Tuesday 24 April 2012

Domestic Scene

When I got back home at around noon I was starving, so I went into the kitchen and got a Cadbury's Wispa, sat down and started eating it. In came Joey, still in his dressing gown.

"Back so soon? You were only gone an hour or so. What have you got there? Is that chocolate?"

"Mm. A Wispa. Do you want some?"

"Yes please."

He bent over towards the bar to take a bite. Then a thought occurred to me.

"Oh wait, actually" I said, "You might prefer to take a bite out of the other end."

"What? Why?"

He looked at me. I took the chocolate out of the wrapper and turned it around and offered it to him again.

"Oh... God... Have you just had a cock in your mouth?" he asked.

"Look. This end is fine," I said brightly, "It's perfectly safe. There's no cock poison on it. I promise."

"No thanks. No, really. I think I'll just leave it."

I shrugged. And carried on eating. He does very well, does Joey.

Friday 20 April 2012


It's not new-mown grass,
Or fresh-baked bread,
Or that jumper my mother knit me.
The one I never wore
But couldn't throw out,
Because it smelled
Of so much mother-love.
It's your skin.
It smells of blackness:
Like the memory of fire
Up a morning chimney,
And the depth of a cat's shadow
Leaping under a puddle,
And the falling weight of your hair
As you laugh in some far-flung bar,
The just-snuffed candlelight
On tables-for-two,
The spaces between stars.
This is the scent of you.

I guess part of the problem was
The way my imagination rushed
Into the blackness and filled it.
It was all my fault.
I mistook so many
Beautiful, invisible things
For you.

Not Poetry

This is not poetry.
I am not a poet.
But this verse proves
That if I could write poems,
The first of them
Would be for you.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Ghost Village

I thought of this place again today: the ancient village clinging to a mountainside, its tumbledown walls knotted with roots and branches, its inhabitants driven out by deadly avalanches a hundred years ago. I remembered how wrong it felt to climb over the roots and the ruins in my cheerful summer shoes, the breeze clammy on my arms, like a disconnected hand touching me in a crowd. I felt as though the lost souls from all around must gather here, where the living could not dwell.

I thought of it again today. I thought it was perhaps the kind of place you might have flown away to. I imagined going there again some day and visiting you, bringing you something pretty that would bob in the breeze. Except that it was so hard to find the village and I can't remember how I got there anymore.

Take my love, such as it is. There is no graveside I can visit, but I promise to build you a village just like this one in my mind. I promise to sing you lullabies among the ruins as the sun goes down. And in the mornings, I will bring pretty things that bob in the breeze.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

The Cold Stories

Never in my life have I ever felt so deeply and solidly frozen as in the castle where I grew up. I remember walking down the long upstairs landing on winter mornings and pausing to scrape a finger over the thick furry frost that lay in wads upon all the window panes, testing to see if it had formed on the inside or the outside of the glass, discovering that the answer must be "both". Then there was the time my father sauntered into the bathroom one fine morning, in his checked dressing gown and his hard brown leather slippers, and did a backward flip on the black ice that habitually lacquered the bathroom floor in months with an R. He split his head open on the corner of the bathtub and had to get stitches.

The castle was huge, but in the depths of winter, we all used to sleep in one rather poky room at the end of a long landing, which my mother was permitted to attempt to "heat" for half an hour before bedtime with the aid of a small, blisteringly hot electric bar fire. The three vicious-looking orange bars of this remarkably ineffectual device would hum ominously as it singed the 2 feet of air directly in front of it, relieving none of the damp, tomb-like chill from the remainder of the room but somehow creating an illusion of warmth by radiating a strong odour of scorched hair into the atmosphere. One by one, we'd stand and defrost our rigid pyjamas and bed socks in front of the glowing bars. Despite the shivering, the ritual had a cosy, ceremonious feel to it, as if we were gathering around to toast chestnuts. Then we'd shed single articles of daytime clothing and precipitously cram the thus disrobed body parts into our pre-softened garments before the heat could disperse into the air; then it was time to make way for the next family member to repeat the ritual. My parents would take up their nightly quarters in a double bed and my brother and I went top-to-tail in a single one that was positioned crosswise at the foot of theirs.

At night, we all wore more layers of clothing than we did during the day. My own nightwear ensemble comprised a thermal vest, a t-shirt, a pair of fluffy Snoopy pyjamas, a wollen jumper, a dressing gown, two to three pairs of socks and fingerless gloves with mittens over the top. One of the main problems I remember encountering - apart from the impossibility of keeping the tip of one's nose warm while still eliciting a sufficient supply of oxygen - was knowing that once I was ready for bed, I'd be so densely trussed in overlapping layers that if I got an itch, there'd be no chance of scratching myself until morning.

During the daytime, my brother and I used like to snuggle down in the dogs' beanbag beds in front of the Aga. We'd lure them out with enticing toys, rustling bags and playful bouncing. Then, as soon as they were up and looking about themselves expectantly, we'd dive into their pre-warmed imprints and attempt to persuade the still joyfully confused creatures to lie on top of us. Under the dogs was the snuggest place we ever found in the building.

So many of my memories of the castle are associated with the cold, even though there must have been an equal proportion of summer days then as there has ever been. It is as though a whole volume of my reminiscences has been retrospectively frosted.

Here comes another: I remember my father walking into the kitchen and seeing me sitting at the table, doing my middle-school homework in fingerless gloves, a woolly hat and a scarf. He looked at me and said, "Zora, child, what are you wearing all that for? That's ridiculous! It's boiling in here!"

I looked up at him and replied, quite dreamily, "When you talk, I can see steam coming out of your mouth."

And I remember that when he replied, he spoke while breathing in instead of breathing out. He said, "You're exaggerating," and left the room on tiptoe, still holding in his breath.

Another occasion I remember clearly was a Sunday in church. My brother and I were in the choir (in fact, it would be more accurate to say that we were the choir, there being no further members). Being the choir, we were required to take communion before the rest of the congregation. On the day in question, the vicar took us aside in the vestry, just after the service, and instructed us to the effect that we should remove our gloves to take communion. To illustrate his point, he said, "You wouldn't eat a meal at home with your gloves on."

I laughed out loud, no doubt quite bitterly for one so young in years, and said, "Oh but I do - and with a hat and a scarf as well!"

He stared aghast, not at our faces, but at our starched white neck ruffles, in a state of dumbstruck disbelief. Then my brother piped up and said, "It's true. I wear mine to eat as well."

The vicar's face remained rigid. He now seemed to be glaring in abstracted reproval at a thread that dangled from a button half-way down my brother's cassock. Feeling unsure of the exact nature and severity of the sin I was rebutting, I tried nonetheless to clarify matters with the emphatic protest, "You have to at our house or the forks would freeze your fingers!"

He continued to glower at the black thread for several mute seconds during which my brother and I shrugged at each other in bemusement, and then, coming to himself with a lurch of concentration, said, rather gruffly, "Yes. Well. All the same... you cannot partake of glory with your gloves on, you know. It just won't do."

Amen to that.

Friday 24 June 2011

The Creation of Pola-Girl

Readers, this is all rather confusing. Here is the story so far: yesterday, I stabbed right into my hand with a scapel while trying to open some Polaroids. I had dropped the scalpel and it had fallen sideways onto my legs, and as I reached down for it, it somehow simultaneously flipped up with the blade pointing skywards. It was so sharp that it slid right into the skin of my palm without the least resistance and - at least while it was going in - without the slightest warning twinge of pain. The entire blade was embedded, just below my ring finger. At this point, I said "Ow!" And then I had to grasp the shaft, twist my face into a grimace and yank it out like an arrow-struck 1950s cowboy. The blood spurted everywhere. It was all rather satisfyingly dramatic.

My hand seems to be working fine today, luckily, but now I am having disturbing thoughts about what might be going on underneath the plaster I stuck over my palm - I mean, now that the Polaroid chemicals on the blade have entered my bloodstream. I mean, especially now, when the world is post-Fukushima and the Polaroid in question was probably a little bit radioactive. I mean, we all know what happens when radioactive things bite you.

What I'm wondering is, when I peel off the plaster, will a picture have developed on the skin beneath it? A picture of what? Of an approaching scalpel? How scary is that? And where exactly does it all go from there? Do I end up turning into a freaky (but aesthetically fascinating) superhero with photosensitive skin? Will my skin start developing images of everything that happened in front of it two minutes ago? Will caustic paste ooze from my feet? How do I set my aperture (and do I really want to know the answer to that one?) Also, when I take off my clothes, will my breasts look like a picture of the inside of my bra? And exactly how will this help me catch criminals?

I am more than a little concerned now, Readers, because if I am actually going to transform into Pola-Girl, the only practical crime-fighting use I can come up with for my imminently burgeoning superhuman gifts is the option of using my remarkable photosensitive skin to take evidential pictures of miscreants, viz by tearing off some clothes and flashing them whilst they are in flagrante delicto. This in itself will be somewhat embarrassing - not to mention illegal; and not to mention draughty - but the main problem here is that such heroic deeds will surely ultimately lead to me being subpoenaed and compelled to stand up naked in court as evidence for the prosecution: "Would the jury please be so good as to examine Exhibit Z?" So, as I said above, it is all more than a little confusing.

Monday 20 June 2011


I'm quite jealous of Oscar Wilde. I'm sure he must have had all manner of hangers-on who scuttled around him constantly, eagerly harvesting all his best quotes for posterity. I wish I had a little man to follow me round with a notebook. Because I can't possibly jot down all my own pithy nuggets for humankind. I'm far too busy. (And generally too drunk to wield a pencil when I say them. And too wieldy to drink a pencil when I don't.)

So would anyone out there like the job? Today, for example, you would have written down the following gems:

"Testicles are like diamonds. You can never have too many of them and when you have lots, it's lovely to plunge your hands into a bucket of them and feel them slipping over your outstretched fingers."


"I would name a girl after the place of conception, in the manner of pop stars' brats. So basically, Fallopia or possibly Endometria, depending on your precise definition of conception.


"It must be before 11, because my hand still smells of cock."


"Chuh! There'll be plenty time for monogamy when we're dead."

And finally:

"Excuse me but your testicles appear to be eating my sandwich."

(It was an exceptionally good day for testicles quotes.)