Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Sometimes the trouble is that the words don't come, or they stand wide-eyed in the headlights of intention as though they might be run over if they dare to express something. Sometimes you sit and you sit and you sit and the words look at you complacently from under the couch. Sometimes words pour out of you like a little lion-faced fountain with a circulating pump and later you look at them and go buh?

But actually that's not the problem right now. Or it might be, if I bothered to find out, and I could wear the weary-but-charming face of The Writer Who Cannot but instead I am throwing a tantrum of world-crushing proportions. STOMP STOMP STOMP, XtinKaiju.

The One True Tantrum. The koan of I-don't-wanna. The laser-beam eyes of fuck-you that you turn on the unopened mail, the unanswered text, the dinner that's supposed to be organised by now, the trip that's powering anxiety nightmares that awaken you with the taste of metal behind your teeth.

I thumb the pages of my passport, dog-eared in spite of itself, with a kink in the top where I clip the UK residence permit to the back cover. There is a slightly glittery smudge on it from some eyeshadow it got tangled with once in my handbag in Germany. A photo of me from nearly ten years ago. A teeny-tiny rendition of my signature. I turn it over in my hands and try to make it into the small booklet of micro-printed paper that it really is. But no. I cannot defeat it, gently thrumming emblem of my elsewhereness. I put it back where it goes.

I had meant to tell you about my walk to Logan's Meadow on Saturday, a scant muddy handful of nature reserve on the Cam riverbank, opposite the Cambridge Museum of Technology, which used to be Cambridge's sewage pumping station. There's a flat grassy bit with joggers and this bonkers swift nesting tower which is inspired by the African sun. The Ombre Roundel. I made that up. Not the part about the African sun. That part is totally true. Anyway, behind the featureless jogger-dog-turdy bit, there is a wonderful tangle of dead trees and ponds and birches and small soft new cow parsley at your ankles like salad leaves and baby nettles and celandine and its greeny-grey hearts creeping about the twiggy bits and and moor hens skrawking in the mud and an enormous, lusty choir of tits and robins and chaffinches, nonchalant city ones, not like the shy rustics at Bradfield Wood who followed us like an FBI tail, covert and yelling alarm calls into their cuffs. Three robins are singing for their invisible fences, throats as wide as if to swallow their opponents whole, ear-splitting riffs right into my face, for heaven knows, perhaps I've designs on this tree too. Blue tits bounce in the still-bare trees, tee-CHAR, spare me half a glance, perhaps the slightest tilt of the cap. Squashed catkins in the paths like discarded bits of Nutkin.

Two boys drink and bicker on the farthest fishing platform, knees crooked proprietorially over their fallen cycles as if they might rope them like calves at a rodeo. Well, that's what you said to me, says the one in the yellow hoodie with matching baseball cap, lacing everything with eighteen more inflections than seems possible. Eyeroll, says the one in red with the matching baseball cap. They are like cards lost from a UNO deck. I don't suppose either of them have ever seen a UNO deck.

I walk home by the riverside path with mud on my boots and my binoculars magnifying the lint in my pocket, past the runners and the buggies and the families wearing ironed shirts, past the postbox wearing a spiked hat like a bit of iron-maiden salvage, past the toddlers feeding swans and the narrow boats with for sale signs and the crackle of coxboxes, past the picnics on the common. Back at the little house there is bread for toast.


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