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.


Megan said...

Beautiful. Care-ful. Wierd is what we all are. Everybody, I think.

Anonymous said...

aye lass aye

Loulabelle.x* said...

I stumbled accross your blog a few days ago and when I read this post I found myself identifying with it. I notice the "weird" things that nobody else seems to even think about, too.

But I'd rather be a little weird than the same as every other person in the world.

Lovely blog :)

annie clarkson said...

Thank you x