Friday 24 June 2011

Ghost Dance.........

I swear to God this morning I saw Jason Robards, the American actor, driving a black cab .... he was turning on to the Euston Road..... I was upstairs on the number 30 bus. Unlikely I know, especially as he’s dead. But maybe not.

In Will Self’s brilliant and hilarious short story, The North London Book of the Dead, from The Quantity Theory of Insanity, it turns out that when people die they end up living in the city suburbs and working in most departments of the civil service........

I recently lost a close friend. My oldest friend. She died of cancer after a brave and difficult, 3 year battle; another too young, too soon. Over the last few days I keep smelling a perfume: at work, at home, on the number 30 bus. I know this scent. It’s not mine, I wear Jo Malone. But I recognise it. It smells like Joseph’s Perfum de Jour. I used to wear it a lot when I was younger. My dead friend wore it. When I was in her bathroom I would spray myself with it and remember my youth. Is it her?

This year has been rather death heavy so far, a sign of growing older perhaps? My Uncle died suddenly, only in his sixties, and then my ex-mother-in-law, eighty something. Death is the only thing in life of which we can be certain and yet we are always surprised when it creeps up, calls our name and we run in the other direction. As a child I asked the nuns if heaven was so great why didn't we all just commit suicide? Shocked by the immorality of such a question about mortality by a minor, they changed the subject.

A couple of weeks ago the oldest member of my yoga class died aged 96, her last words being, 'May I have a glass of champagne please?' Her's was as good a death as one might hope for. It came at the right time, at the right end of her life. When you lose a child, unlike an adult, they grow up in your mind. Year after year. So you lose their future too: where would they be living? What would they be doing? Who would they be? And what would one's own life have been, if they were still here? My daughter would now be the same age I was when I had her. I could be a grandmother. Where do they go?

Rise up hold the reins
We'll meet again I don't know when
Hold tight bye bye
Paths that cross
will cross again
Paths that cross
Will cross again

from Paths That Cross

Patti Smith

Top tip: live each day as if it were the last.......

Saturday 18 June 2011

Silver bells and cockle shells.....

I see dead plants honestly, I’ve killed my Hosta and an ivy. I thought it was impossible to kill ivy. And a fern. Ferns just grow everywhere. By themselves. How can I kill a fern? I live in a ground floor apartment, the pots around my front door suffer from the over-hang of the balcony above. It’s dank and dark so, I thought, Hostas? Ferns? Ivy? Flowers don’t even grow into the equation. But my friend, the gardener, has done some kind of urban-garden-vegetable-growing-outward-bound-thing and is required to get us city-folk growing edible things in pots, or whatever, as part of the deal. So, I thought, that sounds good. And do you know what? It’s brilliant. When I learn how to add pictures I'll show you......

I’m growing tomatoes, sweat peppers, chili peppers, basil, coriander, rocket, broad beans and radishes...many from seed....and they’re growing. Admittedly, I’ve commandeered an unused, raised-bed in the courtyard and put my pots out in the sun and that has undoubtedly helped. I’m not a natural gardener, I will admit. I’m over-enthusiastic in the beginning and have a tendency to be a bit trigger-happy with the watering can. Then I quickly get bored when they don’t grow. Immediately. But broad beans have sorted out that problem. My broad-beans-from-seed are now worthy of any Jack. And then there are the radishes. Almost instant and even though they are only embryo radishes, the bit in the soil is already cerise pink and they taste of radish. Proper, hot, peppery-like-my-friend-in-France’s radishes. I can’t wait till I can pull them up, cut a neat wedge in the crisp flesh, fill with white butter and dip in rock salt...aaah, delicieux..... crack open the pink wine.....who needs Provence?

Of course now, as a neo-daughter-of the-soil, I look to the sky as the rain-clouds gather and the first, heavy June-drops hit the deck, suck my teeth ruefully and nod : ‘it’ll be good for the garden’. Because now, I am woman, I am Gardener....

Top tip: you can teach an old dog new tricks....

Friday 10 June 2011

Hamster jam......

I went to Amsterdam for a few days with friends, I haven't been to the Dam for about 25 years. During my misspent youth I spent a fair bit of time there, almost got myself in a bit of a pickle but the fates were kind, I was saved. Others were not so lucky. Anyway, we had a brilliant time strolling down memory canal, and we went to see Patti Smith play a blinding, acoustic gig in an old church. And I wrote a poem as an homage.....what might have happened later that night....

Patti in Amsterdam
I went to bed
We went to bed
But I went out.
I walked the streets of Amsterdam
I prowled the streets of my memories
Of Damrak
Of The Dutchman
Of bars and dope
Of bars and dope and people
That I could not remember.
I went to The American
I met an American
She said,"Hi"
I said," Hi".
Patti sat on a sofa.
So far
So good.
I said,"Hi, I saw your show."
She said, "So?"
I said, "You were very good."
"Good enough?"
Enough? Enough?
Enough of this bullshit.....I wanted to say
Enough of this
You were great Patti
I love you Patti
Like the guy said
We love you Patti.
A siren wined outside in the night
"You want a coffee?" Patti said.
We talked
Of Verlaine
And New York
And Van Gough
And people
And things
And all the time I'm thinking
Patti Patti Patti
And we're talking
And we're laughing
And we're talking
About stuff.
And we're talking about
Oh oh oh aud....
Oh oh oh aud....
And then Patti says
"I gotta go....."

Top tip: pop up holidays...... get out of town, little and often.