Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sunday, 7pm

I am walking through Moss Side, coming home from the park. The bright blue sky is making the red bricks sing. My feet on the baked pavement flip and then flop and then flip and then flop. A breeze lifts my hair briefly from my neck.

I was lying alone in the park, alternately reading and eavesdropping. Someone not far away had a guitar and was strumming it lightly.

A woman in a hot pink sari leans in a doorway, speaking quietly to a small, serious-looking boy. Bass beats drift over the slate roofs of the terraces, mingling with the smell of the charcoal ovens on the Curry Mile.

Earlier I went swimming with Sophie and Anna. Lengths then a jacuzzi chat, until a hairy-chested man with wide eyes slid into the bubbles beside us. We made our way to the children's area, full of toddlers and Dads. Sophie and I queued up with the tiny, be-arm-banded army for a go on the elephant slide. Sophie had promised me that it was faster than it looked, and she was right.

I pass a few of the lucky terraces with front yards. A man grins toothlessly at me as he slaps cream over leathery, tattooed shoulders. "Lovely day!" he calls. "Isn't it?" I reply, smiling. He nods enthusiastically before adding "I won't be saying sorry in six months time!" I shake my head and laugh uproariously. I have absolutely no idea what he means.

After our swim Anna, Sophie and I stood outside, refreshed. We started to walk, proclaiming how we felt like new people, any hangover remnants having flown off on the way down the elephant slide.

Two young boys pass me, probably ten or eleven years old. One is riding a bike, slowly, dragging one foot along the ground, to keep the same slow pace as his friend, who is walking. The boy on the bike is singing "The Way You Make Me Feel (You Really Turn Me On)" in a loud falsetto, while his friend stares, vacant, into the middle distance.

I flip flop onwards.

After hugs and goodbyes, Anna hopped on a bus. Sophie and I continued to walk. We bought ice creams from a man in a turban who called us both 'duck'. More hugs, more goodbyes, and we parted. I tucked my ice-cream wrapper into a bin and wandered to the park. I found a spot and sat, retrieved my book and hitched my dress up over my knees.

A group of men are standing around a shop on the corner. One of them groans as I flip flop past, which I decide to take as a compliment. I stare at the bright red bricks and read the old markings on the walls. The sky is still rich.

I slow down as I turn onto my street. Flip. Even slower. Flop.

Pushing my key into the lock I take a breath and think what a nice day it's been.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Something Inside So Monday

I had some errands to run today, so I hopped on Glinda and made my way into town. Manchester is all blue skies and spring breezes. The boys are wearing sunglasses and girls are wearing sandals.

(The girls are also wearing expressions of horror because they don't look anything like the new H&M posters. Clearly they are going to have to if they are to 'do' summer properly, like a real woman. Luckily you can buy one of H&M's 'tunics' for £7.99, which is guaranteed to make you look like a gyrating model tripping along a sun-kissed beach.)

(Rant over. Well, it is over in this post, but in my head it never stops.)

I pulled up at some traffic lights and stopped as they went red. A white van pulled up alongside, windows wound down fully. As soon as it stopped I heard the words "ALL TOGETHER NOW!" shouted in a gravelly but excited male voice.

Two other similarly gravelly voices joined in for the most enthusiastic version of 'Something Inside So Strong' I have ever heard, complete with turned up stereo and rudimentary beatboxing.

I grinned at them, but they were so caught up in the moment that clearly the world outside that van faded away. The lights changed and they sped off, leaving me with the strains of "...though you're doing me wrong, so wrong" and a broken stereotype.

I accidentally told the man in the vegetable van that I was cooking a Thai Green Curry tonight. I am not cooking a Thai Green Curry tonight. Ben is cooking something, and I was buying ingredients. One of these ingredients is some galanga. I asked for some. The man cheerily replied that they didn't have any, and that I should probably go to China Town. Alright, thanks, I said. Then the conversation went like this:

Van Man: Are you making curry?
Me: *he seems to really want me to be making curry*
Me: Yes.
Van Man: Oh, great. A green one?
Me: *um*
Me: Yes.
Van Man: Oh lovely. What else are you putting in it?
Me: Oh, you know. Bits and bobs. Bye!

It was awkward. Lying is one thing, but lying out of potential social awkwardness is just silly.

I went to China Town and found somewhere to lock my bike. A few feet away from me a tall girl was taking a photo. I glanced over to see what she was photographing, and saw a tall man standing by the Chinese arch. He was grinning, and pulling out the corners of his eyes. She was laughing.

I did a double take and dropped my bike.

Picking it up, I looked around again and he was still doing it, but had stuck his teeth over his lower lip. She was still giggling. I dropped my bike again.

If Glinda is broken and I have to claim on the insurance, I am going to file that the reason for the damage was "casual racism".

Then I went to Maplin, the electronics shop, and overheard a man in stonewashed blue denim claiming that "a man can never have enough string lighting", much to the gleeful agreement of his friend.

As excursions go, it was quite good. I have decided need to stop lying just because I sense that someone really wants me to be able to cook, people have to stop being racist and men have to stop loitering in Maplin saying stupid things.

I would like more white van man karaoke, though.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Ennui has hit. I am housebound and feeling low. The sky is grey and I have eight million Internet tabs open, all containing things I have started to read and then lost interest in.

I put the radio on to cheer myself up, but, in a fit of complete appropriateness, it is playing The Smiths 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'.

I am housebound because I have no key to get back in once I leave it, and Ben has borrowed my bike lock, so even if I wanted to go somewhere I would have to WALK or get a BUS and oh GOD that would be awful. I feel like throwing myself on the floor in a tantrum, but nobody is here to see so I would just have to get up, dust myself off and go back to sulking quietly. Except this time with more cat hair on my clothes and even less dignity.

There is nothing really the matter. It's just the 'old waking up feeling like a train has hit me' thing, my head is crowded with anxiety and paranoia. No amount of self-motivating inner pep-talks seem to have any effect, I just feel like I am floating around on a wave of my own angst.

I can hear our neighbours screaming and throwing things, and it feels like I'm listening to the inside of my own head. Something just hit the wall behind my computer as I typed that sentence, and it felt completely appropriate.

This is a stupid post, just self-indulgent wailing and gnashing of teeth. This time tomorrow I will be on a train to London, where I will no doubt be cheered by the prospect of The Big Smoke and a change of scene. Until then I will have to rely on the neighbours to express my frustrations. Perhaps I will go and slip a note through the door that says "he just called you fat".

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Maybe Every Other Day

Well, isn't this all going perfectly to plan? "Every day!" I yodelled, gleefully. Completely aware, of course, that it would not happen. It was the blogging equivalent of a breezy "I'll call you!" on the way out of the door.

Yesterday I worked in the café, avoiding making lattes. The highlight was the new boy telling us that he and his girlfriend have just set up a band, with him on the ukulele and her singing Disney songs. We then all sung some Disney songs for a bit until we couldn't remember any more, then we stopped. Well, they stopped. I have been singing (and acting out) Part of Their World ever since. I enjoy pretending to float around the kitchen I can find picking up random objects, singing "you want thingamibobs? I got twennie!" to the cat. He looks at me with a look that seems to say that he has quite enough thingamibobs today, and will I stop being weird just for a bit? Unfortunately he knows the answer to that one.

Last night Ben and I went to the Bridgewater Hall to see Rokia Traoré, supported by Sweet Billy Pilgrim.

Sweet Billy Pilgrim are a four piece folk rock band, and they were great. For the first half of the first song I was uncertain, not quite sure where they were going to go. As they went on, though, they built up an incredible sound, swapping instruments unpretentiously and filling the hall with harmonies. It was the sort of sound that means that you don't have to listen too closely to the lyrics, but when I did they were beautiful as well. Also the keyboard player had a very impressive beard.

Rokia Traoré, though. Wow. She's this tiny, muscular person, kind of frail and strong at the same time. She and the band walked on to applause, which faded as she stood in front of the microphone. The lights were down, and she just said an accented "thank you", then began to sing. Her voice was weird and mesmerizing, kind of fluttering and breathy. She sang in French, and when the band took over during the first song she jerked up her chin in time to their rhythm, a bit like a really musical rooster. I was captivated.

The rest of the show just kept hitting new heights. She wheeled around the stage, dancing and grinning, speaking very earnestly about Africa, paying tribute to South African singer Miriam Makeba. In her band was electric guitar, electric bass, drums, backing vocals and a guy on a wooden, stringed guitar-like instrument, which made for an interesting blend of sound. Her voice got bigger and more exciting, I completely loved it.

By the end of the gig, about half of the audience were out of their seats and dancing. The other half were sitting tensely wondering when it was going to be over so they could go and watch the rest of A Touch of Frost over a cup of chamomile tea. This, of course, is grossly unfair, although I am feeling mean about it due to the woman next to me who, from her seated position, sneered at my dancing for about ten minutes. It was disconcerting. I'm glad we danced, though, because really it wasn't the sort of music to sit sedately to. (A few years ago we went to see The Buena Vista Social Club there [um, OMG] and a similar tentative dancing thing happened at the end. There are some gigs that just should be danced at.)

I enjoyed the enthusiastic couple at the front, though, who I bet have a flyer taped to their fridge that says "Spice Things Up With Salsa Lessons!".

Rokia and her backing vocalist danced at the end of the gig, and they were incredible. The energy filled the hall, which is impressive, as it's bloody massive.

Right, enough. I have to go and VOTE! and then get on a train to Leeds to lead a choir rehearsal, then come back for a rift cuts writers meeting/workshop.

VOTE! first, though. I have to cast my vote into the winds of it's all the same and cycle off knowing that by tomorrow we'll all probably be made to feel bit blue.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My Hands Fell Off And Then I Died, Sorry

Every time I think about writing a blog post I start to feel all nervous and guilty. Like my blog is a friend who has been calling and sending gently enquiring texts, and who I for some reason have been completely ignoring. All I really want to do is forget the fact that I have been off-radar for a bit and launch into a chat over a glass of wine, but I feel weird about the whole thing and so am just leaving it to become more and more awkward.

Excellently, because this is my blog and nobody really cares, I can just pretend I haven't be mysteriously absent and leap headlong about something I overheard on a bus today or an amusing rabbit anecdote.

Less excellently, I have neither been on a bus today nor encountered any rabbits.

It was my birthday the other week! Ben took me to Wales, where we stayed in a cottage and went pony trekking. My pony was called Peggy and seemed, if I am honest, a bit depressed. I tried to cheer her up by suggesting she come back with me to Manchester and be my best friend, but she just sort of shrugged and muttered something about not liking the accent, so I left it.

Our ponies trekked us along the beach, sinking hooves into the sand. I tried not to think about the scene from The Never Ending Story where Artax sinks into The Swamp of Sadness. (I just looked it up on youtube for reference, and couldn't even watch the whole scene. It is unbearable. I got to "Artax! You're sinking! C'mon! Turn around! You have to! Now!" and then had to turn it off. I would have then had to watched the bit with the flying dog to cheer myself up, and I really don't have time for that sort of thing. I am very busy.)

The beach was beautiful, though, helped by the glorious weather. Later on in the afternoon we saddled up our bikes and heaved ourselves over the hill to the next village. We found a quaint-looking pub amidst the slate-grey cottages, so we locked up and went in for a pint. Inside, the locals were playing dance music and getting loudly drunk. We sat at a picnic table on the patio, trying to ignore them and retain our urban notion of the rural idyll.

It was a perfect weekend, and I felt like I needed it. Plenty has been 'going on' recently, and it's been draining at times. I have felt quite overwhelmed, and it was wonderful to be able to relax and dream, and not have to make any effort. Things, family things mainly, have been happening.

It's all quite topsy turvy. No nine-to-five daily graft here! Flitting and rushing about on trains, at meetings and in workshops. Or holed up at my desk writing. Or staring out of windows feeling guilty about not writing. Or working in the café making frankly-still-not-up-to-scratch lattes. Or cello practice. Or staring out of windows feeling guilty about not doing my cello practice. Or worrying about money or cleaning the house or listening to/reading stuff "for inspiration". Or looking for music work. Or staring out of windows feeling guilty about not looking for music work.

Yeah. Staring out of windows has always been quite a key part of my existence, and I suspect that, as long as there is a window nearby, I will always find it for a bit of a stare.

I am going to finish this rambling and dull post, and make a resolution to post every day for a week.

There! I will start tomorrow.

I'd better go and look for some amusing rabbits.