Thursday, September 30, 2010

< blank >

Saw Bladerunner off yesterday morning and the house seems quiet and blank on the ebb of last week's tide of boyish backpack and biohazards. He ran 3'15 on Sunday, in spite of a mild case of whatever the hell it was that I had steeped him in every morning over coffee.

I'm blinking and sleepy and eating Lebkuchen in the shape of little behatted Clauses -- the sainted kind, not the one you have in a contract. They strike a variety of oddly emphatic festive poses. Lined up they look like sugar-glazed Village People. YMCA, cinnamon-style. Chocolate on the bottom, what are you looking at, VOGUE. Stale crumbs of pumpkin-seed bread in one of the balcony planters, and a great tit hops in gingerly. And then a sparrow. My mind is full of tissue paper. New, clean tissue paper, to be sure, which is an improvement on the grody scum two days ago. Still muffly in there. The thoughts are all like hostages gagged with duct-tape in the boot of the getaway car. Mmfmmfmmmfff. MMMMmFFFF!

I can't hear you.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Xtin v The Virus: Deuce

Better, thank all the small gods, thoughts barely managing to glance around the corner into clarity in time to S-Bahn it to Friedrichstra├če and pick up Bladerunner from the marathon, smiling his curly-eyed smile and damp with rain, salty and bedazzled with exhaustion and a medal. I chomp huge breaths of cold, dropletty air, delighted to be able to breathe and I am outside, outside, outside! Noises and birds and buildings, voices and run-off in the gutters, people, people. They've all got leftover coughs, too. Still the velvety desire to sleep muffles me all day, tideline of tissues and ibuprofen around the bed and my god, I want to boil the sheets and take the kind of shower that washes off the dirt that plans to be on you next week.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tissue balls

Head still all biological hazard and not an untwisty thought. Blink slowly at fall premiere television and the spoonful of lentil soup, butter curling over the edges of a slice of pumpkin seed toast. Cup of coffee and crack throat nineteen to the dozen on the phone to generously patient mater about god knows what-have-you, music and abandonment and family and the gluey spidery sticky-fingers mythical level of competence that would stop the darts thrown blindfolded. Bladerunner returns from carb-loading and we discuss bullshit extended mind arguments nothing if not apropos, or perhaps not if you've naught to extend in the first place. Go to sleep, tiny dancer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Next, something or other

Fennel tea with honey and lime, because I forgot to buy lemons when I went to the shops earlier. I forgot other things. Some things ... I forget now. Boiled-egg sandwich. Check Google safe-browsing diagnostics. Blog not listed as malicious. Well, that's nice then. Internet banking. Pray stupid febrile brain pays relevant bills and does not transfer net worth to online poker system currently starring in today's pop-unders. Wash socks. Strepsil. Cuprofen. Did I have a cup of tea? Put kettle on. Check mailbox. Kennebunkport postcard from Pluvialis! Yay. Cough. Cough cough cough. Sniffle. What the hell is that sound? Like a really agitated whistling. What ... oh the kettle is boiling. I need a cup ... here's one. It has cold tea in it. I should make another cup.

Later ...

Where are all the cups?

Monday, September 20, 2010


The viruses are still running the party around here and my day has become a puzzling sequence of disconnected moments where I stand on the spot and try to remember why, by God, I am staring into the cutlery drawer, where usually my brain would be handily triaging and cueing up What Next while I'm thinking about more interesting things like ... those interesting things that I can't remember now.

An old philosophical friend of mine arrived today, he of the recently sharpened Japanese cleaver of a mind and plan to run the Berlin marathon on Saturday. Even squinting blearily through my mental service outages my voice eventually cracked on the muscular delight of talking in my own language, the larger one and the oh-so-many smaller ones, the watercolour hints of register and tone and gifts of the given that tenterhook the best of conversations. Bladerunner will be here another eight days.

Rejoice! And viruses: SILENCE! I KILL YOU.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


In best Lazarus fashion, my laptop staged a merciful recovery this morning and I have been hoppity-skip with the delight of the internets full-throttle. Possibly in minor Faustian bargain, hoppity-skippiness has been limited to fervid imagination, as I have been laid pathetically low with headcold hilariously incompatible with my run-in with Implacable Glass Door earlier in the week. Wield handkerchief, exclaim in surprised excruciation, wield handkerchief more gently. Rinse, repeat.

Made hot toddy just now upon tweet-suggestion of fabulous @doraexploring. There's a fuckton of viral RNA conducting a cinema discussion group in my skull right now so I have forgotten every adjective and um, all the other parts of speech but, hot. Whisky. Honey. Whisky. Hot whisky.


Saturday, September 18, 2010


My laptop has spent the last couple of weeks living a comfortable existence on the footstool which matches my new sofa. I've been curled up on its dunkelgrau splendiferousness with a couple of lambskins while I pluck jute-rug shedding from around the Macbook. I moved it today -- people for dinner, you know. Uncool to be sporting the laptop nestled among the soft furnishings. I lined it up in its nominal real home in the study, and later, full of trulli carbonara and bonhomie, I pressed the on-switch.

Idiot, thought I, into the deafening silence. You haven't even plugged it in. (Because, mais bien sur, its ability to draw power from the battery is long since a memory). I looked over the side of the desk and then I looked at the power cord firmly slotted into the wall. Then I looked at it some more. I looked at the laptop's irrevocable plugged-in-ness for a while. Then, because apparently our reptilian brains are unable to resist these dead-end impulses, I pressed the on-switch again.

I realise that laying my hands on a replacement power supply can't be a peak-scaling enterprise. And mercifully I am not cut off entirely -- I mean, I'm posting from my iPhone. How bad can things be? But looking at the dark once-glowed-friendly-and-green power lamp in my magnasafe powercord, I hear a small voice with nonetheless excellent projection saying,

Why must everything be broken?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Maiden bake

The first chocolate cake of the new house. A new box of peaty dark dutch cocoa, Deutsch on one side, Nederlands on the other and a recipe for Russian tea-cake on the back. German cooking chocolate outrageously called Schwarz Herren and the red cake tin I bought from Ikea. The smell as it bakes is like a memory of everything and nothing, mercifully absent sudden evocations of anything in particular but a stone path many-step-eroded in the middle for it has risen in every oven I've ever had, many times, gro├če dinner party ones and kleine tea party ones, ones for birthdays and ones split through the middle because there are too many strawberries at the market.

Later I'll be carrying this one, smacked like my life with German-inflected sameness, to Mitte on the S-Bahn, covered with a striped tea towel. People will look, and they will smile shyly, because the smell is so good and because someone carrying something from their kitchen to someone else's is like a pregnant woman or someone drawing on the pavement in coloured chalk, ducklings crossing the street, fireworks suddenly visible over the trees and a bunch of strangers stand to look. And smile at one another.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Scouting nose

So there we are last night in the dark dancy flicker at NBI and on account of the Exile Wardrobe™, I am wearing the usual suspect which is black, basic and glues to me like mustard on steak, which is how it got into The One Suitcase in the first place. But, for the first time it was cold enough to forgo the black Lulu Guinness peep wedges with the toe-tufts and stomp the beats with my black Hobbs ankle-buckle knee boots, dubbed by Pluvialis The Stormtrooper Boot which I should probably not say too loudly here in the motherland.

This digression into footwear, dear reader, because I suspect that had I carefully and gracefully teetered in Lulu Guinness, I'd never have walked into a glass door, drunk on the leggy freedom of kick-ass boots, stable as sports bucket seats in spite of towering heels. There may also have been some drunk on tequila.

I have spent the day in a crumply duvet-and-codeine nest with an almost musical thrum in my head while my hangover duets with the crashed-and-burned aristocratic bridge of my nose.

In small mercies, it isn't broken, and the crowd of witnesses maintained resolutely straight faces. Germans are so civilised.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I have wandered the day with the wrench and screwdriver and scummy sandpaper of adulthood, sorting out yet more bank-related things, next-week related things, the vaguely benign orbit of today-tomorrow things, dishes and laundry and wet clean hair, punched sofa cushions and sorted recycling tanged lemony with the sadism of the everlasting and inexorable.

I am so dog-tired coasting the wash and pull of heartbreak, the most of me dragging the future flinty-eyed toward my chest, hauling stubbornly with my back to the coil of slack rope so I cannot be reminded how much remains, but the least of me tiny, fervent and vicious in not letting go, screaming doggedly at the top of its voice with unhysterical, single-minded resolve combing my insides with nails and carving out spoonsful of my lungs with technicolour scenes of reconciliation.

My shower leaks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coffee pot

This is a corner of my kitchen. I love my house. Not this house in particular -- although my affair of the heart with this airy eyrie in Berlin unfolds fern-frondily -- but whatever house is the one I'm calling mine. The language of inside spaces is the only one I speak softly and with my eyes instead of loudly, presto and with my hands, which is how I speak of everything. Everything else. A tension pulls at me over my fervour, as though it's empty or misdirected somehow, only right for a backdrop to the Really Things.

I love shelves and floors, glasses and windows, door handles and light switches and the hum of the refrigerator, the personality of chairs and the soothing no-nonsense you get from tables, any table. Even the one whose leg needs a folded napkin under it. Mixing bowls, scissors, saucepans and cabinets on castors, painted pools of lamplight, a cushion, another cushion, a blanket, a curtain, a book wherever you've left one which is everywhere, soft rustle-rustle leaf-litter layers of textiles and paper.

Piles of dishes and platters on the shelves and spoons and whisks leaning on their one foot against the edges of jugs, humming the sounds of your cooking and the chink and clatter and laughter of people, others always the happy token of massed plates and your motley crew of glassware. Quilts and too many pillows on the bed and something snug over a chair, the quietly euphoric sense of governed oversupply that launches your house, your small temperamental body and strange social customs half a step from satisfaction in the second drawer down on the left.

Twine and pencils in the study and postcards from not here, ziggly things to hold your paper, rugs that fight and marry and a reading lamp. The doors open to let the world in and when it gets late it folds its walls and floors and lets your world of idiosyncratic craziness be the only way things are.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Slippers would be better

It has rained today, and purred and growled with thunder as it usually does in Berlin when it rains; yet another of its unexpectedly cinematic charms. The thunder here has all the hammy appeal of an ageing British theatre luvvy, slowly but not-quite-methodically cresting into great splashes of corrugated-iron-wobbling No Really, It's Raining Now extravagance.

I've stayed inside with fluffy socks and toast, browsing design blogs and congratulating myself on yesterday's successful tangles with internet banking in three countries.

Well, you know. Achievement is underpinned by appreciating small victories everywhere. Or something.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Research assistance

I just trashed my wildly out of date blog roll and replaced it with a properly RSS-configured list of things I, you know, actually read and think are good.

There is not really enough there. If you're reading this (hello, five people! I love you!) and you know of smart, witty, brilliant stuff out there -- or if you're writing it -- then let me know. Please. There is too much shite to wade through to find this stuff myself. I need a committee.

I'll bake cake.

Where the wild things aren't

Some friends of mine are enjoying a project called 365 Things in My House. They take a picture of something each day, and they add whatever stories, associations, well-told anecdotes, bits of fractured family history or whatnot are built into them. Things and what we think they are are such fabulous, messy, pretty, crazy, layered, portable microcosmic cameos of their nearby people. It is a delightfully warm and fun game in telling people about oneself.

I considered my flat. Thing I bought last week from Ikea. Another thing I bought last week from Ikea. Thing I bought two weeks ago from Ikea. Thing Dr Heartbreak brought me last winter from England. Thing Dr Heartbreak brought me for my birthday. Thing from Ikea ...


Not so much with the things. I need my coat and my mixer and my Ravilious and my typography and the picture of my grandmother. I need my stories.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Indian summer

A startling late burst of summer today, hot pale chamomile sunshine washing the scrubby lawns at the Mauerpark and the lounging couples, families with a basket, a rug and someone running after the toddler, fire-twirling practise, angular street-chic boys pow-wowing around their campfire-piled cycles, dogs sniff-greeting other dogs warily while their owners exchange guten Tag with their eyes, sightseers with half a retina on the map and the other on their Canon EOS.

I was thoughtful when someone wanted me to be talkative, but I do not want to diffuse things today. I bought some basil, and some absurdly cheap Spanish nectarines, and a bunch of coriander from the AsiaMarkt which has nam pla for 0.99 and green bananas and taro in the fresh vegetables boxes and at the back a wild kitsch mosaic of more flavours of instant noodle than I thought there were things you could stick powdered into a little foil sachet.

Chicken stock is on the stove burbling as though it has Broadway dreams of being a potion with dramatic narrative possibilities. Tomorrow I will make it into chicken congee.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tales from an empty hallway

My flat is very clean, and very quiet. The sheets are washed, clean towels are folded and the Poetical Histories are stacked, rebelliously historical, neatly on the new Ikea cabinet next to the new Ikea sofa on the new Ikea rug on the newly sanded and sealed boards.

I love the boards. They are old and warm, the colours of summer and baking, just uneven enough to be appealing but not so much as to ruin the meditative soothe of their lines. Sometimes I put my hands to them in the hope that everything will stop seeming so absent of history, so ferociously new-in-box.

My kitchen is red, and fast friends with the boards. They talk together about red wine and bare feet and toast crumbs and while I wash the dishes I tell them my stories.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


One of my most basic terrors is that I have nothing to say. I don't even know what this fear really amounts to -- something about uniqueness, something about dilettantism, something about failure, mediocrity, immortality, worthiness, what?

The hope that phosphoresces gently in the damp complex of caves in there is that if I keep opening doors in my mind, if I sort of write myself notes like a trail of breadcrumbs to find my way back to forks in the labyrinth, then I might find something on the other side of one of the doors. Or I might find that the breadcrumbs say something themselves.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The ginchiest

77 Sunset Strip. Terminally cool hepcat detective telly of the fifties, and fertile fictional soil from whence sprang Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson, he of the comb and smouldering looks out from under eyebrows as perfectly coiffed as the, well, coiffure. Not that I mentioned that manicured thing about the eyebrows. That is not cool.

The Strip ran for 206 episodes and god knows how many of these I've seen, but apparently not the pilot. Or the second episode. In the first episode, ladies and germs, Kookie was cast as a serial killer, nabbed by our heroes the PIs and sent away to pay The Ultimate Price for his crimes. But the preview audiences loved Kookie.

So, what do you do? Well, duh. You pull the classic "Oh, For God's Sake" move. You come up with some anemically thin but marginally tenable narrative which explains ... whatever crazy thing you need explaining.

Christopher Lambert: There can be only ONE!

De- and re-capitated Sean Connery: Well, you know. Except for when there was this rebellion 500 years ago and there's a special magical bond between the two immortals whose lives were threatened by this other immortal and then there's a special bringing-back-to-life swordfight which is um, specially not like the other special swordfights where we die, and ... uh, you know, not.

Audience: OH, FOR GOD'S SAKE.

Right. The dog ate it. Whatever. We return to episode 2 of 77 Sunset Strip, where market forces are compelling us to pluck Kookie from the jaws of death. Hold your breath. Efram Zimbalist, Jr., who plays one of our pair of heroes, ex-secret agent PI Stu Bailey, appears on screen. As himself.

Zimbalist: We previewed this show, and because Edd Byrnes was such a hit we decided that Kookie and his comb had to be in our series. So this week, we'll just forget that in the pilot he went off to prison to be executed.


Absolutely magic. A balls-out, cards-on-the-table, red-handed, honest-to-god do-over. My faith in second chances is utterly restored. Let's peel from this gig.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

From the notebooks

Leipnizsee, August 21, 2010

The lake is vast and gleaming and improbably perfect, hypernaturally unsymmetrical, banks of reeds clustered just so opposite the shore, like a matt painting waiting for the green-screened hobbits. Germans of all shapes and sizes, every stage of undress, loll around with the superbly civilised nonchalance of unhungry lions watching wildebeeste at a watering hole. There is dirty, gritty sand. We came here through a beech wood. C floats in his green ring and A swims as if his life depended on it, always mistrustful of relaxation. Thoughts of the green-eyed doctor scrape past like underwater driftwood, away into something that happened once.

I'm too hot, and there is not enough shade, and in spite of myself and the startling beauty and the fervently welcome sense that I am Doing Something Today, I gird myself against the hours until I can go home and be in the cool flat and eat toast and tomatoes. Abandoning our shoreside encampment I sit under a tree clustered with bikes on the twiggy, butt-strewn sand and I am not loving it but it is cooler and suddenly I find myself less on edge. Tiny blond boys, browned like the top of a buttercake, dash around naked flexing their paper-crane shoulderblades, bearing their flotation devices aloft or slung around their hips like hunting trophies. Two boys perch on a nine-foot beech stump, its roots stripped to the wind. They lean together confidentially, sharing boyish observations, swinging their feet while the girls in jewelled bikinis below arrange themselves like ikebana, navel piercings catching the sun, pivoting this way and that over carefully braced and rebraced abdominals.

The sun is creeping in to my spot. I decamp to a shady stump near an extraordinary lone silver birch, towering overhead pitched rakishly toward the lake like it's looking for something just around the corner. Its roots clamber down the embankment, toggle-shaped seedheads hanging heavy ten or twelve feet above. A round man with sooty grey chest hair sleeps peacefully naked, with his straw hat over his face and his feet neatly crossed. The breeze picks up. A duck-footed snow of birch seeds floats into my hair. A pair of swimming trunks dries on a bush. A motorcycle helmet perches on a dead bough. The sun pulls over the other side of the lake, patinating the trees, kermit greens and candy-wrapper golds. People swat with ginger respect at wasps and dust the muddy-coloured sand from their calves and soles, shaking out blankets and towels with dracula-cape-snapping flourishes.

A tiny grasshopper sits on my toes and watches the dragonflies with me.


I just sent some emails which uncouple me from all the things which make me part of a story I once told about myself, unclipped like the safety chute and suspended in the freezing cold air and terminal-velocity roar of what I really wish. Holy shit, the terror is like metal and fire and the mind-altering moment between hammering your thumb and screaming blue murder and I am clasping my hands and curling my toes and eating a boiled egg sandwich as though it might contain salvation but oh, how good it feels to have torn the fist clutching my diaphragm into the wind, to be free of the crippling nausea of agreeing to things that I have convinced myself was bravery but is really another way of endorsing my perverse theory that if I forgo the thing I want, the sacrifice will save me from bad things.

Bring it, bitches. I know all kinds of fear.

Cleave II

Oh. And the UK government issued me with a visa.


Reader, he broke my heart. Broke it with those strange platitudes spoken in a language that seems like the one you speak, ordinary words askew turned in your head to see if they mean you're too much, you're not enough, I'm bored, restive, doubtful, sleeping with someone else, wish I was sleeping with someone else; but that's a tangle with a B-movie anaconda and behind the dubbed hissing and snapping it's just over, and you'll sit down tomorrow with your hands wrapped around a hot cup and this pain, this superbly everyday pain, toast and a litre of milk and some apricot yoghurt, buy one get one free, until one morning something else comes with your coffee.

It was worth it.