Monday, 21 January 2008


He’s tall and skinny, she’s short and dumpy. They both wear green, waxed cotton coats – the type that stink, leave oily marks on all who touch them, and that are best left to those who farm or shoot. They stride up the platform, pushing a high-tech pram with the smug demeanour of new parents. I find myself wondering at what point in our evolution we came to believe that fulfilling our biological function of reproducing was something that set us apart from and above our fellow human beings. On a busy railway platform, filled with commuters, this couple’s sense of their own consequence sticks out almost as pungently as their unpleasant outerwear. Baby sleeps on obliviously.

Thursday, 17 January 2008


People throng in the ill-tempered bustle outside Victoria Station, commuters dodging and weaving their way through clouds of smokers and bewildered tourists. In their midst, I see a small black boy asleep in a pushchair. Profound peace sits as lightly on the child’s sweet face as a mother’s kiss, and spotting him feels like a bright moment of grace on another grey winter’s day. Behind the pushchair stands his mother, no more than nineteen or twenty, smoking a fag, talking so animatedly to her friend that her large, gold earrings sway.

Thursday, 10 January 2008


Half in a daze, my senses are suddenly flooded by the unmistakeable scent of Terre D’Hermes, and the olfactory memory unleashes a flood of remembrance of the man I knew who wore it. His voice, his words, his desire - I recall them all fondly, and although I have forgiven him, I can’t help but wonder whether his wife has yet. I hope so.


In my new, blue, sparkly shoes, I’m making a cup of tea in the office kitchen. One of my colleagues admires them, then points out that they are the same colour as bluebottles. Laughing, I respond that, no, they’re not; bluebottles are more turquoise-blue, whilst my shoes are definitely purply-blue. He concedes the point and we return to our desks. An hour or so later, I receive an illustrated email, telling me “You're right you know, your shoes are certainly more purple than the common British Bluebottle (Calliphora vicini) but if you look at the Black Blowfly found on farms in Manitoba...”

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Coming Round

Out of the train window, the Kent countryside runs past. In the thin morning sunshine, the world is made anew, and I see rich earth contrast with the emerald hue of fields, the stark shapes of bare tree branches, and brickwork that speaks of time and seasons past. I’m listening to a favourite song, Fallen, and as the lyrics* wash over me, resonating wildly, I realise, with absolute clarity, that I have been far kinder, far more generous to him than he deserved.

But it wasn’t, isn’t, won’t ever be enough. Exhaling, I let go.

* Fallen
By Sarah McLachlan

Heaven bent to take my hand
And lead me through the fire
Be the long awaited answer
To a long and painful fight

Truth be told I've tried my best
But somewhere along the way
I got caught up in all there was to offer
And the cost was so much more than I could bear

Though I've tried, I've fallen...
I have sunk so low
I have messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me I told you so...

We all begin with good intent
Love was raw and young
We believed that we could change ourselves
The past could be undone
But we carry on our backs the burden
Time always reveals
The lonely light of morning
The wound that would not heal
It's the bitter taste of losing everything
That I have held so dear.

I've fallen...
I have sunk so low
I have messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me I told you so...

Heaven bent to take my hand
Nowhere left to turn
I'm lost to those I thought were friends
To everyone I know
Oh they turned their heads embarrassed
Pretend that they don't see
But it's one missed step
You'll slip before you know it
And there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed

Though I've tried, I've fallen...
I have sunk so low
I have messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me I told you so...

Overheard VI

In the petrol station, while I’m paying for my fuel, a man in a high-visibility vest asks the cashier, in a thick Eastern European accent, ‘So, do you have to buy a wife in Ghana?’

‘No. You can pick them up. You can pay, but you don’t have to and you can usually get a good price when you buy someone.’

Neither are very friendly, and I leave quickly, unsettled.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Walking The Dog

At the mouth of the park stands a man. At his feet, a small black and white dog, not much more than a pup, terrier maybe, crossed with Daschund, which would account for the long body. Initially, I think the dog is on a lead but then I realise, no, he’s just very obedient, devoted. The man turns, walks a few steps into the park and gestures as if to say ‘Come on! Hurry up!’ The little dog mimics his master’s gaze, but allows himself a brief sniff of the ground. All the while he remains within a foot of the man’s heels, and when the man impatiently turns back to the street again and starts walking, the little dog follows. Eventually, out of the park gates, I see not a child or a spouse as I had supposed, but another black and white dog, bigger than the first but still little, running to catch up.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


The radio burbles in the background, Desert Island Discs, with John Humphreys. I'm reading, not listening, until out of the radio soars the wonder, the exquisite beauty of Elgar's Cello Concerto. In the way that only music can, it cuts through everything to the heart and soul of me and, instantly, I am moved to tears. There is something both primal and divine in this concerto, and I bask in its light and feel redeemed.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

As Seen On TV

Feeling glum and bored in the evening of my two-week, self-imposed retreat from life, I remember the unwatched Victoria Wood DVD and helplessly giggle my way through it. I recall many of the sketches from my youth, but with my adult sensibilities, they are even funnier than memory served, and it is with some admiration that I realise just how talented Victoria Wood is (despite her atrocious dress sense), and just how superb the performances in the show were.

Here are two favourites: