Saturday, 25 February 2012


When I leave the office, I walk out onto a small industrial car park surrounded by an eight foot high metal fence, and outside the fence there are red brick mills all around, with gigantic chimneys, and fire escapes that run down ten or more floors, and hundreds of mill windows that are no longer lit because the mills are empty mostly, and the shells of these mills stand as silhouettes in the Manchester dusk sky. Always, when I leave work there is a sense of quiet (perhaps in me). There are shadows everywhere. The waste ground on the other side of the fence runs along the side of the canal. Beyond the waste ground is the Manchester cityscape, and often the dusk sky is breathtaking, a dramatic sky of indigo and azure with backlit clouds hanging over the buildings in a kind of menacing way. I'm the last person to leave the office, so I switch off the lights and lock the doors, and turn round to find the most dramatic sky. I think, that's a S**** ******* sky (insert ex-lover's name). I laugh at myself for even thinking this. I drive over the Mancunian Way towards home and the light is stunning. It reflects in all the windows of the office buildings at the side of the flyover, this stunning sky with its dramatic shadows and varying shades of blue, and I have to smile, because there's no doubt in my mind this is a S**** ******* sky, even though the sky belongs to no person. It's the only way I can think to describe it, and as I drive my car down the slip road (obviously focusing on the road, but) getting lost in this sunset, I know that he is on a similar road in a landscape with mills in shadow taking a photograph of this very same sky.

I sit in my car in the Northern Quarter in the dark past midnight and listen to a new friend tell me that I'm weird, how I weird people out sometimes. There are three people he names, all people who have met me through one or several literature events. I sit in the driver's seat and without realising it I am hunched over, almost hugging the steering wheel as if in brace position. I am listening, to him tell me about my weirdness, while a man further down the street drunk out of his head shouts I love you I love you and bottles are dropped in an industrial size bin. The car windows are misted with condensation and it's February so it's cold. He says, I don't mind it, I like you for being weird. But, it's hard to listen. I feel as if I don't want to go to these places where I sit on the edges of peoples conversations, feeling awkward and not fitting in and being told afterwards that people have mentioned how weird I am. I realise I'm almost hugging the steering wheel and adjust myself. I make a joke about it and wonder if this is weird. We talk about other things and laugh, but it's late now. I want to go home. The door thuds as he leaves the car.

I open the gate to the allotments, it's a big metal seven foot gate with a padlock as big as my hand, and a big metal chain. I survey my allotment. It's not flooded as it has been for the past four weeks. It's earth and decay and rows of leeks and cabbages under nets and bare fruit bushes waiting for Spring. I haul over a filled to the brim caddy of waste vegetable peels and lift off the compost bin lid so I can struggle to lift the weight of the caddy high enough to drop in. It unleashes a stink or rotten food. I shove my feet into wellies and walk the length of the plot to carry an armful of eight foot long stalks from my Jerusalem artichokes. They are dried out enough to be able to crush and splinter and break into pieces and drop into the bin to rot down with the food. I breathe. I breathe properly for the first time in a week, really fill my lungs and feel my belly expand as I realise I'm starting to relax. I fetch a spade and a fork. They're still dirty from last time. The wooden handle of the spade is smooth from all the unknown hands that have worked with it. I bought it second hand and the edge of the spade is worn and thin, but I like working with an old spade, somehow it feels right. I cut an edge along the side of the path, cutting through the tangle of couch grass roots. I start to turn over the soil with the fork, it's compacted and heavy and each time I lift the fork I can feel a strain in the muscles in my shoulders and arms. I'd almost forgotten what it feels like to dig, even though it's only been six weeks. I dig for two hours. Steady, stopping for breath, and to unwind my scarf from my neck as it's hot work. I tie back my hair. I keep digging. I stop for water and to talk to Michael the preacher who brings me a block of soil think with comfrey roots. I stop to speak to Dublin Ann about potatoes. I keep digging.

I get in my car outside the sports centre. I've been skating, although the boots were heavy and dug into my feet so I mostly watched people skate past. People with tattoos and coloured hair and sparkly tights and short skirts. I watch people skate backwards and weave in and out of each other and laugh. I sti on a bench with a friend and chatter. Outside the sports centre, my phone makes a noise. It's a text message from a friend. We sent a few texts today. I asked her if she thinks I'm weird. She tells me she doesn't think of me like that. I sit in the car outside the sports centre and I read the text. It says I'm special. I drive home and get caught in the football traffic, but I don't mind. I cut through the back roads, through a housing estate, an industrial estate, past the same mills near my office. It's dark now, and everywhere there are windows, hundreds of them, their lights casting shadows on the street, and everywhere is quiet, no people about, just square windows of light that hide people who are weird. Or special. Or special and weird.

Maybe I'm weird because I notice things, because I ask questions, because I'm not good at trivial talk, because my job is intense so I carry some of that, because I'm passionate about things other people aren't passionate about, because I live alone, and have lived alone for a long time, because I get anxious sometimes, because I feel uncomfortable in certain situations and sit on the edges of conversations that other people seem to find easy, because I want to write about four things that are unconnected and yet feel as if they belong together in this blog post, because I want to understand things other people don't even notice, because I spend time with people who are my kind of weird, if I am weird, people who don't think of me as weird, who like me just the way I am.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Getting it wrong...

Today, I was very hurtful to another person, not deliberately, but all the same, I was thoughtless and the way I behaved was incredibly hurtful.

This person is someone I value so much, who has always given me kindness and support and opportunity, so I feel ashamed of myself and lost as to why I would be like this. I can't think of an adequate reason. It was just hurtful. I did it. And there really isn't an excuse.

I'm not sure what the right thing to do following something like this, because I'm not often a shit bag.

Of course, I can be moody and difficult and not the best company. Like most people, I can have little huffs, or  upset people accidentally when I don't realise and I no doubt get on peoples nerves because I'm a certain kind of person with my own particular set of difficulties and flaws.

But today, I was downright hurtful and horrible, and all day I've struggled with the thought of how awful this person must have felt because of me.

I've tried to apologise, but saying sorry is so inadequate. My behaviour can't be undone and the hurt has already set out on its journey. I can't take that back.

And now I'm wondering what a person like me needs to do /should do / can do in order to try and make things right?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

V Day poem...

Last year, I was just falling in love and wrote this poem for my friend Vanessa who was a little heart broken. The love I found last year ended and I've been recovering for past months, And V has fallen in love again with a proper decent bloke, which she so deserves.

I thought I might post this video of me reading our poem, because there is a little crack of sadness today, but also a smile because for me Valentine's Day is not just about being in love it's about the love we don't have yet, the love we left behind and the love we imagine for ourselves...

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A Break in the Storm

This is one of my favourite places in Manchester - it's called Kim-by-the-Sea. I took my self for a late lunch one day last week. There was hardly anyone there. I went in and sat by the window here, and read my book for an hour or more and ate avocado salad and home-cooked chips and drank rooibos tea.

It was after a fairly perfect morning with my friend Sally. We both skipped work in the middle of the week and met in a hotel in Manchester for a morning lounging by the pool in bikinis. I sat in the sauna and soaked and then plunged in the pool and sauna and pool. It was a little bit of heaven overlooking a very grey Manchester car park, and we were inside warm and lounging on poolside beds. And then a full body massage, which left me almost dreamily relaxed.

We went and looked round Sally's gorgeous new studio, in Islington Mill, which is a gorgeous old mill. I have no reason to have a studio, but I felt quite jealous of her gorgeous white-painted space, and wish I had spare money so I could just get one and put a desk in the middle of the studio and a chair and write. I left her to unpack and settle in while I came to my cafe where I sat by this window with Suite Francaise.

Most of my days at the moment are crazy, adrenalin fuelled and filled with people and tasks, and I jam-pack everything in, so it was good to just let it all go for a day and properly relax.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

That Critical Voice

I've been trying to write a story for... I don't know how long. I suppose the idea originated in September, and I worked on it for a while, did some research and got enthused about it. But life got in the way. I had some difficulties with it, and decided that even though the subject matter excited me, there was something about this story I was just not ready to write. Maybe it was the timing, or difficulties in my life, or something about my understanding about the topic. So, I stopped.

I picked it up again two weeks ago and started working on the same story again, but from a different angle. I've hammered a lot of hours and research into this story, and have written over 6000 words.

Now I've got That Critical Voice in the back of my head talking to me constantly as I'm trying to work on it. It says, not good enough, not good enough, not good enough, on repeat. And no matter how rational I try to be, or patient, or just sometimes plain ignoring it, the voice seems to rise up louder and louder and louder.

I've reached a point now where I need to put the story aside again, because I can't switch off The Critical Voice, and it's become difficult to determine whether the story has potential or not.

I'm not sure whether every writer experiences this from time to time, or whether this is something that only I battle with.

Hoping that tomorrow I can find a more supportive and nurturing inner voice that might encourage me to finish the story before I miss the deadline!