Monday, 31 August 2009

Friday, 21 August 2009

Love an Iceberg, Hate a Sack

I put my shoes on. I put my shoes on and ran outside in the sunshine in the middle of the day. They were snug. I’d pulled the laces taught, but not too tight. These were not new shoes. I’d had them eight months or so. I’d worn them pretty much every day. I run and walk a lot. They’d seen a lot of wear. They had become an extension of me. They were beyond comfortable.

I didn’t think of my shoes often. Everyday shoes - you don’t really, do you? After I got home from running, I placed my shoes next to the door, as always. I decided to have a beer. I sat down on the couch and put the radio on. Before I knew it, I had drifted off.

I woke up about five o’clock, surprised. I felt groggy. I try not to sleep in the afternoons. It messes my body up.

I wanted a cup of tea, but I needed milk. I would go to the shop. I went to the door to get my shoes. They weren’t there. Now I thought about my shoes.

The door was locked. No sign that it had been tampered with. I’d owned the house for ten years. As far as I knew, no one else had a set of keys. I had changed the locks shortly after buying the house. I had one spare set, which were still in their place in the kitchen draw, as always.

This didn’t stop me from going to the shops. I own two other pairs of shoes. I went to my bedroom and put on my work shoes, went out and bought the milk.

The next day I bought some suitable replacements for the shoes that had vanished. I racked my brains for the next few weeks. What had happened to my shoes? I searched the house. There was nowhere else I would have put them except by the front door.

Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that this would be one of life’s unsolved mysteries. Although I’d been fond of the shoes, I was not sentimental. They were only shoes, and there was equally good footwear out there.

In fact, I was very pleased with the replacement shoes that I had purchased. Six or seven months down the line, they had fully adjusted themselves to accommodate my feet in a satisfying embrace. One morning, I went for a swim. It was a glorious day. The sun shone. When home, I placed my shoes by the front door, as always.

I went to my study to write some letters I had been putting off. A half hour later, I was procrastinating. I went to the kitchen to make some coffee. On the way to the kitchen, passing through the hallway, I glanced at my shoes. This had become a habit, to reassure myself that they were still there. I returned to my study to procrastinate a bit more while I waited for the coffee to go through the machine, listening to it burble and bop.

Twenty minutes later I returned to the kitchen for my coffee.

Again, in the hallway I glanced at the space by the door. There were no shoes there. Perplexed, I stood staring at the spot. I was slightly unnerved. I stood there a long while. I did not try to think of explanations - I had done this the first time. I thought about the police. It would be best not to bother them with a case of missing shoes.

I telephoned a good friend. They were sympathetic, but of course were unable to offer an explanation for the disappearance of the shoes.

So, I bought another pair. This time, I also fixed a bell to my door, to help make sure that someone was not gaining access to my house when I wasn’t looking.

A few weeks later, on another sunny day, I was in the park reading the Saturday paper. At some point, I closed my eyes and dozed off. When I woke up shortly after, I noticed my feet felt different. There was a small breeze tickling them. I was not wearing my shoes. I had certainly been wearing them before I fell asleep. I looked around. No sign of them. Not on the ground, nor other people’s feet or in their hands. I took off my socks and walked home barefoot.

This continued to happen every few months at irregular intervals. Sometimes at home, as before, but other places too. At the swimming pool I placed my shoes at the bottom of my locker. When I returned, the shoes were no longer there. Other times the shoes vanished from my feet, but not always even waiting for me to fall asleep. One time I had been on a long train journey. I had been awake the whole time. As the train pulled into the station of my destination I looked at my feet. No shoes.

I considered seeing a psychiatrist. But even if was suffering from mental problems, this would not account for the whereabouts of my shoes.

This eventually became routine in itself. The disappearance of every pair of shoes that I bought became everyday in itself. I thought nothing of it.

This continued for many years.

One day, I was on the beach. It was a sunny day. I was with a partner I’d met in the years of missing shoes. She had gone down to the waters edge for a paddle. I’d stayed with our stuff, on the blanket where we’d parked ourselves near the dunes. I watched her paddle.

As I sat there a phrase entered my mind.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

A flash of an image in my mind.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

I closed my eyes. The sun still glared after I’d shut them, fuzzing my head.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

I saw my shoes, all lined up in a row.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

All the ones that had gone missing, ones I’d forgotten, lined up in my mind. They sat there in perfect detail, as that phrase repeated itself in my mind.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

I didn't feel any emotion. They were just shoes.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

None of my shoes went missing after that.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

I try not to think too hard about it.

Wise Old Bird

Wise Old Bird

This is a link to a beautifully written obituary for my grandmother, who died recently. It is written by my cousin Hannah. She is a Wise and dearly missed Wise Old Bird.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


round again, we spill down the walls, paint or blood, down to a droopy puddle upon the floor, to be stepped in barefoot.
wait outside, no one says.
it’s sunny, there is no furniture.
the floor is bare wood.
there is grass outside.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

It's Not Always Like This

Couldn’t think straight any more. Sitting on the bus with so many people relieved to be out of work, on the bus after waiting too long… the jabbering, rustling leaves prickling my brain. Sometimes I sat there with a notepad, to write the thoughts I’d saved up during the day. But when it came to it, I didn’t have any thoughts more often than not.
I’d sit with a blank page. Some times words came out here and there. Like garlic pushed through a press, most of the garlic left squashed inside, trapped in the corners.
Getting off the bus. I fell into town. I walked fast. Nobody catch me.
The man come split down from sky. In the rain,
like glass. Split. The man came down spilt.
I stood in the rain spilt.
I couldn’t think no more.
He didn’t help me, just looked.
Day to day. The rain came down, in the shower, radox in my mouth, towel on my eyes.
My friend shouted at me in my sleep for not photographing ninjas with big swords when I got the chance. I had nothing to say to that. In circles we went in the field. I thought of ice - of a snow, a field in a time in the edge of my skull
Breakfast will always be breakfast. My legs are always walking out of the door, while I float on top, not paying attention.

It’s not always like this.

Ruff Draft

No one told Daniel the danger. He hadn’t understood that part of it.

People had been standing on a plinth in town. Anyone could apply to do so. It was an art piece. People got dressed up. Some people didn’t and just stood there as if waiting for the train home. Some protested. Some shouted poetry. Some preached. Some just sat and read a book.

But no one had told Daniel of the danger.

Part of the art of the piece was that at some point it would finish without warning and whoever was standing there at the time would become one with the plinth. That is, their skin would turn to bronze; they would become a statue. No one knew when this would happen, not even the artist who had conceived the idea. This was all on the application forms, but Daniel never read these things properly, he just signed where it asked him to.

He had applied under a false identity. He applied to stand on the plinth to imagine how it would be to be a statue. Not an important one - a forgotten statue blended in with everyone’s day to day. He decided for anonymity. So he applied under the false identity, and when it came to it, he wore a mask of unremarkable features to cover his face and wore everyday clothes. He planned to appear as boring as possible so that no one would pay attention to him. And so, a few months after he had applied, Daniel was standing on the plinth in the main square of the town. He stood as still as possible, head slightly tilted so that he could see the passers by below.

At first there were a lot of people stopping to stare, waiting to see what this new arrival would be doing. As the day went on, and Daniel didn’t show any signs of doing anything entertaining, less people paid attention. Daniel started to feel the beginnings of success in his intensions. He looked at the heads of the people passing below, the buses stopping and starting at the various stops, cars shuffling around the traffic lights.

A pigeon landed on his head at one point, cooing gently. Daniel didn’t do anything to discourage the pigeon. He stopped focusing on one thing in particular, but tried to absorb everything around him. He breathed in deeply, the traffic fumes, the breath of the city, filling his nostrils. The white noise of the constant movement all around washed through him. He felt the flow of everything - the rise and fall of the rush. He was so absorbed in everything that he lost consciousness of time. He didn’t think anything of the sun going down, had no measure of time between the sky going dark and becoming light again.

It was the next morning , near the end of rush hour. No one at all looked at Daniel now. As the hubbub below began to slow a little, it suddenly occurred to Daniel that he had been standing on the plinth all night.

As his body tried to move, he felt his skin begin to harden. At first he thought it might just be the affect of having stood in the same position for so long. But looking at his hands, he saw that they had turned the colour of bronze.

Alarmed, Daniel tried to move again. His mind ran in circles. It was like his brain had forgotten how to send commands out to his body.

He strained to call out, but not only could he not open his mouth, he failed to make any sounds inside. In fact, he wasn’t even breathing.

There was nothing he could do. He wondered how long it would be before the organisers would realize and rescue him. If they could. But no one came. Well, they did, but only for journalists to take photos and point television cameras at him. After that, no one really paid him much attention. He was left with his thoughts. Which often returned to the story of the Happy Prince. But he had no gold leaf. And none of the pigeons that perched on his shoulders and did their business on him seemed to be wanting to make conversation.

After a few months, verging on insanity, he decided it would be best to just give up and absorb the general goings on around him, become one with the flow of the town, leave conscious thought as far away as he could.

So Daniel felt the wind blowing past him, the cycle of the days and sounds below becoming a song, endless variations repeated day after day after day. Time passes. A lot of it. Years. He stands on the plinth, weathered and forgotten. People sometimes stop and look up at him. They wonder who he is meant to be, this ordinary looking man. He is no one that they recognise. They shrug inwardly and slip back into the stream that surrounds them.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Harry and Sam

My friends, Harry and Sam -

They stumbled into each other as they came around the corner from opposite directions. Harry and Sam stared at each other in surprise. They looked each other up and down.

They were both covered in paint all over; on their skin, in their hair and on their clothes. Paints of all different colours.

It was the first they had seen of each other since their cat, Boomer, had died of old age. They had lived together. They had been deeply in love. But this had changed when Boomer died. They didn’t say anything about his death to each other.

Sam decided she would never go back home after work, the day the cat died. She would never go back again. She left everything behind and moved to the sea.

Harry decided he would never go back home after work, the day the cat died. He would never go back again. He left everything behind and moved to the sea.

As they stood on the corner, they both had that feeling that sometimes seizes you all the way through as you look in the mirror and don’t recognise what you see looking back at you. Everything tumbles and your spirit strains against the confines of your body.

Still standing there, Harry and Sam embraced, their cheeks sticking together from the paint.

Their hearts beat in unison and they closed their eyes and floated through everything. Their separate thoughts sat side by side, unknown. They opened their eyes. They went to the beach and had a memorial for the cat. They stayed by the sea and looked for new jobs.