Wednesday, 28 November 2007

guardian url

hello everyone,

you can read my guardian article on ladies spinning tunes here...,,2218076,00.html


sianush xx

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

i want

i want to write until i can't feel my fingers anymore, until my arm feels like it will drop from pain but my brain which is fevered with the desire just forces me on and on and on,
i want to write about not music reviews about the total cadence of every sense that is bombarding me as i sit distracted from the spreadsheet i should be updating, write the lines of the tree fingered upward pencilled onto the grey white lines of the sky behind it, write the umbrellas and the lights on the cars hitting the light in the sky,
i want to write not beautypages but the sweat that ran down my thigh between skin and nylon tights as i whirled round the dancefloor to northern soul funk sweeping hair behind my head because now i have long hair to sweep, and the salty taste of sweat on my upper lip and the salty taste of a hint of a tear kissing as louis armstrong sings songs from james bond movies and i think yes! how perfect,
i want to write deserts i haven't seen but which i know all about because a desert was all there was way back when, long stretches of sands over sands falling and that amazing wave effect and nothing but dryness dry waves with the consistency of coarse salt for i know deserts, i have written them many times and i will so again,
i want to write mountains,
i want to write the touch on my skin that sends shivers and the touches that came before which i left behind but which make me smile on memory and on thought and the simplicty of recognising a smile that even now is reserved just for me, a look in the eyes which is shared, now with you,
i want to write of the crumbs that fall when i take the first bite of a croissant in bed for breakfast with scalding coffee that i gulp too quickly because i want

Thursday, 8 November 2007

journalism news

heyi am now writing regularly for rockfeedback

where you can search for my kid carpet article, and etp magazine

also, my guardian article may be coming out tomorrow (featuring interviews with octopussy, chicks with decks, annala, cherry bomb, tight fit, dissmiss, dazee and queen bee) so watch this space.finally articles of mine wil be appearing in subtext and drama this month!now, if only i was getting paid for all of those, i'd be able to quit my job...hee hee

sian xx

Friday, 5 October 2007

no shame!


i went to my first feminist meeting last night and it was really inspiring.

as a writer, i feel that my feminism kind of informs most of what i write, as much as any other part of my life does, be that family, sex, work, adventure, drunken nights out...all of these things form my character and make up my experience. having a political and personal frameowk of feminism around me allows me to explore themes and experiences that i have had through the perspecitve of how i see my place as a woman, as i see my place as myself.

i don't really have that many politics beyond feminism. im not a socialist, im certainly not a communist. i am left wing and i have strong political opinions. but i believe the old feminist maxim that the personal is the political. i believe this enables me to see my own life and aims and objectives clearly and with purpose.

modesty part two

keeping you updated with my shalit ( adventures.
once upon a time there were gentlemen and there were ladies. ladies wore long dresses with frills at the bottom of their skirts, gloves to the elbows and carried parasols behind which they could hide virginal blushing faces. gentlemen walked at their sides, holding elbows and attending to the ladies needs, whilst never acting improperly. should a young scamp dare to speak out of turn to the lady, her modesty was her protector, and he would feel shame at his impropriety. there was no rape. modesty forbade it. there was no anorexia. modesty forbade it.
once upon a time there were gentlemen and there were ladies. with charles II on the throne, the women wore low cut dresses with slight wisps of slik covering their full breasts.
These women married men and then became mistresses of other, richer men. There were ladies who lived under bow bells and hitched their skirts about their knees and plied themselves as wares.
Once upon a time Clarissa worked for a rich man who cornered her and took what he wanted, once upon a time Lucrece gave her husband's friend food and he took her to, once upon a time Lavinia went a walking and her cousins found her and they raped her and cut off her hands and tongue, once upon a time rape never happened because rape wasn't officially a crime.
Once upon a time ladies would take to their beds with lachrymose eyes and a melancholy sigh and they'd say no to food and they'd sigh even more. Their bodies would fade but still they wouldn't eat, and people would whisper she has the vapours, she has consumption, she has hysterics. They didn't whisper anorexia because the word didn't exist, so how could anorexics exist.
These problems have always existed. Wendy Shalit asks - why are none of my grandmother's friends anorexic? Why doesn't she look a little harder.
As the Shakespeare who she is so fond of quoting says:
"A rose by any other name."

modesty - part one

at last ive started reading wendy shalit's book "a return to modesty". this has been all over the feminist blogosphere lately, and ive been meaning to read it to see what she has to say for herself, rather than purely read criticism of her.
hhm. well, im not very far in to it, but so far i am unimpressed. yes,i think she clearly addresses some of the problems that increased sexual freedom has caused - ie losing the right to say no, feeling like you HAVE to have sex, all this is pertinent and representative of issues and dilemmas women face. however, it is her reasons and solutions that i am having problems digesting. her methods and her stats are also subject to question. for instance, as interesting as the ancedote that her mum banned her from sex ed is, using to try and prove that not going to sex ed means she doesn't feel the need to "hook up" with men isn't a very strong approach or offer much support to her theory. it is a personal example, and therefore cannot really be used or substantiated in a sociological study.
i can't help but feel that the idea of returning to modesty is suggesting a tendancy to put the blame for problems with an over sexed society on to women. ie, we gave up modesty and now, surprise surprise, we are being coerced in to sex. (her lines, not mine) it doesn't seem far enough away from she wore a short skirt, so she was asking for it.
maybe i like wearing mini dresses, and maybe i like wearing baggy jeans and a hoody. maybe somedays i like being quiet and unassuming, and other days im loud and bolshy. it doesn't make any difference to me demanding respect from people around me.
im not sure if she's missing my point or im missing hers.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

cadaverine magazine url

these lovely folks have published "Reading Naked Lunch in Tokyo" so you can have a mosey on their site if you wish...
they cut the last line "when i was in tokyo i read naked lunch" rendering the title meaningless, but whatcha gonna do!
sian xx

freelance wise - articles have appeared in metro, and im currently working on one for the guardian, have recently written for DRAMA and am busy making plans so watch this space!

cadaverine magazine url

these lovely folks have published "Reading Naked Lunch in Tokyo" so you can have a mosey on their site if you wish...
they cut the last line "when i was in tokyo i read naked lunch" rendering the title meaningless, but whatcha gonna do!
sian xx

freelance wise - articles have appeared in metro, and im currently working on one for the guardian, have recently written for DRAMA and am busy making plans so watch this space!

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

ladyfest bristol 2007 - the music

this will also be appearing on the rockfeedback site, at
Ladyfest Bristol 2007

Sian Norris

After many months preparing, organising, hosting meetings and fundraisers, finding bands and artists and venues and volunteers, Ladyfest Bristol 2007 took place on the 27th August until the 2nd September, in venues all over the city.

Ladyfest launched with an exciting and diverse line up at the Cube Microplex, a venue that has become synonymous with Bristol’s DIY music and arts scene, and which was heavily involved in Bristol’s Ladyfest of 2003. The night saw the opening of one of three art exhibitions, featuring work by London illustrator Susie Hogarth and Bristol based Lady Lucy, and an installation in the ladies loos created by Ladyfest organisers Liz Payne and Emily Dawson entitled “What do you See when you look in the Mirror?”. The work was designed to get women to look at themselves and write their responses, as well as provoking response by covering the toilets in articles and collages discussing women’s relationships with their bodies.
The Launch opened with a film by Lady Lucy that tracked her skateboarding around Bristol, followed by a speaker from the Bristol Fawcett Society, a charity that raises awareness of gender issues and runs campaigns helping women and men challenge sexism in society. Then the night moved on to the music. First up was Bristol based and Ladyfest organiser Gaptooth, playing her brand of politically motivated but upbeat electro pop songs, with the help of her sampler, guitar and microphone. Gaptooth has bucket loads of presence up on stage, chatting and interacting with the audience, and her tunes are just so god damn catchy, as the perfect pop song should be. It goes deeper though, with lyrics such as ‘the right to vote, did not set you free’ (Ladykillers) and ‘send them our carpet bombs for free’ (These Machines’), Gaptooth isn’t afraid to use the stage as a platform to raise debate and provoke a reaction. And as part of a line up for a festival whose aim was to “provoke thought and discussion on gender issues”, her inclusion makes perfect sense.
Everyone sojourned to the bar for a while to drink ginseng beer and hear the stylings of DJ Blackrainbow, who specialises in “music you didn’t know you loved”; a heady mix of Asian underground, two step, drum n bass, beats from the Balkans and a host of world dance and electro music, before heading back to the auditorium for the rare and much anticipated performance of Anat Ben David.
Accompanied by exciting visuals and the original DykeRider on drums, Anat pulled out a stunning and dynamic performance. With huge and complex beats and a voice that almost assaults the audience, she commanded the stage. Her songs are witty and angry and demanding. Visuals included her duetting with herself on the “things I can’t give you are useful, things that I can…aren’t!” – a defiantly feminist record about how women’s “usefulness” is valued, particularly in terms of her lesbian perspective, – dancing in gaffa tape (reminiscent of my favourite Chicks on Speed track!), and joined by multiple Anats on the screen to sing “We’re having a good time”. Anat Ben David doesn’t do solo shows very often so not only was it an exciting performance, it was a privilege to see her.

Tuesday hosted Ladyfest Totally Unplugged at the Lansdowne Pub in Clifton. No amps, no speakers, this was a night for women, their voices and their guitars. Lacuna was first on the line up, melodic voice singing about nostalgia. She was followed by Poppy, whose nasal twang and chatty lyrics are completely captivating, singing about tea and biscuits with a knowing look to her audience. Rasha Shaheen pulled out her ukulele to give a brilliant performance. I would go so far to say that Rasha is one of the best female performers in Bristol right now, with songs taking us from Saudi Arabia to Bristol’s Montpelier. Her voice is just sublime, lilting and seductive whilst still having a great power behind it that brings up the hairs on your neck and completely hits your emotions. “Fingers” is her stand out track for me; it encapsulates so much desire and longing, whilst being so simple in its execution.

Ladyfest aimed to cover as many aspects of women in music as possible, from electro and folk on Monday and Tuesday, to punk and riot grrl at the Ladyfest Mix Tape. The night opened with the debut gig of Blue Tobias, a female two piece with keyboards and vocals. For a first gig they were polished and received an enthusiastic reception, with nice use of samples and harmonising, singing about Dick Van Dyke – excellent! They were followed by Shut up Sonya in a balaclava, who mixes hip hop and riot grrl to sing eclectic and energetic tracks about cheese on toast, chavs, friends, anxiety and shoplifting. Drunk Granny and Venus Bogardus brought a punkier element to the proceedings, with loud guitars and a brash stage presence that got the crowd dancing.

I missed the Lipstick Live show at the Louisiana which featured The Mentalists, Manic Cough, Colliding Lemons and the Panther Girls, and Girl Wonder’s Reggae Special, as I was attending Zuleika Ziegfield’s Cabaret of Curiosities and another performance from Rasha, so next up on the musical line up was Ladyfest Live at the Thekla on the Saturday. Bath based Hysterical Injury was on first, and was brilliant. Really fresh sounding, a hint of PJ Harvey, quite stripped down (the band has three members, guitar, bass and drums) but with influences from a range of genres, hints of electronica and bass driven sounds, to create an overall effect that lifted it from your average grunge rock affair.
Corey Orbison are Ladyfest Bristol alumni and have been playing here and there on the Bristol scene for the last few years, band members Mike, Lisa and Irene (formerly of Lesbo Pig) familiar faces to people who hang out in Café Kino and the Cube. They take their music back to the routes of punk and riot grrl, high pitched shouting vocals from Michael, whilst Lisa completely bangs it out on the drums – they are confrontational and loud and demand the audience’s response. They aren’t for the fainthearted, and their songs have a clear political motivation that was delineated by Michael’s speech about his place in feminism, and how the band want men and women to come together and support one another as feminists, instead of hurting each other, as is so often the case.
The gig’s headliners, London based 586, have been compared to Art Brut and Arcade Fire. Although I didn’t get the last reference (because there are girls in the band?) they were brilliant. Red lipsticked and feisty lead singer Deborah amazed by playing synth, violin, melodica and percussion, whilst her absolutely lovely voice, accompanied by Steve’s, belted out songs about money and monkeys, small town living and paranoia, mixed with “disco dilemmas and punk politics”. Kind of nu rave with the use of synths and sampling, but still resisting categorisation, the five piece of Deborah, Steve, Simon, Grant and Samantha are fun, brash, loud and exciting and about to start touring with the Soho Dolls.
The Thekla gig was supported by Ladyfest Socialism with organisers Chicks with Decks playing their brand of riot grrl, indie and electro – basically spinning all the tunes they like to play, followed by Tight Fit, who got me dancing to BOB by Outkast – fantastic track!

So there you have it, a whistle stop tour through the musical delights of Ladyfest Bristol 2007. It wasn’t just the music though, the festival comprised of craft, singing and feminist workshops, and Open Day at the Feminist Archive South, storytelling and spoken word events, debates, three art exhibitions and a children’s Mad Hatter’s Tea party. “We wanted to make a festival that everyone could enjoy, with a diverse and accessible programme that was open to everyone,” explained the organisers. “And we think we succeeded.”

Saturday, 15 September 2007

debbie, my heart is yours

my boy and i were talking about debbie harry last night.
ok, so it is a bit of a cliche to love her right now i guess, with her being lauded by all the magazines that i hate as a style icon, a photo of her and her luscious lips below those shocking cheekbones plastered next to a photo of mischa barton wearing aviators, "because blondie wears them". but i don't care, i've loved her for a while and i keep loving her now.
maybe it is because i grew up loving madonna. so yeah, she was a solo artist, but like debbie they were both women with brash confident sexualites that pandered to no kind of shit and was just them, being women, being sexy, doing what they did best. ive had this madonna argument a lot, with people telling me that madonna and her sexuality wasn't empowering, it was pandering to men's fantasies and i shouldn't get wound up by the pussycat dolls and girls aloud, and then say madonna is empowering.
which is a load of bullshit. i just flat out don't believe that madonna or debbie harry were pandering to male fantasies. because their whole sexuality seems to me to be based on themselves as women, celebrating their sexiness, celebrating the fact that they are comfortable in their bodies and not trying to impress anyone. debbie was hot in a baggy black t shirt, no make up and a relaxed attitude. pussycat dolls are desperate in an attempt to live out a fantasy that completely ignores being natural. debbie was a natural.
she doesn't have a strong voice (altho, stronger now than before) but she belts out a song like she fucking means it. and we forget how revolutionnary it was to have a GIRL singing in a male rock band. there still aren't that many out there. she brought a luscious femininity to rock music, she made it playful, and poignant, and fun. but without compromising on quality.
and she was so stylish.
you read interviews now and you realise what a strong woman debbie is. she forged a place for herself in a man's world and she worked her arse off to get to the position she's in, and you get the feeling that this is a lady who has had shit thrown at her, and never took it. take when she came back with blondie and "maria" and was criticised for putting on some weight. who gives a fuck, she looked great and she could sing good tunes, i didn't hear anyone saying the band were looking quite grizzly. did she care? no, she just made the album a success. or the crit she got for having been a bunny; when we don't criticse men for the fact that they still buy playboy and still fetishize bunnies (what IS that? rabbits? it isn't like men use the rampant one...), instead of yelling at a successful woman for being a bunny, why don't we yell at the society that commodifies women's sexuality into big eared format!
well, anyway, whatever, i love debbie harry. i think she's hot.


i really love baking right now.
am i becoming domestic?
well, when the butternut squash muffins taste that good, what does it matter?


ugh, i can't believe it is another beautiful sunny saturday and i am sat here in work. again! i seem to be working saturdays all the time! at least this is a real bona fide shift that i will get paid for this month tho. but it doesn't make me feel that much better. im sitting in last night's clothes with no make uo and my manager has just dropped off next term's weekend rota. i think, i know, i have to leave here soon.
sooo, just sitting here, just sitting here, looking for jobs. if you would like to offer me a job then call me up. i'll wear red lipstick to the office every day and work my librarian 50s hitchcock heroin chic for you.
all the jobs i want are in london but all the life (or, a good two thirds of it) i want is here in Bristol. The magazine i was just writing for are desperate for staff, and i think they'd be loads of fun to work for, but i can't leave my home. i love this city like i do a person, with a huge, all comsuming and encompassing passion for walking down its streets. i love the fact the old beautiful buildings are juxtaposed with modern monstrosities, i love the river and the dutty swans, i love being able to walk everywhere in relative safety and peace, headphones in, head up, feet bouncing over the pavements (altho, i don't love my new trainers, i miss my old gazelles) and i love seeing the people i know wave at me as i dance past them.
i can't give that up to be a fashion assistant on a magazine in the ditch.
i think i want to set up my own business, be my own fashion assistant. but i don't have any money.
so, it looks like it will just be me, sitting here, not in the sun, wishin and hopin.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

fading bliss aka to wear red lipstick

i woke up this morning and the whole day seemed so full of potential. the sun was streaming through the curtains and i was being held so comfortably in my boyfriend's arms, who kind of murmered in his sleep and kissed my shoulder. little things. these are what matter.
then walking to work with my big sunglasses covering my eyes to hide the fact that i had been slack this morning AGAIN and forgot to put my make up on, planning what my outfit for the Ladyfest Launch Party would look like, and planning what my outfit for my upcoming job interview would look like. (both amazing, both perfect, im thinking black sequins for one, grey and yellow with waist belt and my fifties shoes for the other).
and all of a sudden i'm at work and like a crack of lightening all the peaceful bliss shatters in a flood of yellow green neon strip lighting and the extraordinary grey speckled walls and ceilings that bear down on me like some crushing cave.
hmm, "crushing cave" sounds a bit adolescent, but i like the alliteration.
already i've had a whole stream of people be rude to me because i won't let them in the library on account of it being closed. this one woamn was practically shouting at me, and i felt like an awful "computer says no" woman, but listen lady, just because you talk with something stuck to the back of your throat and thrust your chin and head out at me, doesn't mean i can turn the hands of the clock, risk losing my job and change time just because you want to use the library half an hour before it is open. i hate being a receptionist who moonlights as a writer and (at the moment) festivla organiser. it just results in making me so cross. every day i have to deal with people who talk down to me and shout at me, or look right through me as though I'm not there. And like some evil celebrity i want to yell 'do you know who i am?'. i go home every afternoon and my life switches and im scribbling notes or im on the phone to a journalist or im freaking out that the paitings aren't going to arrive. it is like being at school all over again. at school where i was looked through or looked at to be mocked, then in the evening when they were swigging bacardi breezers in a club in weston super mare, i was swirling my hips dilated eyes on the guest list at some drum n bass night. then back to school to be pushed aside in the dirt.
i have two options, i've decided.
i get a new job.
i start wearing red lipstick and killer heels to work.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Baba Yaga - The Final Version (for now)

Baba Yaga

I had to follow where my house led me. The chicken’s foot upon which my little house is balanced got itchy one day, and decided to take itself off. I was quite happy where I was, and had no real desire to go deep in to the woods.

I lived by the lake once upon a time, before. It is so lovely there. The sun shone down on our little house and danced on the lake, and each day the red rider and I would swim in its waters, and he, who was the sun in so many ways, would lift me on to the back of his horse to take me riding all around the banks and I would laugh. We would lie on the small bays in the lake’s shallows and tell one another stories of where we had been. I would cook us breakfast and dinner in my skirt and apron, whilst he walked all over the forest to gather us our food. Taking my weaving on to the edge of the house, I would sit with my legs dangling down from the floor, waiting for him to return with his basket. I would feel his approach and my legs would swing faster, I would think ‘this is the most joy I can know, to live now is to be most happy, and this happiness must go on, for what else would be left without it.’ My chest would convulse with lust and desire as soon as I could hear his foot steps, and the smile on my face would widen to show my straight and pretty white teeth, and, with the power that I was then learning to harness, I would launch and leap in to his arms, knocking the food in the basket from him and taking my rightful place, holding his hair between my fingers.

I do not know how many days and months we spent in this idyll. It never occurred to me that things could change, until he arrived home one day with the giant pestle and mortar with an ominous, ‘you may need this one day’ and a heavy sigh. Confused at the possibility of a day that may arrive without him in it, but at my questioning he kissed me sadly and stopped my tongue. Then the summons came. I sobbed and cried and begged him to stay, so he did. Then his brothers came, the white and black riders, and they took him away from me. He held my head in his hands and said ‘farewell my love and keep thee safe, for one day I will return to you and we will ride to the sun together.’ Or that is what he seemed to say. That is how I remember it. My head was such a pretty one then, with long black hair and wide eyes, and my nose, that I feel getting more pointed as the years go by, straight and proud. As he held me in his arms that final sighing time, I saw the white and black riders behind his shoulders, laughing at me. I stuck out my tongue at their sneers and kissed my red knight goodbye. Somewhere I heard the house laugh around me, and a shot of pain convulsed me. “You knew they would come,” I whispered to the house. But she remained silent.

A week later my chicken foot got itchy and moved on. She had always been jealous of the rider and me. I banged on the floor and screamed at it with all my might that we had to stay; we had to stay put for how else would my rider find me? I yelled that if we left the lake he may return to see me gone and where would I be without him! I kicked and cried and howled and told the foot to stop its stupid hopping that made me so sick that I threw my head outside the door and left a trail of vomit from the lake to where we ended up in the forest. The house hopped all night long. Me sick and screaming the whole journey’s length, until we had reached the forest’s deepest shadows, where creatures unnamed and unapproachable lurked under hedges and behind the trunks of the twisted trees. Weak with sickness and anger I slept the day through. When I woke it was dark. It was so dark in the forest. Without my knight there was no light. And I realised with stark horror that my red rider, who was the sun to me, who was my light, would never find me in these pitch wooded caves And if he couldn’t find me, he could never rescue me from the maliciousness of my house. I started to cry again, because I knew what the foot was playing at and I yelled ‘you stupid bitch of a hen, why don’t you want me to live in my sun, don’t think I can’t see your stupid game!’ I beat the floor with my hands and wailed and howled all the night through, until dawn came and I fell asleep exhausted. Every night thereafter I woke to my sad cries, and every dawn thereafter my head collapsed, exhausted to sleep on the cold hard floor. My smile was wrenched out of my mouth and replaced with a desperate angry twist, and my hands became gnarled and calloused from the pounding they underwent each time dusk came and woke me. I was too tired and bruised to eat the good meals I always used to cook, now I never eat. My pretty black eyes sunk in to my head and my pretty black hair matted and knotted and grew down my back, and I knew that the house was mocking me, whispering that even if my red knight found me, he would not want the hag I was becoming.

A cat came calling on one of my twilight mornings and asked me for some milk. My forehead was pressed against the wooden decking and my face wet. My body lay crumpled as a throw away rag and it was with great effort that I pulled my head from its downwards position to face the cat side on.
“Excuse me,” she asked in her sweet voice. “I came to the forest chasing a mouse, and as he got away I lost my bearings. I’ve been here so long and I am so hungry. I was wondering if I could trouble you for some milk?”
I shook my head slowly. My mouth struggled to form words that weren’t screams of despair, and carefully I looked for the normal language that I hadn’t used for so long.
“My lover has left me to join his brothers and my house took me away from where he could find me. I have no milk for I have no cow, but you can have water from the well if it pleases you.”
I was proud of my effort. It had been so long since I had seen another soul. I was glad I could offer some help, even if it wasn’t the milk the little one craved.
But with a petulant toss of her head the cat answered back “you silly old witch, no wonder he left you with no milk to offer! You can take your water and use it to wash your filthy face, for all have done with thee.”
It didn’t take much to swell my breast with sorrow, and I screamed and I kicked and I called the cat all ugly names and before I knew how the jug of water had lifted without my touch and poured itself down the cat’s back.

She sat outside the house with the chicken’s foot and mewed plaintively all day but never continued her search for milk.

A dog came calling on one of my twilight mornings and asked me for some meat. Curled up foetal on the dirty wooded floor, my hair stuck down to the back of my neck and my face exhausted with crying constantly I heard his yelping, and crawled to the edge of the floor and the open door.
“Excuse me,” he asked gruffly. “I came to the forest chasing a rat, and as he got away I lost my bearings. I’ve been here so long and I am so hungry. I was wondering if I could trouble you for some meat.”
I shook my head slowly. Words were slow in coming, so used was my mouth to forming its only vocabulary of wails and howls.
“My lover has left me to join his brothers and my house took me away from where he could find me. I have no meat for I have no stock, but I have some dried fruit if it pleases you.”
But my offer was met with a yelp of disgust, as the dog took in my cowed figure and cried “you silly old witch, no wonder he left you with no meat to offer! You can take your dead fruit and use it to fatten up, for all have done with thee.”
Without lifting a finger, I sent a stick flying towards his back. He took a seat next to the cat and began to bark.

There was no kindness or warmth left in this world. This was the only thought that remains in my head. I repeat it daily as I battle against the sound of the plaintive mewing and the angry barking and the mock mock mock of this stupid hen’s foot.
The longer time passes the more I wonder whether they are all right and it was no surprise that he left me. I knew when I saw his sneer that the dark rider hated me. I knew they wanted to turn him against me once they had him in their clouds. They had conspired with the chicken’s foot to take me safe out of his sight so they could keep him for themselves. They took the sun away so that my world could be plunged in to one of darkness with no specks of his kindness to protect me. He knew they would come. And I would howl at the moon that this dark rider was a bastard and had no right to take the sun in my life from me, just because he was the dark rider and only loved the night.

Some days when I slept in my place on the floor I would dream myself in his arms and we would be by the lake again. I would dance in the sun and he would laugh as I moved, then whisk me up and lay me down and in these dreams I would feel alive like I never did in the waking hours. Then the darkness would grow intense and wake me, and I would know my loneliness once more.

A girl came a calling on one of my twilight mornings with a basket full of food and drink. I watched her from out the corner of my dead left eye give the cat some milk, who in return gave her my mirror that she had stolen to gaze at her own reflection. And I watched her from out of the corner of my dead right eye give the dog some meat, who gave her comb in return that he had stolen to brush his glossy coat.. And I thought, look at her face so pretty; look at her face so kind. In her cheeks I saw the rosy light I had once held so dear, and in her I could see the rays my man had thrown from his body and I thought, she is his messenger, she must have come from him! She carried his radiance in her body and I realised that all this time I had been wrong, and there was kindness left in the world, and it had all been distilled for me in this girl’s body by my lover.
The dirt had built up around me and grown over the parts of my body closest to the floor. I pulled at my ankles and shook the ties away, and slowly started to stand. My body once so supple and soft felt old and brittle as my limbs creaked to readjust themselves to this new, vertical poise. Blood rushed to muscles and bones that had been numb and starved and the pain was like nothing I had ever felt except that day when my heart had been taken from me, when my happiness had been snatched in the saddle bags of a dark rider and my smile had left me. But at the sight of the girl my smile returned, as my lips cracked to reveal my rotting and pointed teeth and I held out my long and wasted arms.
“Little girl,” I whispered, my voice cracked and hollow. “Little girl, would you be so kind as to share your food with me? I am so hungry, all I have eaten for years and years are the dried fruit and berries my lover once gathered and that rolled on to the floor where I lay.”
I held out my hand with the nails so gnarled and overgrown and the skin so bruised and cut.
“You can have some food,” she replied in a deathly quiet whisper. “But please don’t hurt me.”
I let out a loud laugh, which turned in to a scream as I heard that my once sweet silvery giggle had turned in to a desperate cackling crow like cough. Tears swelled in my eyes, as I tried to explain that I wasn’t what she thought I was but did she know the red rider for I saw him in her smile and would she take me to him, for if she was his messenger he would be able to find me and I would be by his side one more sunny morning and he would hold me in his arms and together again we’d be. I held out my arms to try and take her in my embrace. But she let out a scream that I was just an evil witch and she’d be damned if I kidnapped her and ate her like I had done to Hansel, but I had never met a Hansel in my life and before I knew what had happened she threw my comb down at my feet and a forest grew in front of me, thickening and intensifying the forest that already surrounded my home.
Stupefied, I turned to the grinning creatures that had watched the developing scene with malicious curiosity. “Why did you help her get away?” I screamed at the cat, “when she is the one to lead me to my lover?”
“You offered me water and she gave me milk!” came the vicious reply.
“But I have no milk! I offered you all that I had! Why not remember that?”
But she hissed and spat at me..
And I remembered that there was no more kindness in the world.
“Why did you help her get away?” I howled at the dog. “When she is the one to lead me to my lover?”
“You offered me nothing but dry fruit and she gave me meat!” came the sneering reply.
“But I have no meat! I offered you all that I had! Why not remember that?”
Yet he barked and snarled at me..
And I remembered that there was no more kindness in the world.
Overwhelmed by sudden knowledge I knew exactly what I had to do. I ran to the back of the house on the chicken’s foot (who by this point was hopping madly in indignation, no doubt because I for once had the audacity to think back) and leapt in to the mortar. The purpose of the vessel had always eluded me, but I knew that I would need it one day, and that my knight would somehow tell me when the time came. Sweeping the pestle behind me I paddled like a rower with no boat and no river, and followed the girl through the thick web of trees.
She stood there panting at the forest’s edge as I cried ‘just take me to my knight, just take me to the sun, I beg you sweet child, who carries his light so clearly in your breast.”
“Leave me alone you withered old hag,” she screamed at my face, “you have no love and no life in this world beyond the forest!” And she threw down my mirror and in its place lay a lake, and I knew, then I knew.
I pushed out the mortar and started to paddle. My arms no longer had the strength that they once owned when I would swim all day with my red red rider who would hold me in his never tiring arms. But on and on I rowed and heaved. My body so feeble and my face so drawn, and the light hurt my eyes so used to the night. But on and on I paddled until I reached the shore. There she sat on the beach and as tears streamed down my face I thanked her and hailed her and told her she was the only last bit of kindness in the world. I tried to reach out and hold her in my arms, but she screamed and yelled and pushed me down in to the water. She got up to run and I lay there behind her. I won’t move from this place, I think, I know. He will know to look for me by the lake, where the light lies in the water. I won’t move from this place and he can find me one day. By the shallows of the water I will wait, and although weak and afraid, I will wait.

Monday, 13 August 2007

What Ladyfest Means to me...

The idea to put on Ladyfest Bristol had been brewing between me and a few friends for a while. Hannah, one of the main organisers, had built a Myspace page to try and gauge what the interest was, and the response was so great, that we decided we had to go for it.
Bristol has a really great and varied music and art scene and, in the last few years, women artists and women themed nights have become a lot more prolific and popular. After the first fundraiser, a network formed of men and women willing to give up time for free to organise and promote Ladyfest, working alongside the smaller steering committee. This meant anything from Rob Griggs designing our logo, to Janice Tye building our website. Nights like Lipstick on your Collar and Wonky, and venues like the Cube, Here Shop, Thekla and Kino also gave us a lot of support in hosting the festival.
The planning process was as collaborative and democratic as possible. We didn’t want to promote one form of feminism or gender politics; or focus on one area of music and art, but instead to explore the various debates on gender issues, and the diversity of women’s creative work.
We felt that Ladyfest should aim to celebrate the creativity, experiences and achievements of women, provoke thought and discussion on gender issues, and be inclusive and accessible to men, women and children.
The range of events going on throughout the week reflects these aims as closely as possible. The fest opens with the Launch Party at the Cube, featuring Anat Ben David of Chicks on Speed, Gaptooth, a film by Lady Lucy, a speaker from the Fawcett Society, and DJ Blackrainbow. The variety in the night is reflected throughout the week, with folk nights, live gigs with the Mentalists and Rasha Shaheen, film nights, Cabaret, clubs playing anything from hip hop to sixties girl groups.
Three art exhibitions in Here, Café Kino and the Cube explore the diversity of women’s art, and gender roles in society now and in the future.
There are a series of creative workshops and debates on feminism, with the Feminist Archive South, feminist theory and Ladyfest Question Time. Debate is key, as we felt that men and women need the opportunity to voice their opinions on gender issues, and the path of feminist history.
Ladyfest has been an amazing experience for me. Some volunteers, like Liz and Hannah had experience of event management, but I came to this completely new. Now after 5 months I’ve worked as a press liaison officer, collaborated with Emily Dawson, our experienced curator volunteer, to co-ordinate three art exhibitions, helped set up several events and met some really amazing people. Through it I have been able to focus on what feminism and gender issues mean to me, whilst working really creatively. for full programme.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Guardian URL

You can read my guardian article on this page:,,2144970,00.html

but you should have bought it for the photo at least!


Monday, 6 August 2007

In the Guardian Weekend, Saturday 11th August...

will be my article! hooray!
go buy, go read....

Thursday, 2 August 2007

censorship blues

censorship blues
Myspace wouldn't let me upload a picture of a Modigliani nude because it is "offensive" and "unsuitable". How fvked up is that? I mean, i have seen some really rather offensive images on myspace of scantily clad and pouting ladies on this site, but because they aren't actually NAKED it is ok. but you have a really beautiful piece of art with a bit of breast and hair in it and KA BOOM! it is offensive and wrong.
led me to thinking about people getting funny about breast feeding in public. how crazy is that? it is what they are meant to do. society has objectified the female body so much that people are blind to its natural purpose.

Monday, 30 July 2007

it is hot in the sun

holding hands in sunlight with you is perfect as i watch the rays play patterns on your eyelashes. the grass is soft beneath my feet but i am bouyant anyway, and i think maybe the ground is maybe centimetres away from the soles of my trainers. it is blue and green and a tree that looks stressed and bowed, leaning heavy and tired on its side.
squinting because my sunglasses are at home and you smile at me and call me smiler and i laugh harder, then suddenly my face softens and solemnizes because i don't feel frivolous right now and i don't feel like giggling the beauty out of this moment. you look down at me and ask me if i'm ok, and i know with that question that i am, at last, ok.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

observer women's monthly makes us spit - i love you

im in a really blogging mood today. i think it is because i never get to write in my diary anymore. i spend so many mornings at my boyfriend's flat, and the morning was when i would always sit with my diary and fill "her" in with what had been happening. Bowl of porridge, cup of coffee, the Today show. i think i just need to find a different schedule.
all that was by the by. i just feel like writing all the thoughts in my head today.
so, i was musing over the blogosphere and returned to one of my favourites, the observer women's monthly makes me spit blog.
i love it because i really hate the owmm. once i thought maybe it would be a break from the run of the mill trash that women's magazines are, but so quickly it descended in to your usual awful, self congratulatory self loathing nightmare.
the last issue had some real classics in it. Polly Vernon interviewing Bjork was a good start. She talked about what she wore a lot. then said she was going to ask about her feminism, and then didn't. instead she asked her about current and ex boyfriends. Then Hilary Duff gave a great summary of what she knows about men. These are my favourite bits:
"I'm not, like, a crazy feminist. I think women definitely need men. Like, I couldn't imagine having a girlfriend!"
"im not really a flirt, but i am a girl.i'm not a tramp, or a whore, but i do manipulate men when i feel like it. Girls bat their eyelashes, and act like they don't know anything in front of guys they like"
"Women are definitely home-makers"
" I don't need someone who, like, has as much as me, but I don't want someone who has much less because then you never really feel taken care of. And it would always make a guy feel not like a man."
this kind of bullshit makes me so angry! young women have so little self worth it seems to me, and they are presented with role models who believe that for a guy to feel like a man, he should be rich. what is that? im all for women being home makers if that is what they want to do, but i don't think women have to be or naturally are.
the thing that is most odd is that miss duff will probably never be a home maker in the real sense of the real world.
and what a way to eliminate all lesbians from the planet in one foul swoop! man, i hilary can't imagine it, like queen victoria before her, then it can't possibly happen. alternatively, we are returning to the old maxim that she can't be a feminist because she isn't a lesbian.either way...
i always think, imagine yourself as a young and impressionable girl, and you heard someone who is in the public eye saying it is ok to act dumb to get a guy to like you. i'm sorry - what? don't they see how dangerous this is? if you act stupid to get guys to fancy you, then surely they're are going to value you lower than you're worth. why hide your intelligence or your spirit, that is what makes you interesting and attractive, and any boy who wants some hair twiddling 'don't ask me, im just a girl' pose obviously has zero respect for women. but this behaviour is encouraged by the jessica simpsons and paris hiltons of the world as acceptable. and once this happens, once you snare a man on the basis of having no personality beyond blank smiles, then your whole worth becomes valued by the person you are sleeping with, not on you as a woman.
Which brings me to another thing...WAGS. in my mind, they personify this new/old phenomena on how we value women. when did it become acceptable again for women to become defined by who they are sleeping with? what message is it sending out to girls that they have no merit if they don't have the right guy on their arm, that they by themsleves are worth very little. take chanelle on BB (which i haven't watched this year) saying she wanted to marry a footballer and then get a column in a paper or magazine. why not work to get that column and do so because you are a talented and worthwhile woman, not because you married someone. be your own fucking person and own it lady, don't depend on a man for your identity!
back to the blog tho. they had a lot of really interesting responses to a piece on women's bodies. it raised a discussion about the nature of yo yo dieting, plastic surgery and self harm. Since reading Germaine Greer's essay on mutilation (i think) in "The Whole Woman" i have really thought a lot about how plastic surgery is a form of self harm. not for all maybe, but definitely in many ways. but it is accepted, because the scars that give you big tits are fine, but the ones across your arms are ugly and wrong. i can't speak for all plastic surgery, but from the sound of liz jones, she had hers due to huge problems of self loathing:
" I starved myself, and so of course I didn't grow breasts"
having recovered from anorexia, liz jones grew breasts which she saw as "obscene" so she had them removed. Now:
"I can't feel anything in my breasts, and I will never be able to breast-feed (a bit of a moot point, given my two-decade-long sabbatical from men due to my breast phobia), and the scars mean I have never felt liberated by my flatchestedness; I have never been able to sunbathe topless, for example, or wear Versace gowns slashed to the waist, but how often do those situations arise? When I was finally, fleetingly married, my poor husband never got to see or touch my breasts;"
"Now that I am on my own again I can go back to not being a woman any more. I am alone, I no longer have to play netball or hockey. I no longer have to be seen naked. It's fine, really."
This woman to me is seriously sick. she chose to have her breasts removed because she saw her body as obscene. she sounds desperate by the end of the piece. but this kind of loathing of your body is something that women are almost expected to have. adverts everywhere are telling you that you're body is wrong and needs improving. take the beach gorgeous advert right now. apparently you shouldn't even think about taking that wrap off if you haven't waxed, painted, faked and exfoliated. every day women are told that they're bodies need improving, and if you don't want to change your appearance, then why the hell not? we even have to have cosmetic surgery ads on tv now, saying that to have real confidence, you have to be mutilated.
the thing that struck me most was the fact that liz jones had no feeling in her breasts and would never be able to beast feed. once i saw a picture of tara reid completely oblivous to the fact that her breast was exposed, because she had no feeling in it. now, i don't know about you, but having feeling in my breasts is kind of a big deal. they're sexual things, and they're meant to feel nice. equally, when i have a baby, i wouldn't want to be denied breast feeding. it's important. no offence to women who don't breast feed, but it is something that would matter to me and something i want to experience with my baby. it seems to me that to deny women feeling in their breasts is to desexualise them, castrate them almost, whilst conversely big breasts are a highly sexualised object in our society. so, simultaneously you are changing your body to make it more visually sexualised to men, whether this is your intention or not, whilst denying your own sexuality.
that is fucked up. and yet it goes beyong boob jobs. the whole enforcing of self loathing in women is a further method of denying their sexuality. if when you are in bed with someone, and you spend most the time worrying about how you look naked, or semi naked, it is much harder to enjoy yourself. but women are constantly made to feel ashamed of their bodies if they do not match up to an unnatural and faked standard. having spent years hating my body, i now treasure it and am grateful for all that it gives me, even if i do insist on abusing it with alcohol and party fuelled weekends...
i am sick of it. observer women's monthly makes us spit are sick of it. we need to teach young girls that they are worth better than what their so called role models are offering them.

do neon lights cancel out the sun?

I'm tired because i have been working all week and now it is saturday and i still have to come in to work. there are barely any windows in the building and it makes me angry because im already concerned that everyone is suffering from unseasonal S.A.D, and surely working somewhere like this just isn't going to help. Last night i went to the harbour to see toots and the maytails. it drove me a bit nuts. i hate the harbour festival, i really do. there were so many people crammed in to this small space and the sound was completely fuct because of it. the set went on for hours, and i felt so confused. i knew that they were really good, and that it was exciting to see such an important band. but after an hour and a half i felt like i was fuct at a really good techno night - that i knew i should stay and here the amazing beats, but if i hear one more boom of a bass i'll throw up and just want to go home.
myspace is flashing up this ad asking me if i'm the ultimate skins fan. well, no buddy, im not im afraid. i grew up in bristol and after seeing an advert for skins i thought to myself, as i remember it there was more dirt. i felt like, this is a programme that wants to be 'wow, look, we're telling the truth about young people's lives.' but i don't believe young people's lives are that much fun. most the time it is just a lot of awkwardness, and trying on new fashions and music tastes in an awkward way, and getting drunk when you're underage in an effort to dispell feelings of awkwardness, and then tricky and awkward sexual encounters that you wake up from wondering why you don't suddenly have this new found confidence and you look down at your body and think, is this it. sex seems like a gift given to you to make you think that actually your body isn't wrong and your mind is ok too, and then it happens and it doesn't make you feel any better. it just makes you feel, awkward. they all seem so shiny and sure of themselves. i growl at them and say they are too young to be so shiny and sure of themselves, they need another eighteen months! maybe some teenagers are like that.
i was going to my friend's house on the bus once and there was a group of teenage girls on the back seat. i had been up most the night and was feeling like there were too many things i really shouldn't have done at this party. Sometimes you come out of a party and you know that you shouldn't have done what you did, but you had fun doin it? well, this was a party where i wasn't even sure that it was right as it was happening. Anyway, back to the teenage girls. They were laughing really loudly about everything everyone said. My head being what it was, this was infuriating enough. But the horrible part was that the laughter was so empty. none of them were really finding anything amusing, but they wanted to prove to everyone around them that they were alright really, they were having fun and life was good. but it just seemed so desperately sad. i remember being that. laughing at what wasn't funny to try and prove to myself that it was all ok.
it is meant to be horrible, being a teenager, skins should learn that! it makes the your twenties so much more fun...

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

more thoughts on palestinian scarves

a few months ago i wrote about palestinian scarves, or the keffiyeh. this issue hasn't gone away for me. it really pisses me off seeing them worn everywhere. so i rewrote the article with more detail and debate:

Palestinian scarves
There has been a trend spreading across the city of Bristol that I hear has been spotted across the South West and the Midlands, up in to Leeds and beyond. Around the necks of fashionable men and women, we have seen a growing appearance of checked and fringed scarves, draped over shoulders and chests, like a political pashmina.
Yes, I’m talking about what our favourite fashion outlets like to call ‘the Palestinian scarf’. Or, if we want to dumb down ever further (I’m talking to you Top Shop…) the ‘table cloth’ scarf. This attractive and eye-catching design has somehow become the accessory du jour, giving the wearer that ever popular hippy bohemian look with a Middle Eastern twist.
However, something rather fundamental has been forgotten along the way. In the mires of fashion culture and the incessant desperation to look cutting edge and alternative, those kids on the high street seemed to miss the fact that this scarf isn’t meant to be worn as some sort of Mesopotamian boho equivalent. It isn’t a scarf to be worn with a studied air underneath a Hoxton mullet/fin/geek pie.
It isn’t even a fucking scarf. It is a Keffiyeh.
So, what is the Keffiyeh? As a quick background, the Keffiyeh became a symbol of the Palestinian Nationalist movement, because of its traditional costume affiliation with rural areas. It was perhaps made most famous by the late Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, who wore his Keffiyeh in a particular style to make his political point. The black and white spider web style of the design reflects the Fateh party, and the triangular pointed shape in which he wore the scarf suggested the shape of the Palestinian land itself. In contrast, members of the PLO party tend to wear a yellow and red patterned Keffiyeh, to represent their affiliation with workers and poorer sections of Palestinian society.
The Keffiyeh has not always been associated with Palestinian Liberation politics – this has mainly developed since the Intifada. In fact, when Yasser Arafat donned his keffiyeh, it was considered quite unusual. It seemed that for a long time the only people wearing Keffiyehs in Palestine were tourists. For many years it was simply the traditional dress of Arab men, designed with the purpose of protecting the wearer from the dry heat of the sun. Political and practical then.
So, when picking your table cloth scarf, did you intend to demonstrate your support for Fateh or the PLO? Perhaps Hamas was more your bag? They’re fond of green (traditionally associated with Islam), just in case you want to bear that in mind when you’re next browsing in the accessories section.
It seems that over the last few years there has been a worrying growth in the appropriation of political and cultural symbols by the fashion industry. The Keffiyeh is the most obvious and current case in point, but it has been seen before with the huge trend of wearing Che t-shirts. It always seemed to me that half those kids didn't know who Che was, and even when they did they were living in cloud cuckoo land, thinking he didn't kill anyone because he was a goodie socialist. I remember a friend’s response to my question as to why she was wearing a Che t-shirt: ‘who? Oh, I just liked the face…’ They certainly didn’t seem to buy the T-shirt having consciously considered Che’s politics, what he did as a doctor and then as an activist, whether it was right or wrong to support his actions and so on and so forth. Even if after taking in to account all the ins and outs of Guevara’s political motivations and you still wanted to buy the item of clothing in question, you would have been missing out on the big point that Che was a COMMUNIST and therefore not really in to the globalisation of his image. With the exception perhaps of spreading world wide socialism, which isn’t really the fashion industry’s aim here I suspect… Of course, we have to accept the fact that the iconoclasm of Che has been supported by the Cuban government, but for now that is by the by.
But none of that matters really does it, because what is important now is the image – the image of the wearer of the T-shirt and the faux political impression you want to give. The fashion industry is diluting the politically potent to make it marketable, kitsch and a “look”. We have the fashion and advertising industry appropriating an image and turning it in to a mass marketing tool, which people buy without giving a shit of what the object represents and stands for. Even if the buyer is aware of the conflicts that are represented by the Keffiyeh, they buy it irrespective of their own political thought or opinions, so long as they still look cool. It doesn’t make much difference, so long, as Kid Carpet would say, ‘you’re keeping it buff’.
The Keffiyeh is a symbol of a cause that has become so desperate that fighters and suicide bombers have been engaged in the Intifada through the nineties and now this decade in the hope of Palestinian liberation. They partake in a struggle where, every day, Israeli tanks parade about, shooting rockets and fire and building a wall to demarcate and reduce the occupied territories. This of course, triggered war in Lebanon and intensified terrorism throughout the world. Is this something that you take in to consideration when you put it in your shopping bag? Is it necessary to think about whether your next party outfit had the political power to embody one of the longest running and bloodiest conflicts of the twentieth, and now the twenty first, century?
It doesn’t matter whether you have no opinion on the Israeli or Palestinian conflict, or if you do, which side you feel most strongly about. Perhaps it is easier to just take the idea of the scarf as a symbol of political movement, and put those politics aside for a moment. The marketing of the Keffiyeh as a ‘tablecloth scarf’ is another example of the fashion industry taking what was politically active and important and inflammatory and turning it into a product, a commodity that could be sold. The advertising industry did it, as Egg credit cards desecrated Kruger’s ‘My Body is a battleground’ with credit card rates in their recent advert of guinea pigs looking at reworked famous pieces of art. The political isn’t the personal anymore, it is the marketable. What meaning is there in our historical and potent political and cultural images, if it can be drained of any sense of significance or argument to suit a consumer market? We have to start to ask ourselves, how can anything have any moral or immoral point to it when everything has a price tag and a cool kudos value? What about the values that matter? What about giving a damn?
If for every Kaffiyeh they sell in Top Shop or urban outfitters or wherever (it’ll be M&S next.) they donated ALL the proceeds to helping the orphans in occupied Palestine and the refugees in the Lebanese camps, or if for every purchase of a Kaffiyeh the buyer was forced to read about its cultural and political significance, the history of its use and the problems of Israel and Palestine conflict, and then maybe be forced to take action and sign a petition or do SOMETHING, fair enough.
If for every Che t-shirt the wearer was required to study even a pamphlet about the history of South American socialism and the sometimes good, sometimes violent role he played in it, then ok.
And even if you wear the Keffiyeh because you truly believe you are showing some kind of political affiliation with the Palestinian Liberation Front or the Palestinian Nationalism campaign through doing so, and you genuinely believe that this is the only way that you can demonstrate your ideals and beliefs, then maybe that is acceptable (although there are better ways of helping a movement than accessorising…).
But if, like I’m sure most of you are, you wear it because it is oh so pretty, then for fuck's sake, go get some principles. They’re on special offer in Selfridges you know.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

they're marching now

this is a response to the war memorial parade i attended recently. it was the same day i got gallstones or the polyp, whatever it was that made me ill.

They’re marching now.

All I can really feel is pain. I think it is because I am stressed, and have been stressed about this day for so long. Yesterday, reading the lines that represent to me my stressful past, I felt happy, and the pain was, to be kind to it, mild. Minimal. As I stood nervous behind the microphone, hand shaking and voice cracked, it was with a surge of triumph. What was once a symbol of hurt and anger and thwarted desire, now represented to me a purging of what had been before. As the words fell from my mouth, they marched triumphant in a bold assertion that I have feared, I have fought, and now I have conquered. The applause is shrieking, and I smile, relieved, and look down at the page and I look down on my body and I think, yes, this is mine now.

This is different though. I can’t remember if this is a new fear, or just an old one resurrected, and I wonder what I am afraid of, when those around me today have feared for their lives and looked death in the eye. And I have had that fear once, I think. But not to the same terrific extent.

I step out of the tube station and rush to buy a greeting’s card, hoping that I won’t be found out, and when I leave the shop I see them standing there, waiting ready. They are dressed smart. He is wearing the medal I saw once when I was a child in a box, never taken out again, and I suddenly feel small and silly in my blue summer dress and grubby flip flops, thinking, I’m wrong, I look wrong, I’ve gone wrong. Clutching my belly, I smile and twirl, but beneath waspish sunglasses I hold my eyes steady and unflinching and feel like I have to start turning hard as rock.

They bump in to someone not seen for twenty five years, and the wife asks his wife what she’s been doing for the last quarter of a century. They don’t recognise that it is not the same woman, and I wonder how much of existence is to be airbrushed out today. One. I count to myself. I smile in what I hope is a warm and expansive manner, my responses are frozen. I learnt to perform this dance many years ago. It was vain to hope the steps wouldn’t be needed again. Clutching my belly, I walk next to my stepmother and this wife, and my brother walks next to my father and the not-seen-for-twenty-five-years-acquaintance. I notice this because I find it strange how we turn to this gender divide that was never present at home. Why do I automatically fall in step with another woman, why do I automatically join the wives by virtue of wearing this blue summer dress.

I hate central London, I think. I want to go back to the boys’ house.

He’s made me cry behind my huge waspish sunglasses (‘why do you want to hide your pretty face?’) and I clutch my belly. I have committed the crime of mentioning the part of the past not on display today. But, I think, I’m on display today, and I am a visible manifestation of that past. Dressed wrong, thinking wrong, but on display all the same. I wonder at how easily it is done. Quick denial, pretend this doesn’t exist, didn’t exist, never existed; and suddenly my past is erased. And I think. Is this how I am thought of? Do you not want to recognise from where this moment came from, what has been to lead up to us standing on the Strand in the thin sun, talking right now, saying these words to one another, as I cry behind my sunglasses and text my boyfriend to ask him to come and see me when I get back home because right now all I want is for someone to hold me and let me know that my existence is all right. Two.

I fall back in to step with the women. It is safer there. They aren’t part of all of the shared past. I clutch my belly. It is getting worse now.

If this is a day to remember the past, I think, if this is a day to remember those involved in the past that were forgotten, I think, then I was right to speak up. But who knows what memories are wanted, and maybe this is a day to remember only what each mind desires.

It is getting steadily cooler and the pain is getting steadily worse, as we stand up begrudgingly to welcome the Royals and they start to march in. The camera focuses on Blair talking to Thatcher, and I joke that they are discussing how it is fine to stage an illegal and unpopular war because, look at them, they’re marching now.

We are here to remember the dead.
We are here to remember the dead.

We are here to remember the dead who died, so we are told, to keep this last bastion of imperialism safe, to keep this land British. In tears, the lady on the screen tells the widow on the screen that he in the photograph did not die in vain. That he saved her and her daughter and the land they loved. And I think perhaps now is the time to fuck politics, to ignore the nagging voice in my brain that warns me that almost without exception all the problems and wars in the world today can be traced back to Western imperialism, and the question that rings to why Britain should own the land anyway. Because we are here to remember the dead.

And how can I judge the living. For they believe that it was the right thing. And I was born too late to question that. I am young, I am foolish, I cannot ask this of them.

I did it because I believe it was the right thing to do.

Isn’t that what he says?

And for some moments I feel proud of my father today. And I feel proud of my mother today, watching on the television, in her airbrushed out of this moment here now today world. I shush my feminist pacifist, and I shush the angry little girl who is still reeling in fury and pain from him making her cry; and tell them both to let them have their moment, for what they suffered and what they saw.

I’m watching them march and I think about those who came home to get their medals and I think about the things they must have seen and I think about whether they wonder at their marching now, what they are marching for and what they marched for then. I think about how these times and these men have shaped so much of my past and my present although they never knew me, they never knew of my existence, and whether they thought they were doing it for babies like me soon to be born, or whether they didn’t think that far ahead. I try and decipher all the words and the point of singing fucking Rod Stewart because I want to know, I demand to know, if this is a celebration, because I don’t want to be celebrating. I don’t want to be celebrating. I want them to remember. I want to be remembered.

I want to be remembered as existing in this moment, because to have existed in this moment then something must have lived and thrived those years ago that need not have been so crassly brushed aside as I cried behind my sunglasses.

The pain has reached the point where I can barely stand through the National Anthem and no amount of clutching my belly makes it any less. Everyone is emotional but I am white as a sheet and all I can think of is how much pain I am in. I want to scream and scream and scream because I don’t know how I can travel the one hundred and twenty five miles to my nice soft bed when I can barely place one foot ahead of the other.

As the song comes to an end, we watch them march.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

the magic of fingers


i wrote this yesterday morning. it is the first thing ive written in ages, and im not sure it is very good. but hey, im the worst self editor in the world, always posting things that aren't ready.
i think it can be read quite nicely in conjunction with 'i can make you happy' and 'learning curves of acceptance' - maybe like a trilogy? i don't know.
it is a love story of sorts.

The magic of fingers

It seems now to me that all time that came before has reached a synthesis that makes sense. From the moment I came down from the mountains, step by step over grassy ridges and rocky clefts that threatened danger, it was the beginning of the path to this point. I wasn’t to know what lay a stone’s throw away.

My body is stained with fingerprints. Like a child’s painting made with giddy joy, you find the traces of time on my hips and on my legs and on my back. A history book open and read lies on my belly. Fingertips that grabbed and stole shreds of flesh to keep and hide from my possession, losing senses and losing an I, so that, tracing the history of my body, I can’t find pieces of me, can’t find semblances of where I once was. The hurt can be raw sometimes. I was left to sew the remnants back together. Piece by piece I knitted the skin to the muscle to the organ and picked up where I left off. Holes lay bare, hidden under scraps of clothing, gaping through my badly sewn seams, as I moved from the mountain towards what lay beyond it. Pale, I was. Sucked dry. The fingers spun their spell and entranced me in to their motion, so that pulled from side to side; the holes were torn open again.
And I would scream, how many more times can I do this again, how many more times can this happen again, I’m so tired now, can we please be quiet now please.
Until I lay down and accepted it. I let the fingers do their work, until all that was left was a stretch of skin clinging to my fibre, and somewhere amongst it all was a shadow of me, whispering day by day to be heard.

I wandered from city to city, searching for bricks and mortar to stick me back together with glue. Sometimes fingers caress where the stains are and I hope the new prints will wipe out the mess of the old ones before. I’ll take anything, I think. I’ll take anything to blur the marks on my body.

There was a time before I gave the paintbrush to others, when I would mark the boundaries of my body. With skill I traced patterns over canvasses that would not be seen, too shy to reveal, and I wrote my own history there. But I was told over and over to stop, I was told over and over that I was wrong, that what I did was wrong, so I gave up my art and I gave up my autonomy and let others take hold of the ink and let others draw me the way they wanted. I wondered why this was better. I wondered why this was acceptable. Before, painting away, I had the control. I knew where the lines could be drawn and I knew how big how wide how long and far I could go. Yet, worn down, I accepted the wrongness of my actions, and gave up the precious tools to let outsiders take control of my body, and make it with their powders and their prints, greedy and wanting and leaving their mark. Lying alone later, tracing the new pictures on my body, I wondered why this hurt was encouraged. If my art was the thesis, then this was their antithesis. Somewhere, someone was winning. Somewhere, someone was pleased. As the new prints wiped out the meticulous carvings I had devoted so many years to cultivating, I stared hard trying to remember which part of me was mine. Where my independence had gone to. My self drifting from town to town searching for where I had been and where I was hiding. The truth was missing. I couldn’t pin point it anymore.

So onward I wander sleepwalking through towns with my head kept down and my smile ducked under my chin in hope that no one sees for if no one sees then no one can take hold of what is left of me. I nod politely and do my duty and I sell ugly clothes to rich ladies and I speak quietly to people who ignore the advice I give them, and sometimes, sometimes when I’m not looking a part of me that I thought I had left in the past will drink a glass of wine and laugh raucously and flutter her eyelashes and although I tell her to be quiet, to quieten down now, she ignores me and finds herself waking somewhere strange with parts of my body wiped out. Reprimanded and humbled she sneaks back deep inside and I duck my chin and walk head down and tell her to not come back. She folds her bright silks and velvets away and we go back to where we started.

Then I found fingers on the back of my neck and I felt them draw what was once there before. The seams close and are rendered invisible and when I press my fingertips there I can’t feel the cracks, I can’t feel the stretched thread. Light falls from the ends of fingers to close the gaps, and I watch astounded as I notice that no longer is my skin cracking to release my self to fall onto the dirty pavements of these dirty cities. Over my shoulders and over my back and over my breasts and belly, fingers highlight all the paintings that have shaped my body, and I am synthesised, my thesis and my antithesis meeting on my thighs to show off all the facets of my history, written there for all to see, no longer smudged and shamed and dirty. Slowly knitting and slowly mending, and the weight of my head is supported as my hands can lift and hold themselves proudly interlocking with fingers.
My body is a record of all my time and all that has come before this moment. It seems to me now that all the time that has been before has been waiting for a moment that has been caught oh so nicely between fingers.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

news and ting


just to let you know there is now a new reason for me being out of writing action, i am officially really rather sick. Been off work for a week, had blood tests and ultra sounds and generally feeling srory for self. Hopefully i'll be better and back on scribbling form soon tho.

meanwhile my reading at the gladstonbury festival (before the illness struck me down!) was a great success! im too nervous and need to be more confident, but people really seemed to like my work, although had to cut a couple of paragraphs to make things better. (ed suggested in 'learning curves of acceptance' that the para about cheekbones being razors is cliche. but just so you know, if you have a hospital appointment in bath, that paragraph is on display as part of sarah trigg's art exhibition). I also read ' i can make you happy', which although now seems a bit dated, always works well "live".

im interested in people's reactions to 'learning curves of acceptance'. a few people have been asking me about it and whether it was about losing virginity. what do you think? i personally (and i am breaking the vow of silence here!) didn't intend that when i wrote it, so i am kind of happy that people look at it from a different perspective to me.

It is official - 'poem as autobiography' is not a good piece, and i have come to understand why. honesty is key, this poem is full of vagaries and lies and that is why it fails.

anyway, hopefully having this time off work means i can get to work on what i care about. ie writing, not telling off students.

take care xx

Friday, 15 June 2007

exciting news

The Guardian are publishing my experience to share! feel like a real writer, which is great.
check out march for the idea behind the thing.
then i'll let you know when it'll be available IN PRINT!

About Ladyfest

This is some of the stuff from the website, but I'm putting it here too. I'll put the website here when it is up and running! Monday we hope...

LADYFEST BRISTOL 2007!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The first Ladyfest was held in Olympia, Washington State in 2000, and since then has grown internationally, happening in Ottawa, Mexico, Romania and Singapore, as well as dozens in Britain, including London, Leeds, Newcastle, Brighton and all over.

Born from the Riot Grrl punk movement of the nineties, Ladyfest aimed to showcase and celebrate women’s music and art on their own merit and in their own right. By this we mean that for the first time, women’s creativity had its own space, as opposed to a sideline or novelty in the traditionally more male dominated punk and indie scene.

This is the second Ladyfest to be held in Bristol. The first was a two week event in the summer of 2003, when Bristol and Bath hosted a number of musical and artistic events between the two cities.

Ladyfest has changed and evolved into a diverse festival that represents a wide selection of women’s work and needs. It has maintained its spirit as a cultural moment to celebrate women, whilst growing in its outlook and in its aims. Each festival is run independently under the Ladyfest banner, and this allows each one to develop their own idea of what they want the festival to mean to their audience, their town and themselves.

Ladyfest Bristol 2007

Ladyfest Bristol aims to be a diverse event, in keeping with the growing variety of recent festivals. Musically, we are presenting indie, electro, hip hop and folk nights. This means that whatever your taste, there will be a night to go dancing that will suit you!

Like Ladyfests before us we will be exhibiting a range of local and national artists, and running workshops on drawing, writing, knitting, self defence, and music.

Film and theatre will play a strong role in the event, with acting workshops, and the Cube cabaret performing their work, whilst local women filmmakers will have the opportunity to show off their work.

It is important to us that Ladyfest explores its own political and ethical motivations whilst making sure that we don’t exclude anyone or make people feel uneasy about attending. We want to use the festival to raise discussion and debate about gender roles and women in society, through discussion, art and music!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

oh dear, but ladyfest can save us

i have been slack haven't i?
i don't know what has been going on, but finding time to write seems tricksy right now.

the main thing is, a lot of my writing skill has been used up in ladyfest organisation. when i get permission from my colleagues, i'll post up some of the work we are doing to make the event good and great. we have gigs, film nights, club nights, art exhibtions, workshops, talks, parties and general excellent times raising awareness and debate on women's issues, gender issues, and what women are doing creatively.

ive been having vagues ideas for work, but nothing concrete. trying to imporove my poetry, so if anyone has any hints on how to do that, check out 'poem as autobiography' and give me advice! i shall hopefully be reading at rob's poetry festival in some london locale at the weekend, so hopefully i'll have learnt by then.

been to so many musical treat nights that i will review SOON but here's a taster:

ashton court fundraiser
big ting (of course)
the third party feat kevin molloy and nick nell (sp?)
scout niblett
normalise and appleblim at the cavern club
others too methinks, i'll get on it.

to support ladyfest go to
our real life website should be up on your monitors soon!

bye x

Sunday, 13 May 2007

musical treats of april/may

Musical treats of late

Been trying to keep up with the whip around tour of Bristol’s music scene but this has been made a little trickier since Japan decided to steal all my money.
Still, have done my best and here is what my ears have been twitching too the last few weeks…

Nb: Some names in the following review may have been changed.

Ladyfest, as you are no doubt aware, is making a welcome return to Bristol after a four year hiatus, and the countdown to the fest begun with a fundraiser at Kino.
The night was open mic, and designed to inspire discussion, showcase local talent and, obviously, raise some cash, for the event.
Chicks with Decks provided the music, playing an excellent selection of indie, dance electro pop, dropping in some Portishead, Chicks on Speed and Le Tigre to a busy Kino. Despite concerns over technology and whether the treble would be too high, the girls sounded wicked, seamless mixing and tunes that showed off the musical ethos of Ladyfest.
The open mic featured three girl singer songwriters and their guitars, one ukulele, two story tellers and one boy. The night opened with Cecilia on guitar and ukulele. She had a really sweet voice, moving from jazzy tones to folksy, deft guitar playing to complement her singing style. This was followed by me (!) reading ‘Bianca’ very nervously, but it seemed to be enjoyed. ( under March posts). We wanted to have this evening representing as much of women’s creativity, and therefore the ethos behind Ladyfest as possible. So it was great to have a range of singers, djs, writers and artists present, having decorated Kino with Lucy Downes’ artwork, line drawing self portraits and female nudes laced with strips of colour.
After my nervous reading we had another girl singer songwriter, Jess. Like Cecilia before her, she sang with her guitar, a rockier feel to her music, brasher guitar and more upbeat sounds, whilst her lyrics were fairly poignant, again songs about love and falling in and out of it are always good to hear.
Chicks got back on the decks as everyone took a break to get some more drinks and yummy Kino cakes, before it was time for another storyteller. Completely improvised, she told us a story about a princess who would rather not marry any of the prince’s in the land, and after defeating them all in a round of wrestling matches, rode 10,000 horses over their heads and into her own world of adventures, becoming the dream of brave little girls and the nightmare of kings. I am always a sucker for a good subversive fairytale, and it was really impressive to see how she created the characters and the plot as she told it, offering a performance more than a reading. And to consolidate her ability to create on the spot, she also read a poem that had been scribbled down as the night progressed, offering a perspective on middle age and growing older. It was great to have older people getting involved, as we want Ladyfest to be an inclusive celebration of women and what women can achieve and have achieved creatively, and to share all aspects of the female experience, be it from us being young twenty somethings, teenagers and students to mothers, and grandmothers and all in between.
The night offered one more girl singer, Elian (sp? Sorry!) who works at Kino. Her songs perhaps more political than Jess and Cecilia, one song about her reaction to the stirrings of the war in Iraq – namely, how can they possibly get away with this one, and the more personal, about time spent with her girlfriend farming in Spain. Her voice had a lovely range to it and she was a spellbinding performer, really reaching in to the audience to bring them in to her songs and her experience of singing them.
Mike very kindly allowed us one more tune, provided by the boy of the evening, Rafi, singing a cover of a Diana Krall track, although he apologises for having referred to her as Elvis Costello’s wife.
The night was a big success, both financially and in raising awareness for Ladyfest. It seems to have got people talking and the event in people’s minds, which was the whole point. Fundraisers should be taking place once a month until the fest itself, so keep an eye out for info and fliers…

What next? The last Saturday of the month is of course, BIG TING and this was one to remember. If only I could…Bass Clef returned amid rumours that this may have been the last Ting with the departure of Roz from Cosies, and it is always good to see him back behind those decks. Fresh from playing with Maryanne Hobbes in Cardiff, with a bag full of drum n bass and doo wop.
The Aphrodite tune sounded wicked with big heavy bass, and although Big Ting is officially a no go zone for dnb, tonight exceptions could be made! Was great to hear the ‘I say yeah yeah’ tune out again, it has been way too long since I last heard that played, and the thumping original ‘Tainted Love’ got everyone very excited. Think there was a bit of Nina Simone in his mix as well, so always a pleasure! Was a bit of a reunion Ting also, seeing as we had a visit from everyone’s favourite dj dancer, Nza Da Baron. Excellent to hear ‘Holiday’ on the decks (me and Becca v appreciative), and his great mix of rnb and pop to get the dance floor heaving – new Amerie track sounds amazing, Beyonce, it was all good.
Jay le Surgeon kept things up with his usual brand of funk, hip hop, reggae, and umm, the Bear Necessities. Phil Harris, man. I’m still trying to get him to play the Robin Hood song though.
Puffin Jack played an absolutely beautiful set. He couldn’t play a bad tune, and it was great to hear the 12” mix of ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’, as well as dropping Sticky and Ms Dynamite’s ‘Boo’ near the end of his set, great to hear.
I was very bruised by the end of the night from stumbling in stupidly high heels, but it was great. I wish Rlf and Niz were here always.

Went to my first Normalise last Sunday for Puffin Jack, Luke, Harry Glazebrook et al, as well as Appleblim fresh from supporting at DMZ. (wish I could have gone but had to go to my dad’s). Lovely minimal techno sounds mixed with all sorts of other treats, plus I think the Puffin played something that sounded like Pattie Smith which was completely dreamy.

Saw The Kick Inside at Gimme Shelter on Friday, named I assume after lovely Ms Bush’s debut album. Really enjoyed their set, Morrisey-esque vocals sounded lovely, really powerful voice, and excellent cover of ‘She’s Losing it’ by Belle and Sebastian. They managed to get really into the spirit of the song whilst musically being completely un-schmind. Cool! And last night was dub step extravaganza of Highroad at Cosies; I missed Chris’s set unfortunately, but was in time to see Appleblim and Gatekeeper head to head, excellent as ever, flawless mixing, bass pitched perfectly and excellent choice of tunes. Pinch of course was perfect as ever. Absolutely rammed in there though, always odd to see the different Cosies crowds!

And now it is the end of my reviews and I am sitting at work typing it away….

Monday, 23 April 2007

poem as autobiogrpahy

i wrote this in the park yesterday.
i have wanted to write something like it for a long time. nearly four years. hopefully eventually i will be able to write about certain things better, with more style, more poise and more exacting, less self conscious imagery. as it is, this is more a flow of consciousness, a reaction to memories and an attempt to look at time, the future and the past and the promise of the future. one day i will hopefully be able to write about outside reaction other than just alluding to it in a slightly bitchy way.
i would be interested to know what people think it is about. because obviously, i know what it is about, but reading it back i think it could have multiple meanings, and could be the result of multiple expereinces. so answers on a postcard please! or in a comment at least!
it is a poem, but it doesn't really have any form.
it is dedicated to more than one person in some ways, but especially to one.

Poem as autobiography

Can you understand this, this what I say to you non speaking I hope you hear me but I think you don’t, I think you ignore what I don’t say.
Don’t speak.
Hold it here for me now.
Don’t speak.

For I, who have looked death in her pretty face and laughed, offending all with my laughter who could not would not do not understand my sound.
I wasn’t mocking.
I moved in triumph.
I moved in triumph from her stony caves to exist in this moment.
I turn my back on her with sly smile so that I could be led to this here now you with me don’t let it go don’t let it fade let it be real here now you me this moment
Was the reason for survival.
She makes sense to me now.
I wasn’t ready for her before now, she was readying me for you for this.

So don’t say.
Don’t say I have to give it back.
Don’t say this isn’t for me.

The first time it happened.
The first time it happened I collapsed halfway along a carpeted mountain and thought
And crawled on my knees dragging my hands and
d r a g g i n g m y f e e t
body snakelike over beige carpet to the safety of my bed.
Not ready yet.
I wake up.

I have tried many times to write this down.
I have tried many times to write this down and I have failed many times.
Who knows when I will succeed.

I clasped my body to myself and I think
Holy holy holy holy holy holy holythis is not it.

I did not know what was to come.
More than a stone’s throw away.
I tried to record it all.
Here and here and here
And especially here
I couldn’t make it clear, just red alarm signs screeching off of me.
Look at me and think
Holy holy.

She stands above me wagging a mocking finger than I take for a beckoning
And for a second time
I try again.
Pointed toes and fingers flared flayed I walk her narrow line balance no longer poised and as yellow skies flood my vision and
Enter my belly I think
I have changed my mind.
I think
I have changed my mind.
I want out.
I think I am holier than she knows.
I think I deserve better than what she so temptingly is trying to offer me.
I think I deserve my future moment.
This is a split second thought process.
This is much faster than it takes to write.
This is much faster than it takes to read.
This is a moment of crystallized fear.
This is a moment.
There is a time.
A time more than a stone’s throw away
When I will clasp your form against my breast.
That is something I deserve.
Holy holy holy.
I think I am letting the yellow out of my belly.
I think I am surviving.
This is mine.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Reading Naked Lunch in Tokyo

I got back form Tokyo a week ago and since then it has been troubling me how i can possibly write about it. It is hard enough trying to get the true impression from my photographs, to distill it into words seemed pretty beyond my capability.
In the end i figured the solution was to try and write it, and not care about how good bad or honest it is. just write what i thought.
so this is it.
it is kind of a lie and a truth.

Reading Naked Lunch in Tokyo

‘So, what you mean is, she was your ex, and then you lived together?’
I nodded. I wonder how many times now I have had this conversation.
‘Wasn’t that weird?’
‘Not really. I mean, if it was going to be weird, then we wouldn’t have done it.’
‘But she was your ex?’
I nod again. This conversation is dull. ‘But we’d broken up a long while before.’ Pause. ‘Then not spoken to each other.’ Pause and consider. ‘We were much better off as friends than we ever were as a couple.’
‘But it doesn’t make sense. It sounds awful. I mean, what about when she got a boyfriend?’
I shrug. Whenever we get on to the question of how it could possibly have worked, I’m just reminded of the girl in the kebab shop, telling me I didn’t live on Oxford Street. I knew where I lived much better than she did, right? So, I knew that our seemingly bizarre living situation was fine. People didn’t have to understand, because they weren’t living it.
‘But she was your ex…?’

It was cold on the plane, and the manufactured breeziness was making the back of my throat stick to the bones in my neck. The baby’s cries at the front were getting raspier and more painful to hear every passing hour. I am trying to sleep. I am trying to sleep. I have never until this moment realised how much more complicated sleeping becomes when you are trying to make it happen. Like how much harder it is to breathe synthetic air. Frustrated I lift my foot above my head and wave my toes at the crowds behind me. Somehow I think they are asleep.

Six months is a long time, and even longer when before that we had seen each other every day. We’d been apart for six months before, longer maybe, longer even, but that had always been by choice, when anger and bitterness and the how could you do this to me arguments would be volleyed at one another via text messages, because to talk would be too painful, too real, and so it is easier to digitise into hw cd u do ths2me.
Then we made it alright again, and lived together as friends, with new people to ask that question of, new people to wrap legs and arms and hair around, new people to watch sleep. New people to dissect in the mornings drinking genmaicha and nibbling brie and bread, laughing over an embarrassing conquest or grinning inanely at how loved up we were with the new other. But still this love for each other, still this tie that binds us closely, even if now we choose not to knot it in sex.

That is the introduction to my visit. Do not ask what is it.

Am I being self conscious?

‘Look at the sky!’ you exclaim, as Happy Road suddenly darkens, enlivening the fake plastic cherry blossoms that hang from the lamp post. I look up and it is true what you say. The apocalypse is hailing down, I marvel, for what else explains the livid yellow that is turning the sun into a pale moon so that the light is thin, thin as on the prairies in Antonia’s morning.
It is like yellow split pea soup, or the sulphur mines that we will smell when we reach Hakone (but watch me, I’m going to fast), the colour is not of fire, it is neither bright nor dark, it is the cigarette stained magnolia wall of a war vet’s apartment. It is the colour of the end of the world, solid in a Mississippi swamp, the nuclear clouds over Chernobyl on a clear day, and it is hanging there, over my head, as the rain bounces so hard that it skips up the ankles of my skinny but not skinny enough jeans.
Yet no one is looking up but us. And in the middle of this moving earth of suited and coiffured people, bending round us like a liquid flood circumventing a tree, we look up. The sky falls heavy over our shoulders, and we look up and together we are there.

‘Why don’t you pluck your eyebrows?’ you ask wonderingly, your perfectly arched Dietrich brows arching higher over your perfectly lovely, perfectly weird, perfectly alien eyes.
I curl up. ‘I don’t see the point,’ I reply, preparing myself for a barrage of questions over why I don’t see the point, and a comparative essay on the hair removal habits of Japanese girls against those of British girls. And me.
‘I mean, your eyebrows are fine. Really. They are. Really.’
There is a but coming, and I know it.
I groan. ‘I really don’t care about my eyebrows! I only notice them when you talk about them!’ I see myself, hairy and grotesque, spilling thick dark hairs down my face, matted body hair stretching from my arms to the floor.
‘No, they’re fine, really, they are, but they have a good shape, and you could just tidy them up a bit, just the odd stray hair…’
‘I don’t want to pluck my eyebrows! Now, come on, green or cream dress?’
Dancing to the Copacabana at a hip hop club later that night, I finger my eyebrows nervously.
‘We’ll get these guys to buy us drinks,’ you inform me confidently.
I don’t want these guys to buy me a drink. ‘It is fine,’ you tell me. ‘They like to buy English girls drinks.’
I don’t want you to think I’m uptight. So I smile and say ok, maybe, then I curl up again as images of sand filled bath tubs swim into my imagined vision.
‘But won’t they think we owe them something?’ thinking of the shocked face of one man I turned down back in the early days of sex and university, who assumed because he had bought me a drink I was obliged to go home with him.
You shake your head vigorously. ‘It is different here. You should never pay for your own drinks. And when you date someone, you should never pay for dinner. If you go Dutch, then the guy will think you are easy and that he can just get you without having to work. No guy will be obsessed with you if you behave like that. He has to work and pay to get you. Otherwise he won’t think you are worth anything.’
This is a dizzying amount of information to take in. ‘But…’ I stutter. ‘But, I…’
‘Seriously, if you pay for men they won’t respect you!’
But if I let men pay for me, I won’t respect myself.
‘What about the sisterhood?’ I resort to wildly.
‘You can’t pullout the sisterhood when it suits you!’ you laugh.
‘You always pull out the sisterhood when it suits you!’ It is ok, because I am dissolving into giggles too.

The matter is out of my hands when I remember how it is, being with you. Although you confidently inform me that I have the kind of prettiness that Japanese boys are wild for, when I stand next to you, your dazzle hides me under it, and my face is drowned out under your rapunzel blonde hair. I am proud to stand next to you, and the guy buys you a drink. He tries to kiss you and you push him away, and in sisterhood we gang up on him and tell him damei!
But I am confused. Who was right in the end?

The crows fly across Shibuya and the fresh dawn light is like a tonic to the end of the night. Like a shot of adrenaline, we skip over giant zebra crossings, past the business men leaving their homes, as the buildings tower over us, lit with colours as garish and gaudy as anything seen in Barcelona. A small cat sells me a drink, whilst a gurning business man presses a finger to his stretched lips as he tells me about a mobile phone. Languidly lying across a skyscraper, the beautiful Sawada Shin offers his mobile phone to me, and a dragon curls in on itself against a shop front. Stumbling out of the final tune (Sade, By your side) into the grey light that in spite of its lack of colour seems as bright as water against my jet lagged drying skin, I’m amazed by the light. I want to wrap it in a box and take it home, to open at discreet intervals, like a sun box executives buy, my own little spot of Tokyo mornings. I am amazed by the burgeoning life filling the streets, and amazed by the fact you can buy a breakfast of fish rice and miso for £1.50 at 6am.

Gothic Lolitas pretend they wish you weren’t looking at them as we wander through Harajuku, and for the first time in years I feel underdressed. A girl in a miniature top hat set at a jaunty angle glares moodily at me over her cigarette. A man squats on the ground, looking, you say, exactly like he is taking a shit. Apparently it is the way to sit (shit) if you want to give off attitude. Long mullets of ginger hair stick up all around me through a dizzying cloud of menthol cigarette smoke, and everything is brash and bright and taken to the extremity.
Until we turn a corner and we vanish. The city withdraws from us, the skyscrapers fall back against the twinkling sky, and in a rush of wind the sounds of the city and the Harajuku drawling chatter is immersed as though under water. But we aren’t under the ocean.
To reach the shrine you have to leave the city of which centre you are currently standing in, and enter a miniature forest, built to worship the Gods of thunder and water and trees. You explain that the makers of the shrine planted the trees so that all the city is invisible, and inaudible, that everything was planned carefully to hide the concentration of hectic, tacky, cheesy urbanity. Candy coloured giggles and neon television is abandoned for her natural counterpart, and when the drum bellows out to respect the thunder gods, your mind forgets the former roar of the traffic and the trains and the people on top of people on top of people, and you look up with a start to check the apocalypse sky hasn’t returned to haunt you.
The bride steps sedately in procession, her red lips contrast against the white kimono and hood and I wonder if I have ever seen anything as beautiful as her poise in her happiness, after the spectacle of girls walking pigeon toed and floppy wristed in an effort to look helpless and childish.
When we leave, the noise and bustle of Harajuku hits you harder than sixty belting beats of the drum.

We cross the zebra crossing with at least one hundred people at once, as Sawada Shin smiles ironically down at us, as we wander in to a room full of German techno and girls with samurai top knots whirling swirling dancing.
‘We’ll get these guys to buy us drinks,’ you inform me confidently.
I don’t want these guys to buy me a drink. ‘It is fine,’ you tell me. ‘They like to buy English girls drinks.’
He tells me the murder in the bath tub was a matter of miscommunication.
Like Pearl Harbour.
Like Manchuria.
Like all these crimes.
I don’t want the red wine he offers me after this, but it seems rude not to accept, and you have already knocked back four tequilas from his younger, more attractive friend.
‘I like your hair.’ He says.
‘I like the way you dance.’ He says.
‘What is the difference between England and Scotland.’ He says.
I smile. I dance. You lock your eyes to mine and swing your hips in time with mine and I think: are you Lily?
You’ve gotta swing your hips now.
Kei rei[2], I say. You laugh because my accent is so appalling.

We leave your friends and walk through Shibuya in the dawn light. We take photos of ourselves on your phone next to the buildings, multi-coloured against a monochrome sky. With you, in the morning, wondering when I last felt so perfectly happy out of the other’s bed, curled up around his legs.
‘Hey, let’s have sex!’ a group of guys shout at us, as I prepare to walk quickly on, but you want to talk to them and the next thing I know they are taking us for pizza at 6 in the morning, whilst I, yawning, glare at them in distaste and lie and tell them I have a thirty year old boyfriend and eat my half of the pizza as quickly as I can, you’re your half too, wondering what we are doing there, wondering how the fuck we can get out of this one.
You provide the answer by grabbing my hand and we rush out the café before the bill arrives.
The happiness of the dawn light is shattered, as the sun breaks in to the grey, smashing its calm with its glare.

Posing cheek to cheek in our oversize shades, feeling like a child in fancy dress and dancing so hard my dress sleeve slips down over my bra for the hundredth time until I safety pin the two together. All around us people are looking like they have taken more ecstasy than they should have done, but this is Japan, and they don’t take drugs here. The bass is coursing through our veins, like the drugs that we haven’t taken would do. For these moments I think I actually like psych trance, as I move at one with the heaving mass of brightly dressed humanity around me, the dance unifying us over the language gap. Like an army we are held together under one command, and even though in our outfits and in our hairstyles we are convinced of our own special individuality, we have all become the same automatons controlled by the overriding bass. We grab each others hands and move from stage to stage, eating rice nachos and drinking from mini cans of Grolsch, changing the tempo of our hips to suit the techno or the hip hop or the funk or the movement of those surrounding us. Then, breaking into the Paris Hilton-ites, come a troupe of traditional dancers, accompanied by traditional instruments and I think wow! this country is just one big juxtaposition and I try and tell you what I mean, what it all means, because here, right now, everything that came before, from the conception of this holiday back all those years ago when you told me your nose goes red in the cold, here is when I make sense of it.

In the mountains, there you feel free. After the noise and the colours of the city, it seems strange to see green that has no fluorescent tint to it. I am overawed. Everywhere I look, once we step off the Romance Car, is a spot of beauty, from the river flowing over rocks, to the stately bamboo forests falling down the mountains towards where we are standing.
Like everything else, it is almost too much. How much can they cram on to this island? Even nature herself has gone crazy here, pushing into every available space more and more. It is a glutton’s paradise, a sensualist’s heaven. Constant bombardment of object, of sight, of sound, if it is not an artificial colour then it is a new lushness of overpowering greenery and the bright startling pink of blossoms. The smell of the cherry blossom makes us both sneeze and, when it is combined with the stench of sulphur it is enough to knock us out.
Fuelled by sake and beer and ice cream and the headiness brought on by the ohn-sen we end up arguing about the things we always argue about, both convinced of our own righteousness, both convinced that the other is wrong. Wrong! I know that I am right. You know that you are right. Paranoid I am nervous you think I respect myself less than you respect yourself. We both are running scared that our own opinions may be wrong, who is betraying the sisterhood, who is the lesser feminist?
There is an unspoken argument here.
And it will remain silent.
We repeat ourselves over and over, until we both feel so ridiculous that we start to laugh. It cannot be solved otherwise. The steam from the bath makes me dizzy until I think I will faint and have to sit very still and silent for a long time.

We travel over mountains and over a lake and all is at peace again, talking to cats and cooing at babies and posing cheek to cheek for photos in our oversized sunglasses. We make a three clap prayer to Buddha and I am constantly amazed by the simplicity and beauty of the shrines in a country that simplicity forgot. The tea lady gives us a cake with a bow, and I find myself wondering what she thinks of the girls who walk pigeon toed in frou frou mini skirts with their teased and dyed hair. We meet your friends and they take us for dinner, and this time I have to leave my principles behind because we have spent so much money that I can no longer afford to primly refuse hospitality. You whisper that I have to take my cardigan off at an opportune moment, and I don’t know whether to giggle or glare, but I obey, thinking, I’m on the other side of the world, what does it matter here, what does it matter? I smile and nod and say ‘oeshi’[3] over and over. You explain for the umpteenth time how it isn’t like in England, that guys pay for things here to “fuel a good time”, that we are making their evening more enjoyable by giving them company.
Company in a pretty low cut top and an extra smear of lipstick.
Because I know that it isn’t for my scintillating conversation.
Still, I knock back the cocktail and smile as prettily and modestly as I know how, and make them laugh with my mono collection of Japanese words.
Kei rei
Dai jo bu
You look at me and laugh, and I laugh back, then they laugh so we laugh more. We tell them colourful lies and they accept what we say, and we just keep laughing because suddenly it seems so funny to be this ridiculous, to spend this time living the life I don’t have.
They drive us back to the city along roads that are as high up as the buildings themselves, and as the skyscrapers lift out of the ground to meet us like a brightly lit carnival I think I am living in Bladerunner although I have never seen Bladerunner, I have never seen something like this. I lay my head on your shoulder and we smile. We smile a lot.

When I was in Tokyo I read Naked Lunch.

[1] Inland Empire
[2] The pronunciation of beautiful. I don’t know the spelling or character, or word.
[3] Delicious or tasty