To Absent Friends

Ah, there you are. Very good. My, isn’t it cold out?

So not only do I adamantly refuse to go away, I also refuse to make sense.

I’ve been in the lovely but freezing city of Edinburgh this week, and so, while this one wasn’t actually intended as such, it could pass as an elegy for a city I have come to call home. London, for all its facelessness, is one of the only places on earth that can draw this type of reverie out of me.

For London, Whenever I May Find Her

Today this city is torn in time.
This vast, beautiful, ungainly
Heffalump of a city
By seeming older is made younger.

The sheets of rain cascade down
The sides of the old towers and the new,
Eroding as they go the twin ravages of age
And modernity.

Gloved and hatted old men watch it happen;
Mittened and galoshed children splash through the puddles,
Which will soon be the only reminders that it ever happened at all.

But while the puddles, the men and even the children will be gone before long,
Always, always, the city remains.


‘Your name froze on the winter air
An empty bench in Soho Square
Forgotten now I turn away
Just save me for a rainy day.’
Kirsty MacColl, ‘Soho Square’

Sorely missed.


Only Questions

After the euphoria and relief of last Tuesday night, it was inevitable something would happen somewhere to remind us all of just how screwed the world is. Enter Uganda and its unspeakably barbaric ‘Kill the Gays’ bill, which has got me so angry that when I finish this post I might have to go outside and shout at a church. Exit faith in humanity (pursued by a bear).

That little cry of despair is a good segue into the pieces I want to share with you here. They are what happens when a mind begins turning in on itself.

Out Of A Clear Blue Sky
Where did that come from?

How did I wind up so consumed
By unreasoning paranoia,
Plotting responses to barbed questions nobody has
The slightest intention of asking me,
That even sleep is an impossibility?
It came on suddenly, it must have done.
Yet it seems to have lasted hours, days,
So long that I can scarcely remember what it means
To feel, to be otherwise.

The hours pass,
But the agonies do not.

Dawn breaks,
But this most vicious of circles will not.


The Unbearable Lightness Of Being Me
Where did I leave me?
I feel like I have put me down somewhere and cannot recall where;
Or have I mixed me up with the takeaway menus
And the packaging of yesterday’s dinner
And thrown myself away?

In my place…what? Not a void,
Not an impostor; a husk.
Leached of life, this desiccated object wearing out my clothes
And wasting my voice is beyond help.

I, the last known abode of me

Must give up the chase,
Leave happiness
To those who are whole and true
And instead must aspire only to understand and to accept.

Perhaps, in fact, someone is holding me hostage.
I can only hope that my suffering shall suffer
The ransom to be paid.


‘And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’
-John Donne, Meditation XVII

That elegant exhortation to us to retain our common humanity was written by a clergyman…in the 17th century. So much for progressive faith.

No Recipes Today, Alas

Today, dear reader, you find me frustrated that in these days of permanent turbo-democracy even a natural disaster becomes a question for the pollsters and rent-an-opinions. Apparently Washington is now the city that never sleeps.

This humble offering is an observation that’s been gathering dust somewhere in my head, hitherto only half-confronted and half-expressed. In truth, this one probably could have done with me breaking my ‘no rewrites’ rule. We live and learn.


Suit You, Sir
We, the teeming hordes of the semi-trained and semi-educated,
Learn quite early on to go through life cocooned in protective cloaks of inferiority.


What exactly are they, we, hiding from?
There’s a million and one things
Worth protecting ourselves from,
But it seems the one we fear most of all
Is us.

Our own judgments,
Our too-faint praises and too-harsh criticisms,
Those are the ones that stick.

We do care what the next man thinks,
But, for once, let’s not kid ourselves:
We clothe ourselves so not to deny our shame to him, but to hide it from us.
After all, you can’t insult me if I’ve insulted myself first.

These cloaks are damned uncomfortable.
But we don’t half look good in them.


Your quote apropos of nothing for today comes from the mighty pen of Carl Sagan. No, not the one about apple pie.

‘The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses.’
Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science