Dark glitter

Bumping into my face every day, I walk down towards Old Street station on a weekday morning. During rush hour you feel like you’re marching your life down the tube. Going eye to eye with a petit woman in a scarlet coat, I utter ‘excuse me, excuse me’ before heaving my way inside.

Come evening and walking home on foot, I like to claim some of my life back. With my blue sonic buns keeping my ears warm, I depart from nearby Palestra, a technicolour glass mountain in South London, and head north of the river.

Crossing over Blackfriars Bridge, I take my first steps towards the crystal empire, one that sparkles over demolished warehouses and future proofed roads. A military helicopter drones over the river and casts a security shadow over the city. I feel strangely enthralled by its presence. It’s hard, aggressive and brutally exciting.

Weaving past tourists in cagoule jackets, I navigate past St Paul’s Cathedral towards the Barbican Centre. Streams of scarfs and bobble hats march past me, splitting through a demolished hospital and cobbled lanes. The Georgian corner pubs are packed full of businessmen drinking pints of honey. I don’t want to ruin the historic splendour by stepping inside.

Cutting through the Barbican tunnel, I navigate over pelican crossings and storm past commuters with stringy headphones. A Tinder match alert vibrates in my pocket (Anita, 27, 3 miles away) as I stream another pop song. Like you I’ve commodified myself as entertainment.

Nonetheless I stay on course and arrive at Old Street roundabout. There’s a large inanimate object telling what ‘auld lang syne’ means in English. Commuters are pouring out of the station towards the glass pyramids on City Road. A maelstrom of human energy and piercing noise, I feel exhausted just watching the traffic.

I’ve lived here for five years now. I have nowhere else to go. The dark glitter pours over me as I walk my way home.

Little people in little houses

Earlier today I spotted a man standing on the tube watching a film on his laptop. My headphones were jammed full of noise candy at the time, listening to sweet, sweet songs I don’t even like. This endless thirst for distraction is never ending.

Sometimes I fear we consume so many stories that we don’t take part in any of our own. Have you seen it yet? Don’t say anything, I’m only on episode four…Come home, throw open a picture book and close the door.

“All the bright precious things fade so fast and they don’t come back.”

I sometimes wonder if I’m alone internalising a quixotic half world that doesn’t remotely correspond with reality. I feel like a ghost amongst regular human company. An inoffensive fraud concealing an internal monologue no sane person could possibly comprehend. I always think of her at Christmas. I shouldn’t do really – its silly I know. She made me want to be a better person by doing nothing at all. That’s probably the greatest compliment I can give to anyone. Keeping alight my inner writing fool as the years pass on by.

*

I think I’d like a daughter if I were ever to have kids. I’d like to spend time with someone I could actually talk to. Someone who could grasp what I have to say.

A beautiful little fool.

Messages

Venice

I miss being dumbstruck alive by sensual things. I’ve been writing postcards and sending them intermittently to friends across the world. Further away the better. There is something tangible about bad handwriting, stamps and a printed seal. A time capsule of silly scribbles you may never receive.

I love buying postcards from galleries and side street shops. Its a teenage habit of mine I’ve never shaken despite considerable pressure to do so. In my late teens, I used to bunk off college/university and spend hours in Aberdeen Art Gallery spinning plastic racks of Marilyn Monroe. Many of these remain on my wall to this day.

I love the faith you have to place in the postal services. The fact you’ll never get an immediate acknowledgement from the recipient. To believe it will be carried by van, train, plane, aeroplane and finally on foot to a letter box near you. That’s amazing isn’t it? Just picking up a pen and feeling wonderfully naive.

Saturday Night Mass in Zaragoza

I don’t believe in the Father, Son or the Holy Spirit. As a secular liberal I actively oppose all Abrahamic sky-gods on principle. You only have to watch the news to see what they have to offer and it’s not pretty. Just there are occasions, where I find myself a wilting agonistic, one longing for a communal bond with my fellow wo/man. It happened by accident of course, when I travelled to Zaragoza, and checked into my 3* hotel. Muddled and half asleep, I collapsed onto my bed for a solitary hour’s rest before dinner.

Come evening, I surrendered to my roaring appetite and headed towards the city centre for meatballs and patatas bravas. Along the way I took instantly forgettable pictures of the Cathedral Basilica on my smartphone. Why I persist in taking photos I never check or upload onto Facebook for approval I do not know.

Zaragoza city centre was jostling with life on my arrival and the sky had faded into a particularly tender shade of blue. Africa swifts were swooping down for dying insects, doll kids were playing tag and a marching band of lanky olive teenagers were blowing their own trumpets. Life here is good.

Before settling down for the dinner, I pushed open the cathedral’s main door and intruded on a Saturday night mass. I had no intention of staying long. I just wanted to have a wee look and nothing more. Skirting around the back like a Protestant ghost, there were rows upon rows of t-shirted families blessing themselves in front of old men in white robes. I don’t understand Catholic rituals or what you’re expected to do.

Having spent so much of my adult life London, it now feels strange for me to mingle in an exclusively local place. A city where everyone looks the same. Apart from the revellers checking their WhatsApp messages at the back, this could have been Zaragoza forty years ago such was the regional sense of familiarity.

When the cathedral began singing I realised this wasn’t a proper mass at all. I could barely breathe as the coral ensemble sang. This was music without applause or fanfare. Singing for the love of singing. Shrivelled chess pieces on wooden thrones provided the bass and the mixed choir pitched in with a feminine treble. Listening to ‘Gloria’ soar down the cavernous nave, it felt like I was witnessing a medieval painting bursting into life.

Travelling can throw up these moments of spiritual commonality. Even if like me, you don’t believe in anything at all. But putting my indifference to organised religion aside, I wouldn’t want to see nights like this disappear entirely. For if nothing else, I now have one beautiful memory of Zaragoza that I could not possibly save, picture or record.

Show up

Everything feels so temporary in autumn, although I much prefer the Americanism ‘the fall’. Usually I have these quixotic dreams whirring in my brain, but they’ve fallen dormant since mid-summer and I have no idea why. Running past girls dying their hair the colour of the sky, I’ve cropped my head like a peppercorn and looking forward to going away on holiday.

Otherwise I go on late night sugar raids and early morning runs. I need to reassure myself that it’s fine to have nothing to say. Too many people have something to say. Word gets round eventually.

Show up