Call me Kuchu

The night after I attended a screening called Call Me Kuchu at Somerset House, I set about writing about it straight away. So in awe was I, so moved and distressed and enlightened all at once, that I came at the keys like a madwoman. Yet the minute I sat down to write, I was engulfed – I couldn’t write. I couldn’t write a thing. I wasn’t sure how I could do any justice to a documentary that sought to undo so many injustices; I was terrified that I’d just be mawkish at best and patronising at my worst, so I left it a while.

Of course, every second that I left it, even a split second longer, there was some sort of authorial concern that I wouldn’t record things straight, that I would miss a detail – no matter how slight: the jut of a chin, a deft curling of fingers, the flirt of a hip – some deft movement that instilled an entire litany of feeling without any words even being spoken. What if I forgot about it?

I did not. In fact, I thought about it more and more from day to day. The finer details became finer. The names and the faces of the protagonists of this terrible and beautiful documentary entrenched themselves upon my psyche. They dug deep and settled, jocular entities flitting in and out of my periphery, and thank God they did – for they are there to stay and I would loathe to bid them a farewell; forever.

Call Me Kuchu is An American film documentary by Katharine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall. Made in 2012, the documentary explores the deep-seated and institutionalised homophobia in Uganda – and how the LGBTI community endlessly strive to wage war against it. Of course, you couldn’t talk about homophobia in Uganda without focussing on the irrepressible David Kato. ‘Kuchu’ is Ugandan slang for ‘queer’. And if you ever wanted a man to represent ‘queerness’ and for Uganda, you couldn’t have asked for a better man. Kato embraces ‘kuchu’, and without shame. Kato has paved a road, one which I hope many, many people will take to and follow, shamelessly.

Kato was, of course, brutally murdered in 2011, before the documentary was aired. Knowing the ending before it’s happened makes the viewing experience no easier.

‘Call Me Kuchu’ is a document that should be watched by everyone so I don’t want to dissect it in detail, except to explore a number of elements that made the film so extraordinary. That homophobia is latent in Uganda is no secret – it gained international traction in 2010 when the [deluded] David Bahati decreed that the Ugandan government were planning to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The Bill instigated that homosexuality was illegal, and that ‘outed’ gays were ultimately game for the death sentence by hanging. Furthermore, the Bill decreed that anyone found guilty of knowing someone who was gay, or of ‘aiding and abetting’, were also in danger of arrest.

Rolling Stone Magazine played a particularly gruesome role in this whole sorry affair. It’s insidious editor, Gile Muhame, bathed in the spotlight, proud of his place in ‘punishing the gays’.  Publishing pictures, names, incitement to ‘let the police know of their whereabouts’, incited a terrible fear – like the whir of drones above one’s head – never knowing when it might drop and demolish. Rolling Stone, under the misinformed aegis of Muhame, gathered enough traction to destroy anyone who was gay.  Muhame was 22 years old, in 2010, a year before Kato was killed.

Rolling Stone also did a really great and  pathetic job of negatively politicising the LGBTI community, making vague affiliations with the Lords Resistance Army, al-Shabaab and the Allied Democratic Forces during and after the July 2010 Kampala terrorist attacks. (Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks, incidentally, in retaliation for the Ugandan support of AMISOM.)

All this said, Kato and his friends are a joy to behold. Witty, erudite, passionate and articulate. Whilst watching a shitty pastor demonizing him, he shouts at the TV: shut up, you ugly poo! This incites a laugh among the audience. In fact, most of the LGBTI protagonists in this film incited laughter in the audience, providing a brief relief from the ugly reality of their struggle. Furthermore, their capacity to joke, to take the piss out of themselves, to laugh at each other, was not only deeply humanising but proof of an extraordinary collective strength.

One of the elements of the film that I found to be most profound was how each and every LGBTI individual said to the camera, at least once, unreserved and matter of fact: this is who I am. There were no apologies, there was no pretence. I was born this way. In a society so restrictive and bound to draconian ideologies, this struck me as particularly awesome. The LGBTI continued to give two fingers to everyone who raged against them.

The situation of Stosh, in particular, lends itself to the cruel madness of homophobic thought. ‘Curatively’ raped at the age of 14, by a ‘friend’, her relatives conceded that she ‘must have consented’. She became pregnant, which was then – with little concern for the well-being of Stosh – induced and aborted at 5 months so that Stosh gave birth to a dead child. She then later discovered that she was HIV positive. Stosh still does not deny who she is. Quiet and unassuming, Stosh forms yet another block of strength of part of this put-upon community.

There is one glorious – and it is absolutely glorious scene – before the inevitable, before Kato is killed. All these fantastic gay men sashay down a a makeshift catwalk, the colour of lust and earth, Stosh DJ’s, and Gay David wins. Then next thing we know, the illustrious Kato has been murdered.

The scenes to follow during his funeral, unceremoniously disrupted by a parsimonious pastor, claiming ‘Kato, he will go to Hell’,  before being re-commandeered by one of Kato’s party – be-dreaded and wonderful, had me wrapping my scarf around most of my face to  suppress wracking sobs. I was weeping at Kato’s death, anyway, and then this woman, this extraordinary woman, grabbed the mic, saying: ‘he will make his own way’. That’s when I really lost it. Only because she was right,  and as everybody wept for Kato, and at the same time the people who are I suppose are lost started shrieking and this woman, she kept hold of the microphone – in a t-shirt with David’s face on it, and she fought over the pastor and made more of her words.

Part of the incredulity beholden to this documentary is the understanding that not all campaigning will fall foul of bureaucratic inertia, that the strength and courage of any number of individuals will do more than hold sway. Here the sway is held by the men and the women that have more than the courage – I don’t know what the word is – the ferocity, the tenacity, the veracity, the capacity, the voraciousness for freedom and for justness, the temerity to challenge the system even with the threat of death – here are the people that should rule our fucking world. And if they even did, I have little doubt that our world would be a better place. Long live the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders, Intersexuals. Long live and long live them all. Long live David Kato.

http://callmekuchu.com/

https://twitter.com/callmekuchu

On Carpe Diem

Old Horace wasn’t one to mince his words, was he? Seize the day, put little trust in tomorrow. Of course the grander connotation of this pithy aphorism is less ‘go-forth-and-snatch-at-golden-opportunity’ more than ‘take-what-you-can-while-you-can’ because, sunshine, it ain’t gonna last.

Whatever way we look at Carpe Diem, Horace’s infamous apothegm has certainly inspired a fair few literary imaginations along the way, from Goethe to Hemingway. Hardly surprising given the bitter-sweet quiddity of the matter at hand: mindfulness in the eye of everything that is transitory. Above all, however, Carpe Diem is a caveat. It is a warning that if we do not live in the moment, that moment disappears and we’ve lost it. And that moment could have held one step, one turn of a newspaper page, one dropped penny, anything: all of which could have exploded a thousand other moments that dictated whether I’d ended up the happiest woman in the world. Or possibly the saddest.

Unfortunately, in this vein, my own grasp of Carpe Diem is a less flattering manifestation of ‘the one that got away’ sentiment. (Sigh). One moment I’m 20 years old, fresh faced and lost in the dreamy meta-landscape of Carpe Diem where everything and anything is possible, and then suddenly more than half a decade has frizzled into nothing and I find myself bound to a desk in the City, miserable, completely unable to crack the literary career as I’d always dreamed of. There must have been some Carpe Diems I’ve missed? What in the fresh hell is going on? Before you know it, a Carpe Diem becomes a groundhog Cark Diem and, zing, cue onset early midlife crisis at the age of 26.

The worst case scenario of the missed Carpe Diem is exactly what Horace is warning us against. Where we knowingly don’t Carpe the Diem, and you’re not really sure why; perhaps a bit of self-doubt intermingled with a ‘busy’ diary (read pub) and a vague sense of impending doom. Then, somebody else spots that same opportunity you did, and they Carpe, man. Then, right before your very eyes, the bastard rip-roars their way to steaming success and you remain where you ever were, but even worse off: full of vitriol, broke and probably on the brink of alcoholism/barbiturate/cupcake addiction etc., etc.

Lena Dunham has recently done this to me. Literally. I was thinking about submitting the first draft of a book about how being a not-very-successful-woman in your twenties is a series of blundering mistakes punctuated by songs like ‘Missed the Boat’ by Modest Mouse and disastrous relationships with completely psychotic men. Why didn’t I submit? Meh. I will, I told myself. Not soon enough, it seems. Old LD beat me to the post. The exact same thing happened a couple of years earlier when I self-published a book titled Fondue, Red Wine and Reprobates: Memoirs of a Chalet Host, and was told it would spout an excellent screenplay. Did I post a thousand copies to all the people I should have? Did-ly I squat. Then, a few years later: BAM. Chalet Girl, the movie. I didn’t respond to the news well. It’s hard to recollect but it’s possible I sunk a bottle of Cockburn’s Special Reserve whilst watching the trailer on Youtube on repeat.

Don’t Fear The Reaper (if s/he wields a Pen)

Let’s face it, square the Reaper right in the hollowed out face: my decision (and it was entirely my own, no twisting of arms, no elusive promises of gold) to visit an exhibition on Death at the Wellcome Collection – on a particularly drizzly Sunday afternoon, frazzled and particularly fraught (grâce à not one but two (!) bottles of Carpenter’s Arms overpriced-but-actually-dirt-cheap Haute Languedoc) – is evidence enough I deserve little sympathy. As Kingsley Amis lovingly reminds us in his excellent guide to Everyday Drinking: it is a hangover. You are not going to die. Yet having defeated the primary physical hangover (PH), warrior-like, braving the unholy Sunday Underground in the name of art, I have carelessly neglected the ramifications of a vicious and entirely unforgiving metaphysical hangover (MH). Instead of placating the latter – perhaps imbibing a strong bloody Mary spiked with a hefty measure of horseradish and listening to Waltz of the Valkyries on top volume – I have walked into Death: A Self-Portrait. For many, many reasons this is a terrible error.

Room 1 of offending exhibition is titled ‘Contemplating Death’. Room 3 is titled ‘Violent Death’. Room 5 is titled ‘Commemoration’ and before I know it, whilst quietly imagining my not-unflattering obituary (mournfully and huskily read aloud by Jeff Bridges), I have unceremoniously been wrenched from the numinous, only  to be confronted with the terror of my immediate mortality and the overwhelming sensation that in fact I might not make it out of the exhibition alive. I leave Room 1 full of fear and loathing and sweating palms, sure as hell by the time I enter Room 3 that my end is nigh, likely involving vehement convulsions and frothing at the lips. I won’t reach room 5, but it’s OK because it is there I will be correctly remembered, among a series of huge papier mache skulls decorated with bright yellow nasturtiums hanging from the walls.

Of course, I do not meet my violent death – not yet anyway. On leaving the exhibition (possibly stopping off at a pub nearby, possibly not) I am moved to consider something more immediate than my mortality. At the appositely termed ripe old age of 26 – oscillating between the variegating possibility of a banana (slightly green, then jaundiced, then irreparably bruised and unusable) – I have been forced to give much thought to my career, in life. A writer and an eldest child, I remember very well the look on my parents’ faces when I informed them that I will make a living out of words. A pair of medics, their silence informed me that, in one fell swoop, I had exploded their hopes of being well-looked after in old age, of their ever being treated to a luxury Alps trip, courtesy of uber-success of a power laywer daughter, that I’d committed career suicide before I’d even committed myself to career life.

Unfortunately the nature of the zeitgeist doesn’t currently pay favour to those inclined to wield a pen in the face of economic hardship. It becomes tricky, therefore, to endorse and indulge a career in the arts, specifically in the here and now. But a career in the arts is not suicide, it is the opposite, acutely. It is brazen and stupid, yes. But it is also a similarly acute manifestation of life,  in that it inspires a realisation of the here and now. If it were a death, as some people might have it, let us return to Kingsley – a thought to behold in torrid times where graduates can’t get a job and can’t afford a thing: Death has this much to be said for it: You don’t have to get out of bed for it/ Wherever you happen to be/ They bring it to you — free.

Food for thought, perhaps, when people think to lay the pen to rest. Let us keep potential death alive, friends. Do not put that pen to bed. Our words scrawled, possibly as palimpsests but never meaningless, will keep us alive. Whether they are ever recognised is irrelevant; words won’t make me money, but they will keep me mindful of things that deserve some kind of recognition for the time being. That is worth something, right?

Hey, I got some words, jumbled, rumbling, stumbling

somewhere, stored like butter in the freezer, sort of thought that if the words were cold it might be easier, but I ain’t sure that’s the truth. I’ve been aloof and through the roof and broken teeth too but that doesn’t really matter now,

I listen to the same song on repeat late at night and lament the fact that I’m lame and not strong and I still play the same song on repeat late at night, and man am I losing the will to fight it at all, all these frozen words stuck between picket fence teeth like some kind of funereal wreath and I’m spitting out the petals of white lilies feeling silly on the tube at 8 a.m. But I’m still listening to the same old song, wondering if I’m wrong, and to be honest, I no longer have any idea, you know when that old fear sets in, and you just wonder if you are terrifically mad

Or sad, or bad, or just dangerous to know, or just to have your mind in tow, like an ugly roof-wrack atop a car, storming through the violet night thinking this: no matter how far I get or go; it will be somewhere away from this terribly lonely place

We are no good at pacing ourselves; we like to scale the walls like knotweed, creeping knots and knee amongst the books and shelves and into our dreams, in the hour of the gloaming, where nothing gets in; except everything we hold onto falls out at the seams

If I could contain you in my own two hands I would, I would hold you tight and tell you this:

It’s not great but it’s alright

On my 30th, a love letter to my mother

If you’re reading this, it’s because I’ve turned 30 and I’ve just tossed my 20s into a cold, freezing river; a good place for them. A little watery death for some long and scary years, a place where I mostly felt quite lost and afraid and sceptical.

But don’t worry – if you’re reading this – it’s because I’ve turned 30 and I’m alive and what I really wanted to do on this day: 29th December 2016 at 7:16 p.m. (there is still the lost, afraid, sceptical part of me that worries I may not even be alive by the time this somehow gets posted) was to say thank-you, to my mother, PML: friend, confidante, army, protector, voice of reason, voice of madness, believer, incredible doctor, mother, human.

Firstly, you made me possible. That. You literally made me exist. Let us consider and digest that. My divine creator.

Then I was born, and for many years I was precocious and cute and silly. And then I turned 18 and I became your largest source of worry and concern and sleepless nights; 12 long years of that. Sorry.

My 20s were not all bad, but they weren’t all great. I struggled with demons like – I like to think – the best of us do. Surely, it’s not an honest rendition of yourself when telling a stranger that you are straight-laced, liked a daschund in a plaster cast; what you see is what you get. I don’t believe that for a second. I like to think I get that from you. You also let me know that it’s ok to make mistakes and get things wrong. When I have come to you and been like: literally I HAVE SO FUCKED UP – you’re like: possibly. Let’s consider it. And more or less invariably you tell me that I haven’t. I always leave your house feeling so much better, I’m not sure if you realise this.

I am not yet a mother, so I am unable to properly, fully empathise with you. To sit at your kitchen table with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and say, in the parlance of our inferiors: liderally WTF. FML. I mean hashtag even? Take a sip of coffee and cock eyebrows, be all like: ikr? (I know, right?)

You have been the world to me since I was born, that much we know. Every time I have swept in like a hurricane, with my mess, distraction/destruction and despair, you have been there. Always pragmatic, always reasonable; always scientific in how we manage things, step by step. When I thought my world was ending and I was beckoned by this roaring abyss, you offered bridges, ropes; a litany of get-out clauses – things that I would not have found on my own. Your words, arms, endlessness love.

When your own mother died this year, and we drove to the North in the driving rain, and then the motorway was closed, and then we drove through Watford like 18 times, I only survived that because of you. I mean we laughed about it but, come on. I was so devastated on so many levels. I was devastated for me but then of course I was devastated for you. I didn’t feel, as a daughter, that I could offer you the succour and support that you have so boundlessly offered me. And I miss my beloved nanny so very much.

So, on my 30th birthday, which I am hopefully spending in New York, if customs have let me in, which is yet to be discovered, but then again if you’re reading this, hopefully I have been allowed into the US with my surname and all the walls and shit like that) what I would like to say is this: to the woman who bore the full brunt of me,  literally from her loins: to my mother on my 30th birthday –

Thank-you for your endless love, support, friendship, good advice, even when I didn’t listen to it. Thank-you for everything mum. Forever and beyond. I love you.

Titanic T-20: Catastrophe, Mimesis and Theory

This Sunday past, the Moth Whisperer and I had vague – though grand – designs to schlep up to the movie theatre to see Damien Chazelle’s paenistic, Hollywood oeuvre Lala Land; starring the prismatic, unendingly effervescent diamond of a doe-eyed pair, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Have you ever melted so shamelessly into not one but two pairs of eyes, even more so than that one time you told your Uber driver that: “I want to know love, God knows I already know it, but I just put up emotional barriers, OHMYGOD CAN YOU TURN THIS SONG UP I JUST LOVE HUNGRY EYES” (Taxi post: 1 Corpse Reviver, 8 glasses of wine – possibly a beer? The rest’s a kamikaze parabooze into oblivion).

The weather was positively beatnik. Leaden clouds with rain coming down like the dancing, loose-limbed vaudevillians of the silent era. Everything black and white and strangely quiet; everything hurrying past the window pane in the stop-start motion of a zoetrope.

We did not make the cinema. Lala Land was sold out.

So the Moth Whisperer took to bed as if some Brontean anti-heroine (“to work”)

Black malignancies glued inside the ribcage like wasps’ nests/ bubbled lungs and degraded splints of bone, bladderwrack washed up [Martha Sprackland; Hunterian Tryptich]

Yadda yadda yadda

I took to the kitchen. So to watch […] Titanic on Netflix in 2017, aged 30. Twenty, whole years and sunken boats, since the first screening, where I queued up around the block.

So here are some thoughts on this timeless, movie masterpiece, 20 years after it was first released.

  • It is simply amazing the number of snappy one liners I remember.
    • “Oh yes. The woman in the picture is me.”
    • “Don’t be absurd!”
    • “These drawings are really rather good.”
    • “Who is Freud anyway? Is he a passenger?”
    • “So – d’ya wanna go to a real party?”
    • “So, you think you’re all tough men?”
    • “Not without you!”
    • “I’d rather be his whore than your wife!”
    • “I put the diamond in the coat. I put the coat on her!”
    • “Jack! This is where we first met!”
  • My preternatural teenage love for Leonardo DiCaprio has finally been assuaged in my old age – Leo was 22 when this movie came out. Eight years younger than your own Mrs Robinson.
  • I now fancy Billy Zane, overshaped eyebrows notwithstanding. I did not fancy Billy Zane aged 11.
  • The iceberg still looks like your 2 year-old son’s impoverished attempt at papier mache.
  • Jack and Rose’s life-death-love affair took place over 48 HOURS MAX. I know wild, crazy love is, well, wild and crazy but watching this again, I found myself, mouth full of spaghetti – I MEAN LIKE BE SERIOUS Y’ALL (and then I knew my age, again).
  • Spicer Lovejoy remains the best pelagic villain of all time. He also – I only realise now – reminds me very much of my grandfather. THE BEST PELAGIC VILLAIN OF ALL TIME.
  • Everybody who should not lose their shit when a ship is sinking loses all their shit. The captain goes mentally AWOL, even after his sixtieth cup of tea with lemon. He is really not helpful. Just keeps staring into the distance. Should’ve stared more into the distance before the iceberg, Captain. So does Mr Andrews. To be found staring into a clock with an untouched scotch, riskily teetering towards the edge (but of what?)
  • Rose and Jack were snogging when the boat hit the iceberg. But apparently they didn’t notice this until bits of iceberg spilled onto the ship and the epic-panic orchestra music commenced. How is this?
  • Also how is Rose not continually freezing wearing nothing but tulle and silk and thin tights?!
  • THAT SCENE where a firework emanates from Leo’s head and it’s heavy cue string music and Rose is looking with damp hair in Cal’s coat and EVERY TIME JUST EVERY TIME AND THEN SHE LEAPS
  • How did the “heart of the ocean” diamond NOT fall out of Rose’s pocket during all of Jack and Rose’s subaqueous privations – it stayed in her pocket. If only my Oyster Card knew such coveted pocketdom.
  • What I really want to know, is – if Jack had survived the glacial, gnomic entity of the Atlantic – how he would have ever relived himself of the handcuffs that Rose so impavidly axed off in yet another moment of superlative scriptage (“Ok, enough practice!”
  • What would have happened if the Titanic didn’t sink? How the fuck would have Jack and Rose managed Cal and Spicer on docking? Surely Jack would have been arrested (again).
  • I miss Bill Paxton and his one hoop earring, and I think Twister is in need of a similar T+20 revival.

Obviously it is a time of deep political unrest and Titanic: T-20 is possibly not at the forefront of our collective imaginations. But I’ll refer us again to Martha Sprackland’s Hunterian Triptych and leave you with this:

This ghostly archive, lined with labelled jars

is full of light. Each pickled thing bleached to ivory

Seeps in a glass flask of formaldehyde, shelves of pale stars

that catalogue our strange bodies’ history

It reminds me of Titanic in a strange, abstract way, and it also reminds me of now. I know where I’d rather be; on that bloody door that sure as hell could have held the both of them, rather that drowning in some short of shrieking noiselessness, helplessness. Maybe the epic-disaster romance that was Titanic isn’t so far removed from what we’re left with today. Titanic. Unsinkable. Doomed.

Did Trump’s people get in touch with Celine Dione’s people? Anyone?

 

 

 

 

Less missed the boat than blown it straight out the water: a protoBrexit song

I like this song. I was listening it today on my daily anti-jaunt to the end of Britain, and then I was like, hang on:

While we’re on the subject
Could we change the subject now?
I was knocking on your ear’s door but you were always out
Looking towards the future
We were begging for the past
Well we knew we had the good things
But those never seemed to last
Oh please just last

Everyone’s unhappy
Everyone’s ashamed
Well we all just got caught looking
At somebody else’s page
Well nothing ever went
Quite exactly as we planned
Our ideas held no water
But we used them like a dam

Oh, and we carried it all so well
As if we got a new position
Oh, and I laugh all the way to hell
Saying yes, this is a fine promotion
Oh, and I laugh all the way to hell

Of course everyone goes crazy
Over such and such and such
We made ourselves a pillar
We just used it as a crutch
We were certainly uncertain
At least I’m pretty sure I am
Well we didn’t need the water
But we just built that good God dam

Oh, and I know this of myself
I assume as much for other people
Oh, and I know this of myself
We’ve listened more to life’s end gong
Than the sound of life’s sweet bliss

Was it ever worth it?
Was there all that much to gain?
Well we knew we missed the boat
And we’d already missed the plane
We didn’t read the invite
We just dance at our wake
All our favorites were playing
So we could shake, shake, shake, shake, shake

Tiny curtains open and we heard the tiny clap of little hands
A tiny man would tell a little joke and get a tiny laugh from all the folks
Sitting drifting around in bubbles and thinking it was us that carried them
When we finally got it figured out that we had truly missed the boat

Oh, and we carried it all so well
As if we got a new position
Oh, and we owned all the tools ourselves
But not the skills to make a shelf with
Oh, what useless tools ourselves

MiC – understanding what just happened

If, like me, you are a slave to HRTV (haute-reality TV), you will have just watched the most recent episode of MiC, which – even to the most hardened of seasonnaires – may have proved the most baffling episode to air yet. In some strange series of metaevents, Binky and JP (Bubba squared) have managed to break up BETWEEN EPISODES. I was interested to see, from last weeks’ next week teasers, how this would unravel. As it is, it didn’t. Binky cheated between episodes, which is weird, because I don’t really believe the cast of MiC actually exist between the times MiC episodes come on the television. But a few other really bizarre things happened this week, which is why I’m taking to my blog, which is what my therapist suggested I should do when I feel #veryconfused #needtoexpress #groundmychakras.

Important Points

  • Binky and JP  (aka Bubba bubba bubba bubba bubba) have broken up because, I think, they weren’t happy in their relationship, and Binky went and drunkenly snogged someone in a bar. #HANGON. Remember that time when JP told Binky in LA, essentially, in so many words, that her ‘relationship past and baggage was so disastrous he didn’t want anything to do with her.’ Remember that? He left her weeping atop the Hollywood hills after she’d offered him her small, sweet heart. It was terrible to watch. Then about 14 years later JP told Binky that ‘he loved her’ on a bench with inexplicable fairy lights illuminating the surrounding bushy environs, massively reminiscent of the time Hugh Grant told Julia Roberts something I can’t remember because I think the essence of the message was pretty much encapsulated in the timeless words of Ronan Keating: “you say it best, when you say nothing at all.” Which, frankly, is a shabby message. Silence, woman.
  • Ollie Locke needs to launch his career as uber agony aunt. Seriously. The lengths he has come from the time he drove a Union-Jack porsche whilst wearing a matching Union-Jack two-piece with waist length hair, to his most recent pity-but-not-patronising eyebrows whilst continually clasping mugs of tea and wearing pale pink jumpers; such kind eyes. Ollie’s understanding eyebrows are like slipping into a warm bath relinquishing you of all your hungover guilt, ever. Remember that time Ollie did a nude shoot in Putney with Cheska’s dog nipping at his particulars? Me neither. Remember the time Spencer shamelessly (how else?) shagged the girl Ollie was seeing and Ollie owned it when he stormed out of the bar with the seamless: “and you can pick up the fucking bill.” Me too. TEAM OLLIE FOREVER.
  • Rosie and Louise have undergone some strange, black metamorphosis of sour witchery and become two out of the three of the witches at the beginning of Macbeth. Ever since Louise unceremoniously dumped human labrador Alik last week, with absolute, literal whimpering, I cannot look at her in the same light ever again. Rosie and Louise formulate a strange pout of a pair who only plot to – well – pout mindlessly and gleefully partake in wading through the wreckage of other people’s despair. Remember when Louise snogged Elliot? I can’t remember Elliot but I remember the episode. Nobody ever remembers anything on MiC which I feel to be a weak excuse given it is scripted and then broadcast many weeks later, which is like my worst ever nightmare.  Remember when Louise snogged, gasp, Hugo, when he was dating Millie and she threw a martini in his face? Yup, me too.
  • Toff partook in the world’s worst interview at ‘The Lady’ – which I can only assume to be the Chelsea woman’s version of Horse and Hound – and got the job, apparently on the merit of her infinite capacity to teeter mindlessly. I have to confess, I have grown to love Toff as the seasons go on. I was recently reminded of her genius when she attempted to partake in an LA Kundalini yoga session. Unable to suppress her Sylvanian Family-esque petit guffaws at the mention of a  ‘yogi’ (“Are you even serious?”) she was quick to correct Mark-Francis with the worldly knowledge: “It’s Koolini yoga, Mark-Francis, pay attention.”
  • Which brings me to impossible yacht-hair Victoria Baker Harber and the tinsel-hating Mark-Francis. Victoria was seen holding a beer and wearing a hat, and then Mark-Francis and Victoria giggled and shared a hug. Hell hath frozen over.
  • Olivia Rolls-Bentley – She has this voice which I swear to god only makes me think of Greggs sausage rolls and that’s all there is to it really.
  • Jamie, Jess and the other one. Frankie. Can we please kill this story line, or at least one of them so the other two can decamp into a horrible neon sunset, forever, and never to return? Jamie and Jess’ non-relationship has to be one of MiC’s worst ever story lines, and that’s bleeding a pretty small stone quite dry.
  • Steph is still here. I thought she had exiled herself after the ‘grind of the Maldives’ and she just needed some ‘me time’ after The Hills which I guess is fair because she was fairly secondary in the Hills in which her non-compos, crystal polishing mad-eyed brother Spencer was the True Villain.

Next week, we can look forward to JP having a champagne heart to heart with Binky’s mum. I love these one to ones because one is never quite sure whether or not Mother Felstead is going to smash her champagne glass over one’s head and then stab them in the heart before ripping it out Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom style before smearing blood all over her face whilst cackling psychotically before very quietly saying: “It would truly be very terrible if you did that, darling.”

Until next week: “Listen to your words.” Solid advice. Am so confused.

FAO Mr Cameron and Mr Hunt

Medicine isn’t just about persistently working antisocial hours. It is about absorbing people’s pain and suffering and carrying it with you for a week, a month – sometimes for the rest of your life

Medicine is about the silence in the resuscitation room after all attempts are futile;
It’s about losing a child whilst someone else looks after your own children

It’s about the change in the breathing of the person whose hand you held onto before they lost consciousness in the hours before dawn

It’s about weeping in the sluice before you face a family with the news you know will devastate them

It’s about losing battles with broken bodies and blood and elements of life we never even wanted to imagine

It’s currency for us is so often broken relationships and burnout
Yet the brightest and most exceptional of our young people strive so hard to become part of it

Because they want to offer help and succour, because they want to be agents of change

Don’t demoralise and demean us with your bullish approach. We have earned our right to be part of society’s moral compass

Isn’t that what being a professional means?

Signed
A consultant of 28 years standing

This is us

You know those strange moments of epiphany                                  that strike you in the strangest flashes

Little voltage jolts                                                                            as you step out of the bath and smear steam from the mirror with the palm of your hand                            drub slip drub

Or in those early purple hours                    when the violet light portends alarms and suddenly you’re wide awake and

the whittled thumbs of carpenters           the shrivelled livers of the drunks

the rattling ribs of gossipers        the mottled mohawks of the punks

the severity of half-drunk drinks                the temerity of liars

the blindness of the black-backed crows

the bodies roasting atop pyres

and they all

start                                                                                   speaking to you

Aftermath

I received an email from a lecturer today titled ‘aftermath’. This suited him down to a T and I deemed it particularly fetching: he’d had to cancel a lecture last week due to a last minute maladie (email posted around 12 a.m.; the mysterious, jittering midnight sickness, no less; none of us immune!). And so the sloping message dropped into the inbox today, titled only “aftermath”. It was funny. As if cancelling a lecture on a Friday afternoon was breaking up with you a week before your dissertation was due in. The man that actually did that to me never sent an email titled ‘aftermath’. I wish he had done. I may have humoured the memory of him a little more than I ended up doing. I think most people were fantastically grateful that our poor lecturer had come down with an illness that meant we could all cavort like small goats in the hills all the earlier on a Friday afternoon. Not that I knock the fact that in many languages the vowel system in unstressed syllables is less complex than stressed syllables. Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally all over the fact that in a polysystemic transcription different vowel systems are identified as operating in different structural positions or different phonetic environments. I totally get that. Totes all over it. I basically bathe in the aftermath of phonetic madness.

Talking of the aftermath, though. I started thinking why it was a word so relinquished to the annals of disastrousness. In the aftermath. When I was younger I started many ill-fated stories with such an opening. In the aftermath of disease, in the aftermath of war, in the aftermath of the morning after. Inherently connected with the corollary of a misadventure or unfortunate event. I’m not sure why, though. It really only means the outcome of something. When I started out a story, ‘in the aftermath’, I guess it was a lazy aside to the before and the after, how I lived my life then and how I live it now. Neither is honourable, I suppose. But it gave me a litany of waspish excuses and brittle ripostes, when the time called for it: and called for it times were. In the aftermath.

There’s a word for the moment you pass a stranger in the street and draw the acute realisation that every moment of your own despair and joy and jealousy and compersion and doubt is measured in teaspoons against someone else’s lunatic moon. I don’t know how real the word is but apparently it’s ‘sonder’. Basically the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. All those strange stories. All those strange moments of insanity rolled into one! People drinking vinegar straight from the pickle jar, people carving their lives out against angles that didn’t fit their lives, people mixing up devil and dust and dancing down a trail of mistakes. What of their aftermaths? I disembarked the tube tonight, a typically bullish ride on the District line, elbows jostling, pilling, warring, hot steamed windows and eyes stuck to the sticking floor. The crowd flooded outwards, as it always does, a noiseless orchestra of grey black clad shoulders knocking together, heads down, soles picking themselves up and stamping down again. Nobody ever thinks about hearts beating. All those bodies descending all those stairs, nobody locking eyes, only sharp elbows. All the while hearts beating, all in our own aftermath, of some sort or another. All cinched in some kind of small war, maybe all trying to waylay some kind of quiet insanity, or, of course, maybe not. When I joined the noiseless army I saw two young men on the platform, one in tears. They must have been school boys, they looked no older than such. The shorter one of the two was consoling the other and they hugged whilst he cried. The quietness of this small interchange amidst the hush and humdrum of noiseless commuters rattled me. I can’t have been the only person who saw it, surely? Even then – I became a hopeless interlocutor, looking for business in an aftermath that wasn’t even my own. Like when people have a blazing row in an Indian restaurant that sets hearts and fears aflame:

Thank God that’s not me!

Wait! Maybe she’s right!

Oh my God! What if this happens to me next!?

Oh my God. Fuck.

Then I got on the bus having been soaked in the mizzle and was freezing cold and starving and disturbed by the sadness of the boy on the platform and the bus terminated and all the lights went off. The driver came upstairs to check nobody was still aboard, and there I was, all wild eyes and electric shock hair, on my hands and knees, searching desperately under seats and all, plastic bags flailing. He was like:

Is everything OK? And I was like,

Oh, Sure. I’ve just lost my earring. And this is the second set of the same earrings my mother has bought me because I lost one before and I know I lost it this new one here – I can’t possibly tell you where I lost the other one – but this one, I’m sure I just heard it limply bounding from the linoleum of your upper deck floor. I cannot possibly lose the same earring again, so I’m just here, looking for it, in the aftermath.” I don’t mention the time of the aftermath where I tried to fight for a small, quiet hour, and in those sixty minutes beat my conscious into blind submission.

The driver looks at me blankly for a moment, before crouching on the floor with me, searching in the darkness of the top deck of his bus in the shadows of a bus terminal with the rain spattering on the roof for a lost earring. He quickly produces a rose-gold hoop from under a seat, between his index and middle finger, like a well-seasoned archaeologist. Wide-eyed and grateful, I say this:

have you ever heard of sonder?

He says no.

I say never mind, but thank you so much anyway.

 

 

 

When the Goddamn wheels just fall the mother off

I have only just realised that the term ‘third degree’ is a euphemism for torture. Or maybe I did know already; my understanding of it comprised extensive questioning under pressure – a form of persecution,  I suppose. But the third degree as a euphemism for torture: how apt. Only yesterday did I finish the first term of my very own literal third degree, marathon style. A sprite burst of energy and enthusiasm for the first few weeks, followed by a long – nay, everlasting – arduous, confusing slog (why? WHY? WHY HAVE I DONE THIS TO MYSELF DEATH TO ALL EVEN THE KITTENS etc.) and then that final and mysterious jolt of moxie: from the depths of your body you didn’t even realize existed come, in strange waves, the swagger, the mettle and grit. WE HAVE COME THIS FAR AND WE WILL CONQUER AND I AM SO IN LOVE WITH THIS AMBITION RIGHT NOW THAT I WILL DO IT ALL AGAIN TOMORROW. Your legs find themselves again and before you know it you’re sprinting to the beat of cheers so symphonic you think they could carry you over the finishing line. It’s possible that at times you possibly underestimate the distance to that line, but what with Tina pumping  a tinny ‘Simply the Best’ (on repeat for the last mile and a half, and probably knocking your stererocilia for six) you are not about to let something like ‘distance’ ruin your victory. So you fight and you push and you finish and you conquer. And then maybe you vomit quite vehemently, whilst someone you can’t see is thrusting a banana in your face and lithely caparisoning you in a tin foil cloak. Believe me, stranger things have happened. I should know.

With this in mind, the day after I finished my first ‘challenging’ term of the ‘third degree’ I woke up not – good reader, with a raging hangover – but a horrible, Brontë-esque diseasedness, all barbed-wire throat and rattling lungs, nose like a broken tap and an ever-deepening sense of impending doom. Having just moved into a new flat and, as such – the level of disarray is quite frightening – I am unable to locate the Paracetamol and lack the wherewithal to foray into the black, damp night, I have done what anyone with any sense (or Tim Dowling and/or his wife) would do: cracked open a bottle of Romanian Pinot Noir, and am trying to numb the pain that way*. The problem is it is literally quite hard to swallow. I mean it’s delicious, but, in the words of Chelsea lady incubus Louise Thompson: it just “rilly, rilly hurts.” And I’m like, body: c’mon. Now’s the time to parday and lo, the fucking wheels fall off. Even my laptop has given up the ghost and died, which I worry portends something more sinister for me than a sore throat: that attached, am I, to my shambolic excuse for a computer. A corner of it once caught fire and is melted and hideous and abstract and the keys stick and it is slower than a slug on sedatives.

*NB middle-class botheration central. Be like: my viral pharyngitis is really ruining this Romanian pinot for me. Ugh.

So it is I find myself in bed, woefully alone, on a Friday at 8 p.m. when surely, in the month of December, I should be ‘out out’. That said, as I hobbled past a window festooned in baubles and festive condensation (or sweat, I couldn’t discern) of a Bill’s in West London late this afternoon, eyes fleeting briefly over what was evidently a ‘company-Yuletide-lunch-read-get-fucked-at-lunchtime-and-get-a-cab-to-Soho-on-expenses’, I shuddered with the relief that I was heading home to lie down in a darkened room. But my throat is so sore; and my bones are so achey, that in the spirit of Christmas, I’m going to see if a cigarette might help.

 

 

 

 

Paris Attacks – November 2015

I woke to the news of the Paris massacres today – like many, I imagine – not via a news site but via Facebook. A friend had posted ‘in Paris – am safe.’ A flurry of anxious responses followed like wildfire: ‘stay safe’, ‘r u OK?’, ‘can’t imagine how horrible’, ‘just heard the news? keep safe’, and so on. Bleary eyed in the darkness of our November 6 a.m., I swiped and redirected to the news. I didn’t read the headlines, just clocked the urgent words, white typeface embedded in red: “Paris”, “terrorist attack”, “scores dead”, “six different sites” – I didn’t stop to read the information. I reverted to Facebook to check the  updates of people – friends and family – I know there. All were marked ‘safe’. I then reverted back to all the news online: the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, Reuters, Le Monde, etc., and of course, social media. I spent some time vacillating between the press and social media. Several hours later, I wasn’t sure which depressed me more: the horrific materialisation of yet another act of mindless, barbaric slaughter, or the quickness with which people were ready to arm themselves with unfledged opinions regarding a disaster unravelling right there before us. Like there wasn’t even a space for people to express their disbelief, or horror, or anguish. We need that space, no matter how ephemeral. We need that moment to process, to understand what has occurred, before the space becomes a battleground for political/religious/social exchange. What many people have done last night, today and tonight and I expect for days to come is to express a degree of solidarity – no matter how ineffective that expression of solidarity may be – they have done so because they – we – are moved to do so. Scores of people, who don’t necessarily work in an international setting, or indeed follow international news, or ever get involved politically, or do all the things we think and mean to do, me included in all of this, were wretched at the news today.

I grew up thinking I wanted to be a war correspondent, and have considerably lamented the fact I have never been successful in this venture. It took me until March this year to understand that I lacked the courage to undertake this job with any degree of true fortitude: I genuinely lack the lack of fear to pursue that sort of thing. It’s easy enough to imagine the clamourous glamour of it, reporting back to friends and family that you’d just returned from reporting from a shell-shit-storm in Tripoli and stunning people into a kind of awed silence; nice idea, right? The guts and madness it takes to storm into a war zone takes zealotry – a specific insanity in itself, don’t we know? To place yourself in the line of fire and expect to get out alive.

Last night in Paris, there were a series of unwitting war correspondents and similarly unwitting fatalities. They had not signed up to this. They had gone to a concert, to a bar, to a game. Baghdad and Beirut did not get the same coverage, no. My screensaver on my computer as I type is the skyline of Beirut, when I went there in 2012. I have not been to Baghdad; I was interviewed by the International Red Cross for a job there back in 2010 but my Arabic was not up to par. Paris, on the other hand, I have visited on more than one occasion; I most recently ran the Paris marathon in 2013 in aid of Freedom From Torture. I’m not sure this is the moment to dispute coverage, to be angry that loss of life here is more coverable than a loss of life there. The universal indignation at what has happened in Paris is so much more complex than whether or not it had happened in Paris, or Beirut, or Baghdad, or any other city in the world, and it comes matched with grief and despair. What is needed is a gap, a brief moment to allow ourselves and others to get to grips with what has actually happened, a moment to be able to process grief without politicising it, just yet. Maybe just put our heads together, for a brief moment, irrespective of race, creed, religion, politics, whatever – let’s just take a brief hiatus from fierce words, and take a moment.