All that glitters

The last time I had set foot in this town, the leaves were all gowns of gold, filling a hallway to sweep down and around in an autumnal dance. We wandered the pathways beneath a lilac sky, churning up mulch with our scarred battle-boots. We were still as one, then.

We had come the distance, from Verulamium to the land where all that glitters is indeed gold, of many textures and valuations. Fierce fake tan and heels to take your eye out; champagne hair with curling tips, and a watch too heavy for so delicate a wrist. Passing by in our mud-spattered uniform of hikes, we stared at our reflections in the ghost-shine of windows, laughing at how we stood out. Thorns under the manicured nail.

But it’s really not all that.

It’s ancient twisting roads, lined with age-curved houses; it’s coffee shops with such thick windows that you might be peering through the bottom of a bottle. It’s well-tended gardens, and grassland bordered with a rambling churn of brambles and pale trees. It’s Rivendell. It’s ever-autumn, nostalgic light that seems to curve itself into the palm of the town each evening, no matter the true time of year.

It’s a golden hall that goes on forever and a day, when we walked as one; and I knew myself, then. Now, I am approaching 30 and am more confused than ever. My hair is overlong, in bad need of a trim and burnished by the strengthening sun. I wade through the pitch spilt from last year’s barrel, and the urge to drop a match is almost overwhelming.

(When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.) Desperate people do untidy things. I am not naturally a cruel person; it doesn’t sit well on my stomach, and though I can raise the walls of ice quicker than some, I rarely allow them to stay longer than a handful of days, before melting.

But patience wears thinner than ice. I hesitate to raise my voice, in case I break through my own barriers.

My life is my own, or so I had come to believe after therapy. The other day, when I walked off the site of the enormous complex where I shall start my new job in March, I felt a cautious flutter in my chest – a bird, opening its wings against the late winter light. Hope is a thready thing these days. I prefer to watch and wait, in the long shadows. Visor still down.
Dreaming of Mercy Street.

A new job, a new home, all in the space of a week. Tell me this a few years ago, I would have laughed. Me, manage all of this alone?
I have scarfed food while battering along unfamiliar pavements this week; I have missed gym sessions. I have cut loose from work to attend an impromptu job interview, risking my credibility. I have coped – done things that would once have triggered panic attacks. It’s funny what happens when Life crops up.
Anorexia still has brittle little fingers twined through my hair. But I gently break them off, one by one, each year.

Sometimes, things come together with such speed that it is as though a hand had gently nudged game pieces over a board. Two years ago, at around this time, they had fallen apart just as swiftly.
Who knows?

So, with a more secure job and a stable employer, increase in wages and a wander over a fresh canvas, I can – cautiously – say there is Hope. I can afford to travel to see my family again, to hike the Downs with my brother and get a sore throat from talking (it always startles me how this happens, as I don’t generally speak aloud much any more.) I can weave in and out of local markets, picking up coloured threads and bolts of material, one-of-a-kind purchases to send to people Just Because, as I used to. Usually tacked to a scribbled note, to prove I still have some sort of handwriting.
(Meandering over the page.)

I can jump on a train and head into the Smoke again, to see that blue-brown silk scarf on the horizon getting closer and closer, while my dreams of living beneath the steel and glass, the twisting gothic lines, seem to go further away.
One day. Once in a way.

Around this time of year, the sun has a complex routine it performs each morning (clear skies permitting.) Peering up over the horizon, its light reaches the windows of the building opposite the Nick – these are aligned in such a way as to catch and hold the glow like a burnished copper breastplate. The subsequent reflection throws long fingers into our own windows, so that every office on the top floor bursts awake in red and gold.

This is but one almost indescribable moment of true pleasure, of silence inside, that I will miss forever when I am gone.

Trust was a leaf that went spinning on coils
Of a wind that ached with the song of the rose
And we who are wanderers
(Always alone)
Not ever so lonely to call your name
We know ourselves safe, when turning for home
With a shifting of light over ruins and graves
Where dreams go to rest, in the lull of the dawn.

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P.S: Those who I owe emails to, I apologise. Time is like smoke at the moment, with precious little left over to bottle for stories and blogging. Please bear with me.

P.P.S: It felt good to talk to you all again. Lately, it’s felt as though someone was standing on my throat. Now I can breathe a little more easily.

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Tawny horizon

Trigger warning: Weight loss / anorexia.

It’s 19.31pm, and I’ve just climbed into bed. I haven’t yet found that balance between the cyber and real-time worlds, between interaction and concentration.

Or perhaps the problem is a bit more internal.

Standing in front of the full-length mirror yesterday, I took in the curve of each rib, my flatter chest, and knew myself to be diminished. Walking home tonight, I had to plunk down on a low brick wall (and resist the temptation to fall backwards into someone’s flowerbed – we’re not in Hipster territory any more, Toto) because my legs were trembling.

Trouble is, when the world and life and errors and wanting and worries, all go flaring past with comet tails to catch a-hold of… health can become a distant star. A lonely moon. I never mean to lose weight, honest. But certain comments of this year have stuck behind my ears, about how I’d “bulked up” (around my arms and shoulders, from weight-training) and was “filling out” my tops. So. I guess old habits sneak back in, when everything else seems more interesting than standing still. Eating more is sort of tricky, too, on a frozen wage.

I know these things shouldn’t get under my skin, not after all these years; and as C.S Lewis said of it, “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

And still. And still.

I know it’s perhaps early for New Years’ Resolutions, but mine are simple enough:
To create more time, with prioritising.
To pay attention to what really matters.

And that’s it. The rest, you don’t need to know, since I’ll inadvertently hurt someone or another along the way. But I’ve neglected enough Things this year, and have burnt a lot of ambitions and expectations on the pyre of Disappointment. My fault. I know better now, and where my weaknesses are. The strengths … haven’t shown their faces yet, but I guess that’s part of the learning curve, too.

What better time to rest and regain weight, than Christmas? That’s probably the wrong thing to say, hence the trigger-warning; but honestly, I’ve had enough of censoring myself. That isn’t a jab at anyone in particular, only this Thing in my head, which has slowly crept back up and wound tight claws through my mind. I find myself thinking about food/eating in that old invasive way, with the attention/fear of the constant hungering. I’m not in a relapse. But the very fact that I have to focus on this again, and find myself struggling to lift weights that were only months ago getting easier, says as much as the tapering-off of writing. Now, I get in from work and scrabble out perhaps 500 words if I’m lucky. If I haven’t spent too much time reading, talking, flicking aimlessly –
(White noise)
Researching this and that. All necessary. But life looks like a Dali clock at the moment.

(A trick I use now, is to let both phone batteries go flat by the end of the day. Then I have to walk home in silence, to re-order my thoughts.)

I don’t want to lose contact with the people I know and care about, or fall behind on the topics that interest me, engage my focus in ways that anorexia never could. I want to be more than a walking eating disorder (which was my identity for a long time.) Even in hospital, I spent the long lowlight days doing crosswords, writing snippets of poetry, reading reviews in Empire magazine… anything to keep in touch with things outside of my head, away from symptoms.

I’ve let things slip, working longer hours to keep up with rising food bills… and perhaps as an excuse to keep moving. This is a sneaky illness, it plays by its own rules, and most often below the surface.

*

Still no word about whether I’ll keep my job next year; though when I mentioned this to the new PA, she only laughed with that unhappy sound of someone used to this sort of system. To be honest, the guys will probably know about the official moving date when I do.

I can’t begin to tell you how hollow my chest feels, to think about it; and to know that this will likely be our last Christmas all together in that building. Standing on the top floor this afternoon, as is my wont when in need of a breather, I watched the western horizon turn tawny, flecked over in blue – a Joni Mitchell song of the sky. Those pigeons went skirling past, as ever, leaving their shadows like blackened leaves on the parking bays.

I wonder about a lot of things – how the guys will fit all their kit into the smaller space; where they will go for a quiet talk, or a cry; how they will cope with the integration of offices, in an open-plan idea of a police station. Who will end up where. If I will go with them.

The £2bn being ploughed into the NHS feels like a sticking-plaster, with fresh cuts to other services kept beneath. And that’s before we get onto the fact that 1 in 6 police officers will be cut from the service by next year. But I can only speak from a limited experience on the ground, and then, from the perspective of a cleaner.
I am small. And tall, in my own way.

A bit like Metpol’s (new) New Scotland Yard.

“It is quite extraordinary that in the rush to sell the police estate, the Mayor’s office don’t appear to have planned space for their police officers and staff.
Yet more money looks set to be spent to sort out this mistake, at a time when the police face ever greater financial pressures.” – Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member.

Our old girl will rock back gently on her heels, and take a deep sigh for winter. She’ll leak green-black tears down the windows, to pool over the floors; and she’ll whistle through her teeth with the rising winds. She is more than Work to me. I still give her walls a pat, when trudging up the worn stairs at the end of a shift.
I hope she won’t be knocked down. But as Stephen King said, Everything’s Eventual.

*

Outside the art shop in town, a man sat busking beneath a sullen sky, in lilac shadows. His stickered-up guitar sang a song of lonely hearts and wild roads, of sweeping streets and times since gone, never lost in the heart. He raises money for Leukaemia sufferers, and is well known in town. The glitter-shine of a red and gold Christmas tree speckled his face; the wind sent his hair flying beneath a fluffy Santa’s hat. The shop awnings kept him sheltered from occasional spatters of rain.
This evening, I couldn’t help but notice another pastel sky behind him, softening the edges of Westminster. The buildings glowed on the canvas, caught behind the glass, as he played on.

…”Well, when exactly do you mean?”

Tomorrow, I am going to have a look around a room that will, should I be able to take it, cut my monthly outgoings by £200. This will allow me to do a number of things without feeling guilty, or having to drop something else: afford to eat things outside of the value range, buy the occasional bottle of rum, and keep up with the price hikes of over-the-counter/prescribed medication. My gym membership has, for the past four years of living in this city, remained static – a blessing, since the same can be said for my wage.

Even last year, the freeze didn’t bother me so much. I was still living with my partner, prices were lower. But circumstances change. I didn’t foresee depression and anxiety creeping back in – and thought I’d got off lightly – with the cost of living up, and not much else.

Today, tens of thousands of people have protested in London, Glasgow and Belfast about pay and austerity. My voice is among theirs, if only via tweets. When I first began working with my company in late 2010, the set rate seemed a golden egg; I was well over the basic minimum wage, and able to secure a flat with my then-partner.

Fast forward to late 2014, and I am single, happy to live independently, but currently selling off much of what I own to make ends meet. I’m still over the basic minimum wage, but below the Living one. There’s no place for sentiment when you need to keep the balance up; Ebay and Amazon are my new best friends. Apart from underwear, I haven’t bought any new clothes since last summer. This isn’t such a big deal, as I’d rather spend money supporting independent bookshops, second-hand vinyl stalls, and friends with crafty fingers and book-writing of their own.

I could jack in the gym membership, but for the security it offers. With anorexia nervosa and compulsive exercise disorder for the past fourteen years, I know what my boundaries are, and solitary “formal” exercise is still a stumbling block. I’m currently trying to keep serotonin levels high enough to feel enough like myself to warrant eating, while maintaining “sustainable” levels of activity. I can’t emphasize enough how important that balance is. In terms of therapy, I’d be required to shell out on bus fare to travel the distance to reach the next available psychiatric service specific to needs… which would also entail taking time off work.
The word “liability”, haunts my mind.

I could, as many people in my life have advised since I went back to work in 2005, post-hospital, find a “better” job. But I happen to like where I am. Let no one convince you that cleaning/maintenance is easy. In a police station, when you’re on your own and it’s pissing with rain outside, and the teams have been out on a search for a misper (missing person, to you), and they’re dragging back in all manner of mud and sludge and water… it can feel a bit like pushing a golf ball into a straw. But I get a kick out of it.

My colleagues are friends; more than this. They’re not called the Family for nothing. The midnight humour is often the only thing keeping me afloat, smiling, even if only on the inside. They’re no-nonsense, and accustomed to dealing with mental health issues; I don’t feel any awkwardness, having a chat with someone about the time spent as an inpatient, or long-ago suicidal tendencies. The thought of leaving this security knots up my stomach even more than the idea of having to face a cliquey office environment with faddy diets and gossip. Been there, done that. Nein, danke.

Working alone, I have all the time of a shift to burn off excess energy, stifling the gnawing demon in my head that demands a high-intensity day, while ticking over thoughts on writing, art, music … all the whimsical things that make me who I am.
I’m also spoilt rotten with rum and book tokens, nights out on the town, because they know damn fine what it’s like to work with the thin end of the stick, and collectively go out of their way to give me the chance to experience “normality”, away from mental illness and memories of this. In the last four years, I’ve woken up to the fact that the world doesn’t revolve around me and this eating disorder, and that it’s a very complex kaleidoscope, with plenty of grey. Things you can’t pick up in reading books and articles, watching TV.

But they can’t pay my wages directly. And to be honest, given what they have to put up with on a daily basis, I’ve got the easy job. That’s an obvious statement, but I thought I’d put it out there, in case anyone thought I was square with what these men and women in uniform – in every sector of the emergency services – do for our country.

Each year, the corridors echo that little bit more, the building flakes off more plaster and paint, and lights go out in more offices. The great-awful thing about cleaning in the Nick, is that I never run out of things to do, and take home nothing but knotted muscles and a feeling of satisfaction. I learned from a very good woman in 2005, who saw a kid with stubby hair and stick limbs, and still decided she’d make a decent apprentice for a private-hire cleaning company. It was just the two of us, and I learned as much about hygiene as I did the general upkeep of a building.
For now, my job description would overlap several sectors.

I’ve never looked back. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s work, and crucial to every part of society. Sure, there are some who don’t work up to standards – but as with anything, it’s what you bring to the day (or night.) I happen to be one of the lucky few who is still in full-time employment, given the rise of the zero-hour contract, particularly in this trade. The chances of finding anything remotely like what I have at the moment, are few.

There are many people going through it, across sectors, with some working up to three shifts just to get by, as with the Whitehall cleaners who campaigned this week outside HMRC, for a pay increase to the London Living Wage of £8.80.

“Iolanda said that she leaves her home at 4:30am and lives on the other side of London. She said that she gets back home at 11:30pm and earns £6.31 an hour. ‘I’m trying to do this for me and my friends. It’s too much.'”

I’m only offloading what has been on my mind for quite some time. I bury it, usually, under things that don’t concern me directly. But every now and then, a situation unfolds to drive the message home, that things can’t stay the way they are. I’m rather good at running from responsibilities, and have the ostrich-thing down to an art form. Writing about other worlds, I don’t need to focus on my own.

Until I’m balancing medication against drinks for friends, cosmetics, sanitary items, birthday and Christmas presents.
Until I can’t take a train journey to see family in the south.
Until I can’t take a holiday, because it would mean digging into reserves I don’t have.
Until anorexia prickles its cold little fingers into my head – “do you really need to eat that?” – whenever I look at my weekly collection of shopping receipts.
Until I’m starting to consider quitting the gym, which sets that pale thing in my head shrieking all over again.

With downsizing on the flat / selling off unnecessary items, I will hopefully have accumulated enough cash in the next couple of months, to go and see my family and old school friends. I’ve been promising to do so all year. A change of scene wouldn’t hurt. Maybe, in the new year, a walking holiday?

Let’s not get above ourselves.

Still. I’ll find time to get out and see people more, jumble up the habitual life, which – as secure as it feels – tends to act as an incubator for this bloody thing in my head. I might even be able to pull off a job-hop, if necessary. But I’d rather just get a bit of a wage increase, and stay with the people who make me feel like a person – a team player – rather than a shadow. I’d rather give back to them what I can, in tea ‘n coffee runs when the weather is terrible, and extra hours put in to make the poor old place as comfortable and functional as possible. In my own small way, I make a difference. But in the end, it might not even come down to choice.

Whatever happens, I’ll find a way to concentrate again, with financial and emotional reserves. To sleep, and visit art galleries in London, the theatre, attend gigs; wandering around among the things that colour up my mind. I’ll be able to write, and actually have things to say. Maybe even take up studies with the Open University, to challenge this hive-mind with politics and economics, history – even if it’s just for the additional knowledge to put thoughts and current events into context.

Hope this wasn’t too much of a whinge. I know I’m better off than many, and am grateful to still be well enough to work. But every now and then, I need to put things into perspective, and this is the only place I have to do so. It’s difficult to talk about, and I’ve hashed out enough arguments over work with the people who care (and some who don’t, but feel they have the right to an opinion anyway.) This isn’t the issue – I like the balance of fewer take-home responsibilities / time for writing (mostly), and have more than enough reasons to stay at the Nick while still needed.

But ambitions come with increasing awareness of the world, reflective of improved mental health and experience – they form a push-pull scenario in my head, with the last ties of mental illness. I didn’t expect to still be alive 14 years on, let alone in a position to consider actually grasping dreams in my hands.

Maybe I should race the economic recovery.

Ocean Floor

I walk along it, feet sifting through the quietness of thoughts, the dreams of the fish, the silver-green of a life once known. They are but memories, a time and tide spent alone, with thoughts which would see me wake in the night – drowning in the salt of fears, long gone in another existence.

I was as then. I am as now. I am that is.

This is the woman, who has grown out of herself and into the light, dredging up from the darkest places we go to die alone, like animals, like the ones weary of the world and all its tawdry cuttings and fashions. I was bewildered as a child, flustered and fumbling to bring together the two integral halves of myself; the campaigner, the Green activist, the girl-child who would marry Swampy (if anyone) and live in a tree. My father despaired of my blackened feet; my mother fought with my hoarding of teaspoons and mugs on the windowsill, where I sat for hours to gape at the stars, singing quietly to the cats and the night, because that blue-black garden was all I could really understand. The bitterness of acorns, flushed out on the grass; the snails, making their sticky-wind ways over the trellis and the cracked paving, where my two black ‘n white moggies and two Birmans came and went, came and went, like pale ghosts of tomorrow and aeons past – as only cats will.

Such a hard thump in the chest; such an ache in the throat, to watch the sun go down on my own tomorrows. There seemed no way of bringing this wilder side of myself into a harmony with the woman I also wanted to be – the one who would follow men with her eyes (when not running blind from their own), because she did not trust the boys of her own age to give a straight answer, or to have more than a handful of nonsensical words strung together, usually with a cigarette latched on the lip between. Shaven skull, swipe-card eyebrow. Those were the 90’s, dear friend, and no lover of mine.

Barring one. He was a boy who stood out and apart, for a cynical – stark? – aged-beyond? – view of the world. He who had already read Lord of the Rings cover-to-cover, he who knew the meaning of Silence in a Sound, and could play guitar like a woman who weeps at beautiful art on the wall. All the usual hipster nonsense, you would find yourself thinking, but for the other integral parts thrown in – none of which I will reveal here, for his name is my secret to keep forever, like so much else in my life

(shadows on the wall)

and a scepticism far pre-dating our shared age and Year group. It was for this in particular that I loved him, the first love of three, outside male family members, which is of course the difference between Experience and Instinct. Well, for me anyway.

(I love my father dearly. But we are not, and have not always been friends.)

This scepticism, which would see him ground me in truth – all my mad-dash words and high-flying ideals, making a prey of my mind when I should have been working on something important, like coursework, or growing up, or indeed – eating enough to stay alive. When I told him that I thought it would be good for my body if I trained that bit harder, since exercise can only be a good thing – right? – he didn’t say a word.
Just looked me up and down, as a male friend with bird-bones reflected in his eyes, and raised a brow.

I listened to him, where I ignored others. When his breath fell on my cheek that night by the bonfire, it was knowledge of what could never be, but would last beyond words.

I don’t forget the ones I have loved, and they have numbered few. Three. My favourite number. Each one finding himself at some point in my life, strung like turquoise on this lifeline which has seen me evolve, beyond girl-activist to anorexic-shadow, to …well, me.

I have never looked for love. It always finds me first, usually when I am engaged in hiding from something or another
(reality.)

I am still trying to find the strands which will mesh those integral parts of me. The girl who walked with bare feet and climbed trees, is still inside. Still a focus, though she has lost her way and walked upon thorns recently, into a city of concrete and numbers. The world of men … I’m not sure it is for me.

Liebe –
I told you before, and should have paid heed to my own words. These dreams we have, they die in the dawn, for our time is the secret of shadows; only to be resurrected in the stars we make and fashion as our own.
Perhaps I have tried too hard to be you. When all I have ever worked towards is to be your equal, if such a thing were possible; to walk by your side, to know what to say, when in fact I should remember who I am –
What you might have found –
Whatever. I don’t know. It is hard to walk in concrete shoes. I am more at home in the twilight woods, after all. I have neglected my friends, sad to say, though they have rallied around me this week, in a time of whiteout and despair, when I thought I had lost you and myself forever.

When I thought the past would take me, after all.

But 3am horrors are just that. They are a cut in the fabric, to be stitched back together. I have a referral from my GP, to begin seeing a therapist again. The first in almost a decade. There is no other way forward, though I swore I’d never go back down that twisting path again; they have promised me regular sessions.

I only want to be who I am. If not happy – I could never be wholly that, it wouldn’t suit my Mercy Street to be flooded in constant sunlight – then unique. And if not your equal, for I doubt I could ever achieve that, then at least an outlet –
A waiting silence –
A word where needed –
A love and lover, without need for vehement claim. You are the last, and beyond this is nothing I have need of. I can go without love if it is not returned; without emotions, without that which would hold me back from writing and wandering and walking the lamplight haven.

Those who happen to fall in beside me, are welcome enough. But I ask only for you. As I once asked of the other two, one of whom went with me a-ways and as my friend only; it was all he had to give, and for those years of adolescence, we were close as afternoon shadows in the clay-pit hawthorn.

Of the next, I still have regret; such bitterness at the failings of my own heart. I am a chameleon of sorts, prone to latching onto people whom I admire / respect, taking that which seems appropriate for me to have – sucking them dry, perhaps, before discarding them.
Yes, that is how I view myself. An emotional virus. An amoeba. A girl who would become a woman, learning and filching experiences and hobbies and interests along the way. Because I have had so much growing up and catching up to do, and those five years together, they were lessons learned in the green-gold of a watery forest, full of red kites and walks; the drift of snow, with the lace-up pain of my numb fingers

(his own warm ones, wrapped about mine to protect the tips)

and at last, the open bowl of the pewter sky, spun out from the Downs in a seemingly endless day of tomorrows. We didn’t plan for the future, for what was then, that is not Now?

Now You. Now there is Stars, and sometimes-silence; companionable, desperately-seeking, or waiting for the storm to break. There is a little black kitten, with oceans for eyes. There is a strand of toxic beauty on the ground, the petrol rainbow that most would not look twice at, but which details my version of love, all around the block.

There is Watching my Step. There is Stepping this way, You the other; the feral dance of cats, the Whose turn is it Next?

I grin even as I write it.

There is nothing for me, beyond a blue rose held in the palm, carried wherever I go. Whatever you might think, whatever you may doubt in the world, don’t let it be me.

I owe everyone a huge Thank You for this week.
(Danke Schon.)
I have perhaps tried to be in too many places at once, with interests strung up on a crossbar, pulled apart with the pressure of being so many versions of Me at once. It isn’t healthy. I should know this by now, after long experience. This is the problem with gaining weight, and becoming well. My mind is a hive. It never lets up; there is always something new to read, someone’s life to learn.

How best to meld the pieces of myself? How best to write about the contemporary world which engages my interest, and the natural / supernatural worlds which engage my soul?

Truth is, I still don’t know. Which might explain why I took a leap at the European elections, and voted the Green Party for a change. Though I knew little about them, I am always willing to learn, and it seems that their policies are at least something I can believe in, head and heart both.

Which I guess summarizes what I am really after. Some kind of unity. When I failed before – faced with the onslaught of the adult world, while backed by the twilight of childhood

(the wilderness of wandering, the bittersweet tang of the hawthorn’s breath)

I turned away, and took up the pale life of anorexia instead. It was easier not to think. Just to dial my mind down on calories and exercise, to block out what would send me into silent-screaming pain. It also meant I did not have to face the world, and growth. I could protest innocence, could deny all knowledge, could claim to be immune from it all – because I was too unwell to focus. People leave you alone when you are skeletal. They are too afraid of breaking you, even with a hug.
Or so I had hoped. It didn’t quite work out that way, which is a long walk in itself.

(Life by Extremes.)

Well. I’ll figure it all out one day. In the meantime, have a song.

This time of year has become synonymous with loss, for me. Last year, around June, my ex and I were booted out of our little flat, which had been my first “home”, and a haven of freedom. We had ploughed our money and time into building up that sanctuary, piece by artistic piece. But all things must move towards their end, it seems.

So. It is raindrops strung like beads in the trees; it is lush wet grass, and glistening leaves. It is a thick heaviness of air, as though the world holds its breath. I remember waking up on the last morning, clutching the sheet to my chin and staring at the lemon walls – blank by then, all the posters taken down, to reveal pock marks in the too-thin plaster, the hollow walls – with the finality of tears sliding down my face. Too many to count, last year.

But that was then. This is Now. And though the future is as tilted and uncertain as ever, it is at least mine to take. No shitty landlords (quite the contrary; my landlady is a tall and elegant diamond of a woman), and a slight easing of the pain which filled up my boots with each step, leaving little puddles behind wherever I walked.
He will always be my best friend, so long as he would have me there.

And Liebe – you?
That is your word to make, and your own Mercy Street to walk. The water lies quiet and still, yet.

I hope I haven’t missed anything out. This post has been building up for some time. All I will add is this – if you have not yet checked out the #YesAllWomen hashtag, you must. I have been stung by flashbacks this week, reading through other women’s experiences of assault and abuse, but it was essential reading. I needed to know the names of other sufferers; I needed to know I am not alone, and for all my talk of “recovery”, that I have some way to go yet.

Therapy. Morrissey help me. This will be fun 😉

All things move towards their end

Listening to the rain beating its tattoo on my skylight, I know the night outside is a cold one for some, warm with nostalgia for others. The gutters will be flooded with petrol rainbows; the drains with dreams and reality, mingled as one in a skirling blaze of colour.

I like to sit with my back to the wall, watching dark shadow-flecks fall through the glass and into my room. Light to dark, nimbus eye – eyrie heart. Dry as bone, and always home.

Rain can carry the trace of tears away, with no one the wiser. It’s the best place to be, when the sky is a vast mirror for the mind.

Today, life (once again, with feeling) became all too real.

Just when things had settled down and I’d got my breath back. Change is a shift in the air, as of pigeons whirling overhead in their little v’s of praise to the clouds; it’s the movement of light over the bedroom wall, from morning peach to afternoon gold, to evening brass. At least I was semi-aware this time. I’ve had my ear to the ground, when not watching the sky.

My workplace is a poor dilapidated thing now, but I can’t help giving her walls a forlorn pat, each time I traipse up and down the winding staircases that could go on forever – were it not for floor after floor emptying out, becoming a graveyard of slow-shifting air and dust, memories cocooned in the minds of those who knew the place for what it was. Three years have shown me more than I could hope to learn outside of her walls – about life, love, death, and all the bits muddled in between. Most of all, more important to me than I had realized in the early days, it is Family. With all the knots and bits of fluff this entails.

I’m already on the hunt for new employment, preferably in the same field. It’s been my home where all others fell away. and was a focus for my mind last year. I don’t think I can stay to the end, to see those gates close for us one last time.

Perhaps I’ll finally answer that throaty call of the world, with travel and exploration. I might find the jungle temple of a childhood dream, the redrock canyon too, with its endless blood-lust sun. Travel and writing have been mainstays since before anorexia made its icy nest in my heart. I’ve waited long enough… And yet. I am a curious beast.
I still want to know the punchline.

Though I swore I would never enter the capital on a one-way ticket, there is a chance open to me. I may yet take it.

If I happen to have phenomenal good luck in the next few months, things will work out. At the very least, there is still the South and family. This isn’t a preferable option; I moved to leave the ghosts behind. But perhaps the last five years have finally absolved me of their presence.

I live in an echo chamber of thoughts, tinged with blue and silver. Stars and moths, darkest night. It’s a good place to be.

Wandering, wondering.

Who knows. Last year was such a balls-up, perhaps this year will be mine, by way of compensation. But I dare not presume any more than I already have.

Wish me luck, my friends. The game is on 😉

So here it is

New Year, new you. Well, we all know that’s bollocks, but this year has seen me evolve in ways I thought would be possible only if I had a personality transplant.
Oh wait.

Well, never mind that. I’m done with wallowing in 2013. It was a balls-up from start to finish, and I’ve been tempered. Enough now.

Recap.

* Finally worked out how to use Twitter. Current follower tally stands at 2,045. God knows why, or how. They must all be as demented / loveable as me.

* Made some quite outstanding friends, near and far, as a result of this introduction to social media, in its complex entirety. Honestly couldn’t have been without them this year; particularly the Ka’tet. You know who you are.

* Got another poem published; had my first author interview ( Sep. issue of @SynaesthesiaMag ); had a couple of shorties published in Emags.

* Published my first Kindle story, “Terminal.” Went back to check on sales recently, and discovered my Christmas funds had been significantly boosted. Cue spending-spree on my landlady’s twins.

* After being booted out of my old flat (bad) I now live in a beautiful little loft conversion (good), with an en suite and walk-in wardrobe … which of course holds more books than clothes. And my katana.

* Am still at the Nick, despite a possible hiccup in employment (budget cuts) earlier in the year. Sorted for now. Three years and counting! Am hopefully signing up with the Specials (voluntary) branch, next year’s intake.

* Hit my hospital target weight again, a decade after leaving Bethlem and promptly losing what I’d gained inside. Did it on my own steam this time around, and am far more muscled for it. In fact, most of it IS muscle, barring the appearance of a new cleavage, which still makes me laugh. Me, who never wanted a chest. Hormones, eh.

* Speaking of which … got my menstruation back (sorry guys reading this) after its absence/sporadic appearance for the past decade. Still probably infertile, but I only ever wanted to be an aunt / big sister, really. You get to hand them back this way.

* Am pushing heavier weights and running for longer stretches of time, as a result of said muscle gains. Pretty stoked about this.

* Bone structure still seems to be sound; no joint pains or fever this year, unlike last June, when I seriously wondered if I was dying. Weird Lupus symptoms. Those were bad days. This year, no wrist-clicks or swollen knuckles.

* Had a little cancer scare earlier this year – turns out it was a cyst in my left breast, due to hormones kicking off again. Still needs to be monitored, as the big C runs in my family, but otherwise it was a scare only.

* Jimmi and I decided to call it a day on our five year relationship. Am still trying to find the answer inside, as to where that love went. How complacency made itself known. We are still best friends, which is more than a lot of couples can say with a break-up. I wouldn’t want to lose my soul mate.

* Discovered some amazing new music through friends, including
– Fever Ray
– Polica
– I am Kloot
– The XX
– Blonde Redhead
– Sam Baker

To name but a few. The mainstays are, as ever, The Smiths and The National

* Speaking of, the National’s latest album, “Trouble will find Me”, will forever be my soundtrack to this year. Particularly “Slipped.”

* My beloved cat, Kai, died in November. His weak heart finally gave out. His ashes are kept in a sealed urn at my Ma’s place; it’s in the shape of a little curled cat, which is just how he was – like a furry Danish pastry. RIP, my baby boy.
Additional: Ma made me up a picture book full of photos of him

kaiser book

* I learned the true value of method writing – especially where the novel is concerned. Siobhan became real to me, through Fever Ray’s “Keep the Streets Empty for me

* I coined a new phrase, apparently – “lamplight haven.” Seems no other bugger is using it.

lamplight haven

* Brought a dying little rose back to life. The new flat is doing her good.

Rosie blooming

We’ll see what 2014 brings. More change, I guess. But I think I’m ready this time.
I mean, c’mon, I have a personalized work mug now.

useless twat

New Year

My resolutions for 2014 are quite simple.

Nothing and no one (especially estate agents) will get under my skin and make me cry as I did in 2013. Not if I can help it.
This year, it’s my turn to be cruel, and kind.

Even as the sadness gnaws at my bones. Responsibility for one’s actions – my lesson, learned.