would; I mean without the comedowns or crash or waking up stinking of bleach and cigarette ash, but if I could do it all again I would. I’d pull the lever on the slot machine and we’d always hit a win, I’d fuck you senseless bruised and blind and never have to think about the ticking clock in the waiting room and all the pills we ever swallowed
would be good.
I would, if I could do it all again I’d still stumble tripping from cubicle 3 we’d still have all the laughs I’m sure we had and good times I’m told we had and none of us none of this would ever go bad, we’d dance and forget we get old, we get sad. I’d still let ourselves lose ourselves in weekends and mornings and closed-curtain dawns, and one shot, two shot, three shot, floor. I’d still talk shit and you’d still nod and the bass would still beat our words out but I’d see you laughing and laugh, and we’d dance and I’d forget I was sad.
If I could do it all again I would all the freezing queues and skanky lines and dirty looks from beautiful boys, googly eyes and laughs about that time in A&E, and that other time
And we’d never have been to A&E. If I could do it all again I would. Pull the lever and always win and always mean my manic grin, we’d all trip and none of us fall and we’d fuck and sweat and all would be like it was if I could do it all over again, I would, if I could.
I’m currently trying (and mostly failing) to make actual money from the whole writing gig. To this end I’ve spent a lot of time in my room, at my computer, occasionally cursing the fact that I can’t afford bus fare, let alone a laptop.
On a whim I decided to set up a GoFundMe for a nice portable laptop I could… I dunno, sit in the kitchen with (because seriously, if you can’t afford bus fare you sure as hell can’t afford a latte). Having nothing but a load of old words to give, I offered a load of old words in exchange for money, which I would then use to buy
goods and services a laptop.
I really didn’t expect it to go anywhere, but it kinda has…
So I figure it’d be cool to collate all the stories / bit and pieces of stuff I’m gonna write for people in exchange for this, and put them on this here blog (donor willing, of course). Also, I’m aware that there are apparently a few readers of this blog that aren’t long-suffering friends on Facebook, and this might be the first you know of the fundraiser – in which case go! Read! It’s funny! I amuse myself in the writing and the updates! Some money would be nice (obviously) but what would be more nice is people looking at me being amusing and being amused. Go! Give me purpose.
It’s 4am. I’m cold. I figure I’m stuck here for at least another two hours. I’m tired, hungover, alone, and I want to go home.
Some birthday this is turning out to be.
So, leaving London. Leaving London, and a chance to get rid of all this junk.
Where did it come from?! I arrived with a rucksack, I’m leaving in a car. Part of that is because I’ve got a desktop computer, but the larger part is… Is what? Some books, although nowhere near as much as I had at one point. Clothes… I’m not even someone who specifically buys clothes, all my jeans (all of them, all three pairs) have holes in the crotch. Sometimes gaping holes. Old t-shirts, old shirts, trousers washed out of shape. I never buy clothes, how the hell did I end up with so many of them?!
Then just… just stuff. A slow cooker. Why do I have a slow cooker?! I’m sure I tried, very hard, not to get a slow cooker. It was definitely up there with sandwich toaster and juicer as Something I Would Never Buy, in the sure and certain knowledge that I would never use it.
It’s under the bed.
Piles of blank CDs and DVDs, because you never know when you might need one, except of course whenever I do need one I can’t find any of the piles so have to go out and buy 100 more, just for that single install disk of Linux I need to use a single time.
I have so, so many Linux install discs. And a CD featuring photos of me in compromising positions taken when I was in my early twenties. You might ask why I don’t simply upload them all to cloud storage but we all know how that story ends.
Mysterious cables. You all know about mysterious cables so I’m just going to leave it at that.
Half used blister packs of antiretrovirals and associated anti-nausea medication. Because as we all know, when you’re HIV negative the one thing you definitely, absolutely must stockpile is antiretroviral medication. It might come in useful one day.
Inflatable boyfriend, a joke secret Santa present, unopened. In my possession since 2007.
And then of course there’s the stuff I actually want to keep, the stuff that’s actually important. Not ‘might come in useful one day’ important and not ‘guilt about throwing stuff away’ important, but actually important.
Paddy, the hand puppet mum made me when I was 5. Mix CDs from when people still did mix CDs. Ticket stubs from the rare gigs I go to, ticket stubs from Peru, wedding invites. Old photographs, old letters. Daft keepsakes from old boyfriends. The stuff that will never, ever come in useful one day but is all so painfully important.
The really important stuff could fit into a shoebox.
Piles of notebooks, on top of notebooks, occupying this hinterland between really important and really should chuck. Some are full of my scribbles, but most… Sometimes you just need to write, you know? And I can never find a bloody notebook because usually the mood takes me when I’m out and haven’t brought a notebook, so I get another notebook. And then don’t take it out with me again.
I stopped taking them out all the time because I’d invariably end up writing phone numbers and shopping lists in them and of course they weren’t meant for that, they were meant for my innermost thoughts and my idle ponderings. I mean that’s daft, who cares about innermost thoughts and idle ponderings? If you want to be remembered in a thousand years time, write a shopping list. On acid-free paper.
I’ve got happier about that as I’ve got older, kind of charmed by it. Now I always take one out with me, find joy in the occasional stain of real life in them; to-do lists which largely enumerate things I failed to do.
Junk. Good junk and bad junk, junk that might come in useful one day but which I’ll never remember I have; junk which is of no use to anyone and which I never look at, and would be heartbroken to lose. So much bloody junk, accreted around me as I live my life.
Like I say, I’m leaving London soon. 200 miles isn’t a long way but it’s a good reason to get rid of the junk. The useful junk, anyway. Not the important, useless junk.
Dad’s diary entry for a certain day in 1981 states plainly, ‘baby born’
Isn’t it brilliant?! Birmingham – came into a bar for lunch and to charge my phone, stumbled on a furry meetup. Fucking brilliant. Fluffy tails and yelps, bouncing blue wolves and a moose twerking by my table. She holds a large inflatable banana, waves it. I giggle and grin, scribble in my notebook, sip cheap lager. Happy. Possibly a little bit hypo. But I hope not, I hope this is me, at last.
Having a grand old time; woke up with only a faint fog of a hangover; I like hotels (‘liminal spaces, Phil; you like liminal spaces!’), but I’m in a Travelodge, so not so much. Still. Lush beds, good sleep. Came down for the BeyondPositive Birthday Bash, beers and queers and the occasional cheeky fag. Exciting accessories. We ended up in Eden and I ended up sleepy, bad karaoke and me thinking I’m maybe a touch too old for all this. Kissed my goodbyes and returned to the hotel, narrowly avoided Boltz.
(I couldn’t find Boltz)
Wake early because I always do, check out and walk to the library; Birmingham’s new library all light and space, glorious. Musty old books and a kids’ space with a scrap heap spaceship. Roof gardens, apple trees.
Sometimes, wandering through Cambridge, I’ve heard a harp played, delicate. Sandstone and subdued, harps sound bright in the staid atmosphere. But on the roof of the library I hear a trumpet riffing out, bouncing up from below. Drizzle mizzling, wet concrete, but the trumpet doesn’t care about that. Bold as brass.
The canals! Canal boats, a river bus. Old pubs and funny graffiti. Geese.
The Bullring is bright and loud and bustling busy, scent of perfumes layered with aftershaves drift by, gaggles. Kids, pushchairs. Posters smiling, telling me my life isn’t complete, and wouldn’t it be great if it was? No, no it wouldn’t. Unbroken symmetries are boring.
Just outside the Bullring, church. It doesn’t take long for the city to drop away, and it doesn’t take long for me to breathe a bit deeper. Atheist as I am, there’s more than a little peace and fragility in religion.
I light a candle, I usually do, when in a church. Don’t say a prayer but I do remember, and it’s good to sometimes shine a small light, light a small flame. There’s the smell of wax, that shimmering heat you get in gathered candlelight. A draught from the door catches the flames, tilts them. I put out my hand, cup my memory. Protect it from the wind for a little while.
Stone! Cool stone, I’ve always loved the touch of cool stone and I place my palm against a column. Sometimes, in my family, we hug trees. Trees are good to hug but stone is good to touch. Old, silent. Cool.
I got a leather jacket! Been meaning to get one for years, got a second hand one in the rag market for 25 quid. It’s scratty and doesn’t quite fit me and I think it probably sums me up quite well, right now.
The rag market is a different kind of bustle, narrow walkways crammed with the slow and shuffling. Second hand electrics, DVDs (‘Clint Eastwood £2!’), cheap incense and Julie’s Stall (‘Mens Socks! Ladies Pants! Top Brands!’). Love it. Endless rolls of fabrics, wall hangings, rugs; second hand jeans for sale, terrible figurines for sale. I grab some chips and walk down to gay street; a homing habit but also – I need to charge my phone.
And the place is full of furries! I love it, I fucking love it. Fluffy tails and antlers, yips and yelps. People dragging suitcases, foxes with lanyards.
Maybe I’m hypo but you know maybe I’m not. I’m not dancing in the street and I’m not belting out tunes. I’m just loving the world; I’m loving the canal boats and cheap pants and the smell of vinegar on hot chips. I’m loving the touch of cool stone, the smell of gathered candlelight. I’m loving that I live in a world which finds space for foxes with lanyards.