Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I' ve been going through some more boxes and i found one of my old diaries. This one starts in 1990 and ends in 1995 (not written every day of course). In fact i'm going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and say that it looks like i only wrote in it when i was feeling down. I flicked through a few entries, but mostly i couldn't bear to read it.
In fact, to be fair, it starts off as a travel diary: i'm writing about my first trip to the US. It was my second year of university and my sister and i went to visit our friend who was studying in Memphis. We smoked enormous ammounts of southern grown pot (they grow it between the crops we were told). We hogged the joint without realising because we were used to the slow burning of resin mixed with tobacco, and this fresh green stuff just zipped down to the roach before you could say "pass the doobie"(this joke is purely for our lass and the American lady in question).
We went to Graceland and New Orleans: "Well I love the Beatles, but Elvis is King...". We got snowed in- real, deep, fluffy snow that surrounded the tall pines of Tennessee and made the roads treacherous.
I fell in love with the US: with the apples the size of your head and three different types of the same brand of beer; with Jack Daniels and Preservation Hall, with pistachio ice-cream and thrift stores; with fried chicken at the Loveless Motel (but not grits); with Southern hospitality and with swamps and the Mississippi (M-I-SS-I-doubleS-I-doubleP-I).

31st December 1990 So: you go into the city centre; you change your dollars back into pounds and the girl asks you where you've been. You're not even aware of the date and you hand in your films and your pockets are empty again. It has already become a memory, a categorised section of events in your life that must be put away to continue with the next. You go to The Faversham and you find the old requirements and preparations second nature. You get there and see people and talk but you don't explain, and you feel like you've lost it- it hasn't touched you. You're desperately trying to remember things to make you feel something, but your body is celebrating New Year, and it finds no difficulty in spending the night with D. when you thought you had yourself under control.

The question i would like to ask this girl is: "Why do you 'not explain'?"

Friday, January 18, 2008

What have you done today to make you feel proud?

A raft of mini-cabs pull up at the gates of the exclusion unit. I ask the Headmistress what i need to do. She shouts that i need to go down and lock the gate, and if any more taxi's arrive they'll have to wait. Then i need to go round making sure that the right kids get in the right cars. As she is talking she is also asking the cab drivers who they are booked for, and then she puts a name card on each windscreen. I need to collect the cards once the kids are inside the car. I ask the nearest driver who he is booked for, because he doesn't have a card on the windscreen. He tells me he is booked for Shauny.
The kids start coming out of the building and are shepherded into the cars one by one. Some cars start their engines up once their passenger is inside but the Head shouts to us to tell them to turn their engines off: they can't leave until everyone is inside their car. Turn your engines off and stay put. Shauny is coming out of the building and i motion to him that this car is his. He tries to get in the front and the driver locks the door and motions for him to get in the back. My voice breaks half way through, but i say it anyway, "If i don't see you again, look after yourself won't you Shauny?" He doesn't look at me, and keeps his head turned to the other window. All the kids are in the cars, the Head gives a signal, the gates are unlocked and the taxi's pull away in rank and file.

Shauny's been sent out of the classroom. He couldn't keep still. He kept getting out of his seat and leaving the room without permission. He'd also tricked me into letting him through a door; then his friend ran up behind me and somehow they managed to get into an area where they weren't supposed to be. Now were sitting in the assembly area. He's been told to sit down and finish the work that he nearly started in the classroom, but he can't keep still. He says he wants to talk, so i make conversation. I ask him about his old school, and what it was like, and his friends and his family, and what he likes to watch on TV. In between bits of conversation he gets up and rattles at the security doors and asks me to give him the key fob so he can get out. I just carry on talking and when he rattles the door too hard i say to him that the school will get him for criminal damage if he breaks anything. A couple of members of staff come through the room and shout at him to sit down and do as he's told.

I follow the group of five to the classroom and i am introduced to each of the five boys in the class. They immediately start making jokes about me, throw a couple of nicknames around between each other and ask me if i am a lesbian. Within the first five minutes, three of the boys have left the room. There are teachers in the corridor at the time, so i stay in the classroom, and while the two remaining boys throw insults back and forth i try and get Shauny to concentrate. I ask him questions about the task he has been set, and when he answers me, i say, "Okay write that down then", and he does. It's hard to pick out his answers because they run together with the stuff that is flying between him and the other boy, making them laugh and distracting them from what they're supposed to be doing. But he finishes a whole piece of work, even though he's only written a few lines, that's all he needed to do, and he gets his bonus points.

I'm late, so as i come into assembly the Head-teacher asks me to sit down, and i try and work out who's who. and who's doing what, to get my bearings. She makes some announcements and then goes through what will be happening in school today. The kids are given certificates for various achievments, but they don't get out of their seats, the Head reaches over instead and shakes hands with them and tells them well done. She hands over to the music teacher who asks everyone if they are ready to sing. When the group answers with a straggle of thirty or so yes's. He asks again, "Are you ready to sing?" and this time they answer with more conviction, "Yes" He presses a button on the laptop, making short movements upwards with his hands and arms for them to sing.

I look into the window of my mind
Reflections of the fears i know i've left behind

He sings the next line loudly before they do,
I step out of the ordinary
and then with them
I can feel my soul ascending
I am on my way
Can't stop me now and you can do the same
I think, oh fuck, i'm going to cry, and i join in -hoping this will stop me.
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
It's never too late to try
Too late a tear is escaping from the corner of my right eye.
You could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bathroom portrait

She sits, naked and shivering, hunched over on the toilet-seat in the pitch black bathroom of some complete stranger. She is drunkenly checking the phone-book of her mobile to see if there is anyone who will come and rescue her on New Years Eve.
There is no one.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. What had she done this for? He was too drunk even to open the front door. She had had to take the keys off him and open the door herself. Of course, then the alarm went off.
She looks at him.
He yells, "I forgot to ask him for the code..."
The guy punches in his friend's date of birth and the alarm stops.

Now she just wants to get out of there.
She looks to her left. A light comes on in the window of the house next door. The neighbouring bathroom is directly opposite this one, almost within reaching distance. Through the pattern of frosted glass she can see a woman in a strapless red dress with mid-length dark brown hair. She is moving around the room, brushing her hair; looking in the mirror and performing other small rituals that cannot be distinguished through the glass.
Her arms then make triangle shapes at either side of her body. A couple of movements and the woman's naked body is outlined clearly. She begins to wash.
It is mesmerizing. Silently but absolutely mesmerizing. She is convinced that a man will soon walk into the scene. Why would such an attractive woman be on her own on New Years Eve? However, the woman continues to wash alone. She leaves the frame for a moment, and then returns wearing another garment, a robe? One more sweeping movement around the room and she exits to the right.
The window opposite returns to darkness.
She uses the light on her mobile phone and goes to look for her clothes.