The name of god on the tip of my tongue

Came to Leeds, day out. It’s my old stomping ground, where I came to waste away my uni days.

I was off my fucking rocker in Leeds.

I mean, not constantly. There were weeks I’m sure when I was fine.

But I got ill here, and I didn’t appreciate how ill; a lot of my time in Leeds was barb wire and static and me trying to convince myself it was silk and cool water. Still; time dulls edges and smooths wrinkles, soothes stinging memories. Now Leeds is a city of fond nostalgia, the ghosts of friends I wish I’d kept up with, and lifetime and a half away there’s a thin memory of me; less heavy with regret, although maybe just as wound up with uncertainty. And wilder, so much wilder than the man I am now.

At times, I was off my fucking rocker in Leeds. Continue reading


Out of work
usually pissed,
he aimed low in life
and missed

Roger McGough, ‘Missed’

Woke up full of cold and with depression still fogging up my mind. Sweaty, twisted night’s sleep, although pleasant dreams – they have been, recently, strangely. Mum and Dad on their way to NZ, me alone in the house I grew up in. Feeling like I’ve gone backwards, and stopped.

I looked up philosophy books on Amazon, not sure why, put a few on the wishlist. And so fell back into Leeds and I guess part of the person I was in Leeds.

I was a lot thinner, then. Well, a bit thinner.

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I remember walking on the beach, me and mum always fell behind dad. Hands never big enough, pockets never deep enough. We’d tell ourselves we had to be strict and only get the best, but there are so many of the best that you end up with armfulls.

Dad wasn’t really any better. He was just more discerning, but then again you’d expect that of a geologist. The hint of a fossil hidden inside, really good, interesting quartz streaking against the rock, or just something weird and metamorphic.

And shells. Shells!

Shells on the shore are always beautiful, and water makes everything glisten; makes the world shine. So the three of us would walk along the beach, absurdly, picking up rocks and shells, return to the car overladen with worthless treasure.
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Useful one day

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.

Bloody notebooks.

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’


Heretical to say, I know, but I find something comforting about McDonalds.

Not all the time. But mornings, when they’re quiet. When I was young – really young – there was only one McDonalds in the UK, in Picadilly Circus. But when I was young – really young – we lived in Canada.

Really young memories – really old memories, I guess – are all out of focus images and sounds without meaning, bright colours and bright feelings. Big, broad feelings that fill the big bold world. A life drenched in primary colours and primary emotion. A life all made of love and comfort and fear, and confusion. Memories out of focus.

We took a road trip across the Rockies, saw Niagara and Yellowstone; I mainly remember constantly breaking my Ernie toy and mum forever sewing him back together, my brothers telling me it wasn’t pronounced ‘Essesso’ but ‘Esso’ and me ignoring them. I remember a love of Jon Deere tractors and a fascination with the striding, alien grain elevators.

A dragonfly in the garden. Snow. How I hated the sound of the rain hammering against my buggy’s plastic cover. The peanut you get on top of Skippy Peanut Butter, which mum would always give me as a treat. Mum, dancing to Carole King.


They had playgrounds, the McDonalds. And I remember my brothers playing with me; some great white spinning memory, the roundabouts you get in kids playgrounds. Then we had to go and I didn’t want to go, maybe I was crying, I didn’t want to leave the fun behind.

And my brothers had to remind me and convince me that there’s always more fun to be had.

You get older, and things get names and memories get sharper and colours get fainter. The world grows history and meaning and symbolism and all the hidden depths get deeper and all the surface gets thinner, until it seems all the world is just names and memories, symbols and meaning. And you forget how drenched in colour the world is, really is. You forget how big and broad the sky is and how wild feelings can be, when you’re here, when you’re now. Remembering only when you’re kissing, or fucking, or high, and then you stop.

And you don’t even cry because you don’t even notice you’ve left the fun behind.