Last night’s dinner was modest. Each guest had only three cut crystal glasses. I made the most of it with a napkin that I buttoned to my shirt. Just when I was going to drink wine someone asked me why I wasn’t married. I am Poirot and there were times when I had ‘les tentations’ (the temptations).
Do you know what goes well with a napkin? A tiny fan! I used one at dinner. In Mesopotamia the tables are quite small, even for a big party. I smiled at a lot of people. Sometimes a kind little smile and sometimes a just screwing my face up smile. I am Poirot. There was a fish and someone said ‘Arabs don’t understand fish’ but I don’t think he was the murderer.
At lunch today I became very jealous of my friend’s meal. I am on a special diet where I can only eat rice and jelly? He had a whole roast chicken and chips. I had a dark green drink the waiter said was nettle water. I am Poirot. My friend did not even wear a napkin.
Today I ate with my best friend. I made little jokes about his love life which I think he liked. We ate surrounded by bowls of grapes. I had some white wine but could not drink it because the porter told me a young lady was asking to see me. Ah! I liked the porter’s tiny hat with a chinstrap. He addressed me as monsieur. I am Poirot and when the weather is nice I wear sand-coloured clothes. They match my napkins.
14.8 × 21cm
So… what’s good is that, even though we’re in a bunker, there is a Whole Foods here. They have a lot of choice and some indulgent desserts. Originally there was a canteen but everything was frozen and there were Kit Kats that looked really old and you could tell they only cared about getting-by or profit or something. The Whole Foods is much better. It’s a good size with a beauty department upstairs and a pizzeria.
Some people thought it was *insane* to put a Whole Foods in a bunker – but look at it now! There’s always something new to try. Today there’s a tasting stall set up with energy balls containing spirulina and ginseng and another set up with coconut yoghurt. Last week there was a tank of a wheatgrass and apple drink to try. It was so gritty!
A lot of the time people skip straight to dessert. Why not? We’re in a bunker! They’re really good. Sometimes it is *so hard* to choose! One popular dessert is a tub of bread pudding made with croissants and custard. One dessert is a full cup of whipped cream. Very indulgent! One dessert is Mrs. Cumberbatch’s Rice Pudding. Who came up with that name! It gets stranger every day! One dessert is a bright green mint chocolate eclair.
This bunker used to feel really limited until we put a Whole Foods in it. They have everything here. It’s always a good place to visit. Sometimes people come in just to browse the cheeses. They’re out on display so you can really handle them. One cheese is wrapped carefully in bay leaves. One cheese is a Swiss one and it’s shrink wrapped so each hole is a lovely smooth plastic dip. That’s really good to touch. One cheese is pure, pure white. That’s a goat cheese.
Flat peaches are on offer today. There is no reason why a bunker cannot have flat peaches on offer, don’t let anybody tell you so. It just takes a little effort!
Some people come here specifically for the artesian water – it’s on offer and the bottles are really nice. The beauty section gets overlooked but there’s so much up above the rest of the store. They have the *full range* of raw ingredient lip balms, even some for wearing at night. You can test everything – you could probably keep your hands soft just by passing through once a day! Most people take the food out to eat but there’s a bar with some stools and an amazing view of the nut butter machine! You can see the whole store. It’s crazy the amount of aisle space something like coconut cooking oil gets, but then it’s all here! I can’t think of anything missing! Old Kit Kats maybe! Hahaha!
3.7 × 10cm
We drink bubble tea; we regret bubble tea;
we look for a way through (in Whole Foods);
and forget the bubble tea.
14.8 × 21cm
Jamie is on a beach right now. I’m joining him for a few minutes, but I can’t stay because I feel quite tired after work. The shore is beautiful, although the sky looks different to yesterday and not really how we want it. We often go to the beach just for the colours and tonight it is all drab. I make a pillow from my sweatshirt at the foot of Jamie’s bed. Jamie is killing some men. The last thing one of them said was “I am going to kill you motherfucker!” Jamie says not to worry, it’s probably just dusk and the colours will look nice again in the morning. He wants a jet-ski. I don’t blame him but I’d rather see him achieve something.
Jamie is in a dark temple pit, having an explore. There’s got to be something good in it. We got here by quad bike. Jamie’s a skilled driver, even though he’s only just stolen it. He can do steps and hills and cliffs and everything. He makes it look effortless. He bets there are snakes in this pit. I don’t mind too much, it’s just nice to have some architecture after all that forest, but I do feel bad for pushing him to jump down because the last thing he needs is a distraction. There are snakes everywhere but it’s too dark to see them. Jamie throws a Molotov cocktail at them. He says it’s crazy that he can’t skin snakes. He can skin every other animal. He’s got lots of pouches and things made of skins. He uses his craft skills. The only thing in the pit is a chest containing a spider amulet. It’s worth $15. We’ve already got one.
Jamie’s on a hill this morning. I said I would stay while I eat breakfast but then I’ve got to go and do other things. We’re just lying in the grass. Sometimes we’ll look at the grass swaying or a plant and say out loud how good it looks. He’s been asked to burn down five fields of drugs and we can see them all from this hill. Jamie runs down and starts setting fires. He burns everything without even
14.8 × 21cm
13 × 21cm
I want that end to be more wonderful than it is. I mean: it could be...
That’s unusual—that’s ‘meant to be’ the mother. Why not invite him to take them! We’ll mark him! Get him involved though.
I suppose I didn’t want to know what a taniwha was.
Seeing the two together for the first time—the forest as the future, that’s really something. Be careful: an abandoned place is an abandoned place is an abandoned place. Give us a way in?
Maybe even crop it—so this cellophane becomes something. I mean, it’s how you mediate these—they are still totally your mothers’.
Why would you cram them together though? And think about it: in some films a death means nothing—in some, it is the film.
Yes! It looks like a Bergman film! Wild Strawberries or something!
It’s just the right amount of giving. I mean: these are you.
13 × 21cm
“Is that early on in the history of insurance?” (Sophie’s writing about the visuals of fire brigades—you can trust her on this)
“Well, there was shipping—and there’s evidence of early kinds of insurance in Egypt. But fire really only started after the Great Fire of London.”
“So fire insurance started here?”
“So fire brigades—were they produced by the insurers?”
“Yeah—and their badges and insignia and uniforms and everything were this display.”
“Is that the lamb?”
“I think it’s lentils.”
“Tell the story about Angela’s breast!”
“This friend of hers was petting a horse and it bit her breast and lifted her up into the air!”
“By her breast?”
“She kept saying ‘it clamped down’—like: clamp, I think that makes it worse.” (I’m using my hands and making sure they hear clamp)
“Is this chicken?” (I mean in the centre of the injera)
“And a boiled egg.”
“You can have that Miranda... Mir-egg!” (Miranda doesn’t like that!)
“It’s a mother and daughter!”
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Take that barf back.
Like in my dreams.
I think he’s an artist.
I am laughing and I am bad for laughing.
I’m going to leave soon. Remember to show me the cat. Maybe I’ll learn what love is.
Yes I want tomato plants! I looked for something to make window boxes out of today. I love your plant filled home that I’ve never seen.
I don’t have a new haircut. It’s just going to the left, not the right.
The town I grew up in is famous for lace. The museum there is just drawers of lace. So I know a thing or two about lace.
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You buy oysters, tongue and pigeon,
and you build shelves,
and you ask if there’s any mayonnaise, on Facebook,
and you make her shoes out of leather,
and you store his wine still under the sink,
and you hunch over the table,
and you buy a bread machine,
and you explain violet wands at dinner.
Yeah, I’ll housesit.
10.5 × 14.8cm
Bit more in-between us... just be careful—
I spilt tea over Molly’s laptop!
Does she know?
She knows, she was using it. Let’s turn this...
I guess I should do this? Yeah, I don’t know how to do it... sorry, there’s a button there...
Yeah. I’ll take my glasses off.
No! We could do it around your glasses!
That’d be amazing!
What do you start with? The white?
Jenny, I’ve kind of forgotten why we’re doing make-up.
We can stop if you want. Do you want to stop?
No. It’s fine. This is... did people do this at the ICA?
No, I didn’t do this—they were all quite conservative, they wanted, like, hearts, proper—real make-up? And when I did it they were, like: oh, right, I look like a drag queen. But to be fair that is exactly what I thought they wanted. I would’ve been happy with that.
I think part of my face-paint phobia might be to do with—
—the Festival Hall!
Oh really? Why? Did you have your face painted at the Festival Hall?
No, but you know when they do it for kids. And when you have to control the queue—
Okay, whatever. No, when my art teacher at school said that she’d been at the ICA at some point and Joseph Beuys had been there and he showed her around the show. I don’t think it was even his show!
No, it sounded when you told me before, it sounded like she’d just rocked up and he was, like: hello!
I wonder what the show was?
I just like the idea of him strolling around and just... yeah, Ms Lock. Last time I saw her actually was at the Festival Hall. She’s very small and she just sort of saw me and did a double take—
Oh! I was there!
Were you! Do you remember? And she asked me to bend down so she could touch my hair! Do you remember that?
13 × 21cm
13.8 × 20cm
Come in! Come up. It’s good, isn’t it? We did a lot of work, it took about two weeks. I’ll make coffee. Coffee?
This house holds many spirits.
You smell it?
The wood here is old.
under the sink
has been moved recently.
See this mark?
An old appliance stood here.
A fridge, broken.
This one is new.
Under the radiator—
This house has been
uncared for, maybe for
The lights are brighter here.
This washing machine
smells of bleach.
We may never know
what was in it...
30 × 30cm
You made pancakes
Holding your fingers to your ears after lifting them
And we shared a joke
And looked to the ceiling
14.8 × 21cm
With Sadie watching
Bianca lifts a sheet of paper
from Scott’s back pocket
Scott looks on
The class looks at David’s blog
His daughters are eating fish and chips
for the first time
from Idaho to Aldershot
Renée makes Ivan real
He sold petrol illegally during the war
to support his family
He’s a manager now
something with computers
13 × 21cm
9.9 × 21cm
Alessia and Andy laugh about having a roast in Dublin, traditional apart from the potatoes laced with chilli.
Peter tells about getting the angle of his surfboard wrong in Newquay and watching the lifeguard as he rolled under, the lifeguard watching back, while he rescued himself. Jenny tells about making chocolate crispie cakes, shoving chocolate in the microwave for three minutes, smelling burning and finding it thick with a hole burnt through the Tupperware. Peter tells the story of going into his local Wetherspoons and asking for a Johnnie Walker, the barman walking away, coming back and going “What d’ya want?” “Johnnie Walker.” “Stella?” Katherine tells about having a coffee in the café last night and watching a man pretending to swallow a long balloon. Jenny tells how a friend’s house got raided after he wrote something dodgy on a chatroom as a joke. She also says about looking out her window this morning and seeing two women on the street below, one causing a distraction by peering into her shopping trolley, the other squatting behind and pissing. Rachael tells about being told to look at Jude Kelly’s Wikipedia entry immediately and finding it titled ‘Jude ‘do you know who I am?’ Kelly’. Peter explains how Chinese vampires have to be buried standing on their heads because they travel by hopping around. Gareth tells the story of Johnny Cash getting drunk in the desert, falling asleep by the side of his campfire and van, which caught fire and burned down the nests of half of America’s condor population.
Charlotte remembers being kicked out of a Prada shop for being dusty on their white carpet. Minna explains trying to convince Sam to quit smoking by starting herself.
Claire tells us about suffering a blowout on the A3 and thinking for a while that it was the Radio 4 report from Iraq and then, for a bit further, maybe a helicopter overhead. Rebekah tells the story of noticing a businessman on a train who looked like he could use a cup of tea, buying tea and coffee in a paper bag and, when he finished on the phone, asking him which he preferred. Alessia tells about discovering the old photography darkrooms in the museum and sneaking in for forgotten prints by radioing security that the fire exits needed checking.
Paul tells the story of the Parisian so sure he was from Australia that he asked which part of Australia he was from. Paul grinned and answered “Eindhoven!” Beth remembers the time Danya came to her to say that the students had drawn a penis on the board and how she’d taken a photograph to prove it. Lisa complains about Charlotte taking her Polos and saying she’d only give them back if she shut up.
Rachael tells the story of working so hard on her exhibition that, during the opening, she kept looking down at her hand and seeing a craft knife in it. Eirwen explains that a normal platelet count is 400 and after she collapsed hers was 900.
Jamie tells the story of a man in Nottingham called Shelf because, when he was young and taken to see bands, a shelf behind the bar was cleared for him to sit on. Jamie also tells the story of friends, eating at a café, noticing two elderly women leave their plates half eaten so taking their seats and cutlery and finishing their meals until they saw them returning through the window. They quickly put the plates under the table and returned to their seats, telling the women a waiter had cleared their food then legged it.
Jessie tells the story of the engineering student at Cambridge who invented the cox box and went on to found a University in Pakistan. She also reminisces about working at Harrods and being made to dye her hair, wear a suit and greet customers within a minute.
Martin remembers starting as a technician and mixing fix, dipping his hands in a tub of sulphite crystals at eight in the morning and it itching for a few hours until, that afternoon, all his skin came off and the head technician hit the roof. Ivor tells the story of replenishing the chemicals in the C41 machine and his glove splitting right where he had a cut. White spots started appearing then spread over his whole hand, taking two years to clear. Alison tells how her father, a book designer, used photographs of her and her brother in a book on how to raise children—she must have been six or seven—and there’s a picture of her on the toilet.
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So. Meat and poultry is cheaper here.
So was the food we ate—and appreciated; set on a tray, set on our table and shared. And we realise how good it is to say goodbye to strangers and know we’ll see them all tomorrow. And each will have their own night to compare.
Look: all the cars are black. As visitors—as guests—this might be true.
And we felt like guests; the hospitality of the curry house where every chair turned for us, every table joined and every diner through the door after asked politely to come back later saw to that.
Even with the sun at its peak the street anticipates the end of the day. It’s to be a slow tailing off. Workmen know this, excavating the site of our goodnights. They are careful to miss the distortion of the road, the sudden softness that fascinates the woman in the fireplace shop. Pity anyone rushing out of News & Booze.
We were in no rush.
The road tells us the only way is forward (and any floating arrow otherwise is absurd).
A tall road, getting taller. Obvious exits: east or west. But you are not so lost as that.
We turned back already, your finger pressed on the atlas.
This is not a fair light. And nothing lines up!
Do you know the sea is just one click over?
Not yet. But we’ll know it. We’ll mash it together with the boarding announcements echoing off the cliff. We’ll each hold a little of the cliff in our fists to take home, buffing it and wondering how the whiteness could have been left behind.
That’s wheat to the north but the crop’s changed to the south. It should be a much different green.
The inside of our rented car is the green of that field and the orange of Renée’s top. That’s how you know the light is fair.
We know the side the sea is on and never look to the other.
What were we looking for?
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I’m ten minutes early to the Southbank and gloat all over the place. At the briefing a girl whose name I don’t remember asks me to work Sunday. So she can go to her cousin’s wedding.
“Hold on—you put yourself as available for the day of your cousin’s wedding?”
“I know—my Dad was, like: ‘so have you bought an outfit’ and I was, like: ‘for what?’!”
I’ll do it. Because it’s a wedding, because I can claw back some of the holiday hours I’ve taken not to go to the Lake District and because it’s the last performance of the Wizard of Oz. And that means something has to happen. Peter suggests they could give one of the munchkins singing lessons so she surprises the cast by hitting her notes. Today’s radio code for lost children is ‘winkies’. The managers crack up.
“It’s my last Wizard, so just my little joke,” explains Sue.
I ask Aaron, team leader, about my holiday hours.
“Can we talk about this later?” he asks.
I nod and we stand in silence for a bit, until he sends Peter and Scott and I to the programme room to prepare for roving. We rove and sell programmes, with enough faux-competition between us for fun.
“Hey, Scott, I think I saw, like, fifteen people in the fire escape who wanted programmes—you should go there. Now.”
By the start of the show, of the magical surge and digital projections of turn-of-the-century Christmas cards, I’ve sold twenty-five. I collect some extra issue from team leader Paul in the heat of the programme room.
I promise to include Wittgenstein when I reach my dissertation and he runs through the anecdotal slide from logic that happened when Wittgenstein was passed by a cyclist giving him two fingers for no logical reason.
My fingers, wash after wash, still smell of the salmon.
“Do you realise how unappealing it is to have someone sniff their fingers like that?”
“Yeah. But it’s disgusting to me too. I have to go wash again.”
“Sorry!” I turn back, “Bye!”
I drop down to level four and covering Maria’s break by sitting on the door and talking to one of the agency staff I’ve never talked to before.
“You finishing at ten-thirty?” he asks.
“Yeah, double. I was just going to ask you.”
“Have you seen it?” some gesture to the screen or auditorium door.
“It’s bad, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know what they were thinking—to do a stage version of this film?” he’s into it now, “I mean, it’s not even magical—all the doors, it’s always dark—where is the magic? I have a friend in the show—the assistant choreographer? The guy who enters from the other side after the interval? And I had to hide—it’s too embarrassing, I’m not going to lie if I see him. I can’t believe that in two-thousand and eight they still dance like this. I’m so glad I’m not in it. I’m glad I wasn’t even asked to audition for it.”
He has plans, good plans, for a yellow brick road that runs from the stage into the audience.
Jenine passes on overhearing that the next team leader will be trained up from a host like us. We speculate who. I suggest that all the good hosts have taken ticketing jobs. And maybe I should, being good and all. Maybe after the Slade. She says what about teaching, what about Falmouth—Farnham. She asks if it’s rural and I remember trying to get a pint of milk after four on a Sunday—try. No way—you can’t. She checks where my parents live.
“Bedford. Shire. Bedfordshire. That’s quite rural too.”
“Ah, Bedfordshire—it’s nice there; I hear they’ve opened a new restaurant there—called ‘The Crazy Be—”
I’m pissing myself.
“‘They opened a restaurant in Bedfordshire’? I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
Dorothy’s crescendoing through the doors with “There really is no place like home!” so I’m off, throwing what needs to be thrown in the programme room then accepting being expected to sign in the radios at reception. I’m boiling inside when I rip off my shirt, swap and emerge back in the Festival Hall bar for a cup of tap water to cool off. Michelle’s sent me a text that her birthday drinks have moved to Las Iguanas, across the street and I haven’t an excuse not to have just one drink. I kind of have. I walk across the street and into a rope barrier across what I think is the entrance.
“Can I come in?” I ask a waitress, tending outside tables behind the barrier.
“Of course,” she says and unhooks it.
The entrance is to the left, not in any way barriered.
12.7 × 19cm
Or D32. D31 begat D33, D33 begat D36 unless the applicant’s leave has now expired.‘Has the applicant ever engaged in any other activities which might indicate that he/she may not be considered to be a person of good character?’ Renée has ticked ‘No’ and I amen. There’s a space provided for further details and encouragement to use a separate sheet if needed. I think she’s safe from charges of genocide. Safe enough that I go to her room and tell her she can stay.
I click through Carl’s Facebook photographs. He runs into the sea and I click and he runs out of the sea. He spreads on a bonnet or a shoulder or a hilltop with a dog leashing from his wrist. It was my undergraduate. It was alright after all. I hear the new Growing album by surprise. It is as hard as anything. I’ve never heard them so hard. The modulations turn up so far that they could come out my mouth with the hot breath of a heavy cold. Complete coverage—the sort of disco that would disco from a lighthouse under, for a six—seven—eight seconds of a lighthouse tall wave. Andrew from C.P. Papas has left a voicemail inside the Co-op bag on my floor. I play it back.
“Hello David? This is Andrew from C.P. Papas calling to see if you are still interested in three to four bedroom properties—” I delete it then and there and think with a bit of dread about collecting rent cheques for the end of the month and handing them over to Andrew from C.P. Papas who will say “thank you David” and maybe leave another voice mail, next day.
I decide to trip to Waitrose. To test Growing on the 271. It works down Elthorne Road where, outside Byam Shaw, a traffic warden uses a compact digital camera to shoot himself at a god’s eye, if the god were (and maybe is) an arm away.
I ask after Dave’s day. He says he’s been a flâneur. I laugh. He says he’s been reading some psychogeography. We laugh. He’s listened to some podcasted lectures from Frieze and beyond that sort of justified his day as his practice. We laugh some more. Ah. He cooks on and I go upstairs, then down to cook myself. Cabbage. Which doesn’t really work, just goes translucent and interesting with the steaming and dressing. So I rely on pasta and rocket pesto, eat to the pages of art magazines and a hundred painted figures or parts of figures painted together and drag upstairs. Someone close, somewhere close has lit a joss stick to the world. Archway’s autumn is fulfilled. This is how it plays out—a locked groove and beacon lights on aircraft louder than their noise. And this means I’m bored. And that on a Friday, ignoring Gareth asking if I want to party at his, I’ve nothing to do. And it’s the first time. And the same tomorrow. I freak. I go down to the kitchen where Alessia and laptop are chatting over Facebook. I tell her I’m freaking.
“You could go out!” she says.
“I can’t. I don’t want too. I mean, I got a text from a friend at work but… but they all seem really young?”
“No, since Farnham—and teaching eighteen year olds and I’m, like —”
“We’re still young!”
“I know. I know that. It’s just. I don’t know.”
I ask her to recommend a film. I don’t want anything recommended out of the last three years, when I was old. Maybe I want Bottle Rocket but I can’t find that online. Or anything from the fifties. I read Leah’s reading for her seminar and turn into a pillow.
“I think this is my first Saturday off all year. I thought I’d be busy, but—I’ve got nothing to do.”
She stretches and yawns. She thought about tidying Josh’s room, but then, it’s not hers to tidy. I say that I like it as it is. We go down to the kitchen to raid breakfast and recipe books. I could bake. Scones feels close to right but not there. Xan asks to borrow spinach. I can help there. She fries herself an enchilada and says she’s going to take it upstairs, finish her show. I say I’m going to check recipes on my laptop and follow. I check recipes on my laptop and, with shadows across our gardens, our second neighbour to the right—in line with my chair—hangs an orange fluorescent waistcoat off his line, printed TRITON. TRITON lights the vines on his fence. TRITON flares when the rest of the view drowns blue. Delia online has a forum, gently chastising Diane for offering to bake a friend’s wedding cake. ‘I don’t mean to be rude Diane,’ they write. Finally I remember the Waitrose tea loaf recipe with tea infused fruit and make a Post-it of what I need. Vine fruits. That sort of thing. Air. I need air. And not this floor. I could use a little pavement.
At the corner of Hargrave Road a man who can hardly walk is being held back by a man who can. When I pass both are released and continue. I really hope it wasn’t for me. I am listening to a banjo through deteriorating Sennheiser headphones. I cannot harm. I really hope I cannot harm. I make for the Co-op and I buy a lemon because there may be no lemons in the kitchen. I do not buy cannellini beans because I have borlotti at home and they’ll do. I buy a packet of caster sugar because there may be no caster sugar in the kitchen.
Fine Art MA, The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, 2009
Photography BA (Hons), The Surrey Institute of Art & Design, 2006
They all seem to be smiling, Fielding House, London, 2013
6x4", The Cooper Gallery, Dundee, 2013
Invisible Architecture, Roundhouse, London, 2013
Photobook Show, Create, Brighton, 2012
On the Upgrade, The Mews Project Space, London, 2011
Send my love to everyone in Japan, Quare Gallery, London, 2011
One Dot Says to Another, George Polke, London, 2011
Tomorrow?, Aspex, Portsmouth, 2011
Bergen Biennale II, The Woodmill, London, 2010
Junction, Camden Town Unlimited, London, 2010
Distance, Stoke Newington International Airport, London, 2010
Source Coding, Quare Gallery, London, 2010
or-bits.com, online, 2010
Itchy Scratchy Picture Show, Permanent Gallery, Brighton, 2009
The Body Project, Woburn Square Research Centre, London, 2008
KunstVlaai API, Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam, 2008
Return to sender, Slade Project Space, London, 2008
What They Could Do They Did, The Forest, Edinburgh, 2007
Noir et/ou Blanc, Duplex, Geneva, 2006
Shift, Soso Gallery, Sapporo, 2005
Publish and Be Damned, ICA, London, 2013
Diffusion, Ffotogallery, Cardiff, 2013
Ormston House Artists’ Book Fair, Limerick, 2013
The Tokyo Art Book Fair, Zine’s Mate, Tokyo, 2012
Small Publishers’ Fair, Conway Hall, London, 2012
Publish and Be Damned, ICA, London, 2012
Artists’ Book Fayre, The New Art Gallery, Walsall, 2011
Small Publishers’ Fair, Conway Hall, London, 2011
The London Art Book Fair, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2011
Toynbee Winter Festival, Toynbee Hall, London, 2010
Café Royal Pop-up Library, PR1 Gallery, Preston, 2010
Small Publishers’ Fair, Conway Hall, London, 2010
The NY Art Book Fair, MoMA PS1, New York, 2010
The London Art Book Fair, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2010
Book Arts Fayre 5, Ffotogallery, Cardiff, 2010
Gallery North Book Fair, Gallery North, Newcastle, 2010
Walsall Artists’ Publishing Fair, The New Art Gallery, Walsall, 2010
Words in Progress, The Lexington, London, 2010
Book Arts Fayre 4, Ffotogallery, Cardiff, 2010
Small Publishers’ Fair, Conway Hall, London, 2009
The London Art Book Fair, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2009
Small Publishers Fair, Conway Hall, London, 2008
The London Art Book Fair, ICA, London, 2008
Small Publishers’ Fair, Conway Hall, London, 2007
The London Art Book Fair, ICA, London, 2007
The London Art Book Fair, ICA, London, 2006
Residencies and lectures
Research Residency in Art Writing, Edinburgh University, Edinburch Sculpture Workshop, Edinburgh, 2013
Gandt Summer Dinner, 46b, London, 2013
Book Live, London South Bank University, London, 2012
Everything, ICA, London, 2011
POLYply, The Centre for Creative Collaboration, London, 2011
Gandt residency, Woodmill Studios, London, 2010
Artist talk, Futurators!, Aspex, Portsmouth, 2010
Artist talk, Manchester Metropolitan University, 2009
Vernacular Spectacular Triennial Fringe residency, Folkestone, 2008
bookRoom Symposium, UCCA Farnham, 2006
Work held in the collections of
Centre de Livre d’Artiste
The Saison Poetry Library
Manchester Metropolitan University
University for the Creative Arts
University of Limerick
I was at a dinner party last night and they were talking about dividing up a dead woman’s things. I tucked my napkin in my collar and pulled out the corners to make it look like a kite. I am Poirot. Today I am hungry because I didn’t get to eat anything.
Today I came to breakfast already wearing a napkin that covered my whole body. I looked like a ghost. I held a saucer and teacup for a bit and watched everyone talk about who faked the will. I am Poirot and I am thirsty because I forgot to drink my tea.
Last night Zoë Wanamaker put some feathers on her head. I could see them across the dinner table but I couldn’t see her because there were waterlilies and candles in the way. I am Poirot. I am quite short.
I like wine when it comes from a bottle wrapped in a napkin. I was wrapped in a napkin last night. I moved my silver spoon over a thin soup and really enjoyed saying: logic, loj-ique! I made a joke about how nobody is cleverer than me and everybody laughed! I forgot to eat the soup, I enjoyed myself so much. I am Poirot.
Tonight I enjoyed my first toast! It was ‘to freedom’. I was at a round table with my new friends. We did not celebrate for long because an emotional woman came in. She picked up one of our glasses and threw it at a man and said he was no son of hers. I was so shocked that I pulled off my napkin and stood up. I am Poirot. I definitely had some deep thoughts. I am told you can tell by my eyes.
I had dinner with a whole long table of students tonight. They introduced themselves to me one by one, just like University Challenge. My favourite was the girl who said ‘studying fashion – and creating it!’ – I thought that was great characterisation. I am Poirot. I enjoyed telling them they were wrong about the perfect crime. A woman carried soup around in a big tureen and I used a ladle to put some on my plate. I hope that was right.
I ate breakfast this morning with a man who had lost his pearls. I talked about myself in the third person and looked out of the window. We each had a boiled egg but most of the table was for the spray carnations. I am Poirot and I am here on ‘vacances’. I know where his pearls are.
The restaurant I had lunch in was very modern. They provided me with a pale blue napkin. I said that there is no such thing as an accident and the rest of the meal was a flashback. I am Poirot. When I was younger I had more hair and a woman gave me a nice brooch.
Hello, Encouraging Craig speaking.
David Rule, bunker.
No, you want Jamie Sutcliffe.
You’re breaking up a bit.
Hello, Richy Crown.
Yes, this is Victoria Manifold.
Hello, Jessie Greengrass speaking.
Everybody looks forward to lunch in the bunker! Whole Foods has *the best* buffet. There’s hot and cold self-service with these huge bottles of dressings for the salads. You can choose olive oil – as much as you like – or liquid aminos. Nobody even knows what that is but everybody wants some. It’s very popular. Over here there’s a counter for pizzas and falafel and sushi. There’s one salad called ‘Forbidden Rice Salad’! It’s not forbidden here! Hahaha! The rice is black.
For dinner, after a long day in the bunker, Whole Foods has things like this quinoa cake or this lasagna or this spelt tortellini. The lasagna looks so good. Each piece has half a cherry tomato on top. It’s definitely the little things that make this Whole Foods great. All the little touches!
You cannot go into the bunker Whole Foods without getting one of these famous big pretzels! It’s the first thing people go for. It’s like there’s no limit to the amount of dough they’ll use and look at this: they hang them on a kind of pretzel tree! These are not your normal pretzels. And the rest of the bakery section is a big attraction – these are new: massive cupcakes that look like Cookie Monster! Maybe that’s too much frosting.
One of the popular things is a nut butter machine where you can make your own nut butter. Sometimes an employee operates it just to please people! They have a big chalkboard above it with a peanut wearing scuba gear ready to jump in! They work really hard on the chalk signs so we always know what produce is good. There’s a whole office just for making chalkboard signs. More little touches! One nice thing you notice is that they put normal food in clear plastic tubs – all sorts of food in the same tubs. It just looks good. Like jelly babies, but in a tub not a packet. The guacamole in a tub looks like sick though.
using a flamethrower; shooting the green barrels is easier and safer. The men guarding the drugs get so angry. “Fuck me!” they say. “You’re in for a world of pain!” When they start to get a bit much, Jamie finds a trench that leads down to the beach and into the sea. Underwater is refreshing – there’s less shouting. It’s just time for everyone to calm down. Jamie says it’s refreshing because he was on fire.
Jamie is in a hut in a tropical village. It’s beautiful, there’s a market stall with fresh produce but a lot of it’s on fire. I’m just looking up the restaurant we’re meeting at tonight. Their website says they’re looking forward to welcoming us and ensuring we have a memorable experience. I read Jamie out some of the desserts while he protects Rongo, who has some information – he just needs to find it. This hut is a mess. Outside, a pirate says “I’m going to eat you alive!” Jamie plants some land mines around the balcony. It’s the first time he’s been strategic. We’re both pleased with the results and Rongo finds the itinerary he was after. It’s always the last place you look. Jamie goes to the bathroom so I take control and catch fire and crouch in a corner.
Jamie’s in the gun shop, buying some guns. Catherine’s in the kitchen, frying some onions. The gun shop owner points her gun right at him. He says she’s being a dick. He always used to hide in trees. It would take him such a long time to shoot. He’d much rather hide in water and shoot from a distance and run away. He was very good at ‘death from below’. Now he goes straight in and shoots up close. I asked him about it and whether he’s worried about that. He says it just means he’s getting good. It’s true: he’s really turning this island around! We’re going to go hang gliding next.
Mayonnaise (Jamie Sutcliffe), avocado (Daniel Rothschild), tomatoes (Rachael Haines), mozzarella (Alessia Beccia), thinly sliced red onion (Anna Thunström), bacon done in the oven (Lee Broughall), cucumber (John Day), big basil leaves and fresh ground black pepper (Molly Palmer), manchego cheese (Sarah Jury), rocket (Emmanuelle Waeckerelé), olives (Andy Healy), chargrilled red peppers (Renée O’Drobinak), chicken escalope marinaded in lemon and thyme (Patrick Langley), wholegrain mustard (Jeffrey Gordon Baker), egg (Miranda Clow), plum chutney (Katherine Gould), walnuts (David Rule) and thinly sliced cooked beetroot (Alice Butler) on rye
Well, treating the body as a still life is really something. The flowers are still potent—take them, take them to your mother’s house; to her friend’s house, or wrap them, you know?
Do you want this to look like a survey? It could, but... Well, it’s nice that they’re posed. So: invite hand gestures. That’s provocative!
These are so information-rich. So, maybe: you do field recordings—nothing more? There’s this parity to your writing then.
They seem scripted. Be aware of that. I mean: most of them say ‘sky-diving’!
So you’re thinking about experience? Well the after—maybe just the after? That’s it!
Guide yourself! Don’t show it all—make a decision there. Get on the boat.
Don’t turn it into a joke! Maybe I’m too serious today. But these are beautiful.
Ah! The Death of Marat! Yeah? I mean, work with that.
It’s things disappearing—this archeology of things. And offline seems necessary to that.
So, it becomes about covertness? There’s a critique of the institution here. Through light! I mean: if that were a strip light it would be nothing.
That’s right! If you can deliver that visually—and that dissipation.
Are these instructions?
Maybe it’s not boy meets girl, maybe it’s more: Boy. Girl.
You really do look like her! Well, maybe it’s fifty- fifty? You, your mother, you, your mother, you.
I mean, just be sure about this. Fine: be so, so brazen—yeah, completely, all the way.
Yellow split peas
Mir-egg (don’t call me
Potato and carrot
“Is this lentils?”
“That looks untouched...” (We’re looking closely—we really overlooked it)
“We usually have it...”
“Is it hot?” (I’m asking Jamie...)
“There’s a slow build...” (I’m going to fold some bread around some then)
“... it’s still building...”
“... from MIT. This mushroom body suit—processing waste from the body back into the ground. And the audience were just, like, as if: what are you talking about mushrooms for? And she was saying ‘it’s just an example.’”
“More of Martin Scorsese than Danny DeVito.” (I’m talking about the lecturer Jamie just showed me—Sophie agrees)
“My hands were the colour of your cardigan! Weren’t they?” (Jamie’s showing his hands—Miranda’s cardigan is crimson)
“Jamie. Would you bite into a roll of this? Like that? You want to! Come on! You’ll dream of it!” (I’m pointing at the extra rolls of injera and there’s just this pyramid of them... Sophie says they’ll just put back out what we don’t eat)
A student just said cheers boy to me.
Maybe buddy without the dd.
This morning I set up some student work in a room for some managers’ meeting. Then one of them asked me what I was going to do now. I said eat breakfast. She said she meant WITH MY LIFE.
Basically, they’re in this forest looking for this girl and the cop, his son gets shot by a poacher. It’s an accident—the bullet goes through this deer he was looking at.
Basically, there’s been this outbreak and everyone’s zombies and they spend the first season getting to this centre where they’re making a cure but they get there and everyone’s gone and it’s just this one guy and he’s given up and just wants to kill himself.
There’s this thing where he took her handgun off her. She’s not allowed to carry one because he thinks she’s suicidal so there’s been multiple instances of her not being able to defend herself.
He’s a dick.
He means well but he nearly raped someone.
Her daughter goes missing—they’re looking for her daughter. The one with the crossbow—he’s getting better but he’s kind of pissed with everyone for leaving his brother chained up on this rooftop.
Yeah, they chained him by his wrist—the city was overrun and he was going against the group—causing trouble—risk—they chained him on this rooftop then chained the door shut and left him then felt bad and went back but he’d cut his hand off.
If you visit Paris at 28, you’ve got to sleep on the way there. The only way to see Paris is waking up. And you’ve got to see her and him at the end of the platform—that’s the best bit: her laughing because she won the bet on what you’d wear (all black). Don’t set your phone up for roaming—it’s kind of the point to arrange to meet people, not to phone them. And button up your shirt.
The best place for croissants is down the boulevard. There’s a counter by the window so you don’t have to go in. And he’ll be ready to lean in and say the right words. Get crumbs on your collar, it doesn’t matter how many.
It’s good to get your first coffee just off the République in this cafe off the corner. If you can’t find it: follow him pointing to the river then her pointing back toward the square. Watch him and her draw each other without pencil leaving paper. When you’ve had just enough the coffee will come. The waiter will stand outside smoking for you to remember him by.
When you ride the metro for the first time, have him there telling you he remembers how the doors sound like horses. You need to go to Palais de Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art. It probably doesn’t matter which first but let him guide you across the plaza (skate videos? it’ll make sense); and in between see the street market. Literally a street. The main thing is to end on this concrete picnic bench outside Tokyo Eat. What’s good about the bench is it puts you right across from her putting on lipstick. It gives a surface for the guidebooks. This is the time to practice French. Accents! French accents. Get carried away. Completely. Like, introduce a ze into every word. She’ll do it right back.
Go to the Eiffel Tower but don’t go up. The best view is right underneath. The second best view is her and her looking at maps, in guidebooks for where’s good. So enjoy it. And know that it won’t be long before you all realise that there’s nowhere worth going more than Montmartre.
Oh, because, basically I had that story about the ICA where I pretended I was a make-up artist for the Birds Eye Film Festival. Well, I got a call from my friend saying: would you be interested in doing this make-up artist thing; and I was, like: well, I don’t really know how to do any make-up or face-painting or anything; but the woman phoned me and was, like: so, you’re a make-up artist, right?; and I was, like: yeah, yeah I am. And then I was, like: do you have face-paints and stuff?; and she was, like: no, no; so I said: well, I haven’t done it for a while so I’m probably going to need some sort of money to get top ups—glitter—because if you want it to be—it was glam rock themed or whatever... I’m going to start.
Oh my god. I really don’t like this.
Sorry! I’m quite scared of you!
I’m quite scared of me too—I’m so glad I can’t see it. Last time I was controlling the queue for the kids to get their face-painted this woman told me that I had no heart, that I had no human emotions.
Yeah. She was just, like: my daughter needs this!
You don’t have any human emotions!
Yeah. At that time I really did.
Now however... Shut your eyes.
Oh god. You’re just gluing my eyes together. I can see it in your glasses! I can fucking see what it looks like!
You’ll be fine! You’ll look like David Bowie at the end!
No—I’m not though am I!
I don’t remember that! That is weird.
I hadn’t seen her for five years. She just wanted to touch it. But, yeah, having Joseph Beuys show you around. You know when we were there the other week and Mary was working?
It was quite nice. When I was there, before you came, I was just watching her and she was showing this guy around. Actually this guy looked a bit like Joseph Beuys. I think he had a hat on. And she was just talking.
Does she do that?
She was just working and he was the only visitor in the gallery, the one downstairs, the big one, they’ve whited-out the windows and everything’s hung.
I thought she might have gone a bit mad actually, invigilating a white room.
David, Josie, Kate, Kirsten and the shopkeeper were there
Rosa apologised, she had to get home
We’d come from curry
Kirsten reported that she’d like to buy the bags of spices
The shopkeeper bagged them
And folded yesterday’s newspaper supplements into the bag
And some malted milk biscuits
And a bag of broken rice
The shopkeeper reported that broken rice with milk and cardamon in the oven is easy and good
David, Josie, Kate and Kirsten agreed
Steph’s baba’s microwave
moves from beside the record player
to the kitchen
where it fits
and warms brandy
We stopped in this wood
Jason pointed above
and explained that when the wind was blowing
and the sun was low behind the wind turbines
the trees strobed.
I say pink
Xan coral and that it looks like I’ve worn it all my life.
This is Serbian honey
Ana’s family make it
They fill Coke bottles with it
It tastes like each tree in the forest
Alright guys—guys! Why is that door open? I told you! You have to keep that door closed, you’re going to piss people off if it stays open, the light’ll get in and it’ll just ruin everything. Okay? The second years, they’re not going to react too well to that. Okay? Be really mindful of that.
Why have you got duct tape over your mouth? Why has he got duct tape over his mouth? Did you put duct tape over his mouth? What? Okay.
Look, I want to talk to you about this recipe I found on the New York Times website for bread. I know I said there’s no eating in here, yeah, no drinking either—I know, I said that. No you’re not supposed to drink the chemicals—a straw? Why is there a drinking straw? Is that yours? For a photogram? Okay.
Why are you hitting each other? Don’t hit each other! Come on guys! Come on. So I want to talk about this bread you can make without kneading it? So you usually have to work the dough and it’s messy and takes a lot of time. But there’s this recipe where you don’t have to knead it at all: no knead bread. Yeah?
Yeah, I like my hat too, thanks. No, no I don’t have blue eyes. Well, brown or green or something. I think. Thank you. Anyway. Yeah, I know what ‘swagger’ means. But I want to talk to you about no knead bread. So it’s normal bread stuff: flour, yeast, water. That’s it, that’s all there is in it—the thing is you have to leave it for a really long time. Guys! Guys please! Yeah, come on, huddle, a bit closer— just so I can talk you through this. Okay.
Could you turn the music down? Just turn it down a bit. Not really, it doesn’t sound like dubstep to me. It’s a bit light. I don’t know, anyway, so you mix together three cups of flour, a quarter teaspoon of yeast, one and a quarter teaspoon of salt and one and a half cups of water. I’ll print that out, okay? Yeah, I’ve got some paper for the printer—hold on though, wait a bit. You mix that together, then leave it for at least twelve hours—okay? And that lets the yeast work. It’s such a small amount of yeast, right? Quarter of a teaspoon: nothing. Have you tried making your pinhole a bit smaller? I think that might be it—keep it smooth around the edges— I’ve got some other pins in the office. Yeah, the stable. Yeah, the cupboard. So leave it at least twelve hours, at least twelve hours. The longer the better.
Eilidh tells about going to her local supermarket to buy some sparkling wine, getting to the checkout and the cashier saying: “oh, it’s you again, buying alcohol.” Peter tells the story told him by Katherine of Ros’s trousers splitting during a briefing and her telling Katherine afterwards “I’ve got too much junk in my trunk!” Anniwaa says how she’s been seeing this guy for a while but they’re both busy and she can’t tell if he’s serious. He rang yesterday and she asked if he rang by accident because her name’s at the top of the register. Jessie tells about a friend who got attacked by a pie in a pub, a piece sticking in his throat and an ambulance taking him to hospital where he had to stay for three days—unable to swallow—until, just as they were about to operate and informing him of the high likelihood he’d never swallow again, he coughed out the crust.
Paul tells about seeing two boys working in a shop, one with a pricing gun and the other up a stepladder with a price sticker stuck on his arse. Paul kept nudging Claire’s arm and whispering “look at his arse!” Renée explains the cut on her hand from Isle of Dogs chavs arriving in the café demanding Coke as she frothed milk until she turned to tell them she didn’t have any and a glass fell from the top shelf, slicing her on the way down. John tells of visiting Chicago in the same way that visiting Heathrow is visiting London but the meetings there being good and getting a tour of a factory extruding complex Pampers boxes.
Peter tells about the man whose face was bitten off by a bear and the mask he wears, attached by a ball joint to what was left of his nose. Gareth tells that when a boy at his school died on the playing field sniffing glue, the headteacher left his body out there for a day and made the rest of the school walk past as a lesson.
Lee shares the news with us of a cloud of volcanic ash over the country grounding all flights. Bianca tells of looking for a card in a French market and a guy handing her an envelope of small cards he’d painted himself with captions like a puppy watching the moon’s reflection with ‘animals are sensitive to art, that’s why they don’t talk about it.’ Eirwen remembers complementing a girl on her red stilettos at a time when stilettos weren’t worn and saying she used to jive in them—“You jive?” said the girl and Eirwen said her generation had it long before her. Nicholas explains the scratches on his chest as being from three women dressed as brides when he was shooting his music video yesterday. Sadie tells about leaving her electric heater on one day and when she came back from college all the photographs stuck to her wall had rolled up and fallen off. Alessia tells about going to change pounds into Norwegian kroner, watching the guy count out the money, taking it, then realising it was Turkish lira.
James tells about listening to a straw poll on the election debate and Cameron being described as polished, Brown as tired and Clegg as okay.
Jason confesses moving to Newport and buying the wrong scale OS map then finding everything good was twice as far away. Marcia tells how John has to carry Tigger, his nervous system fading, upstairs to bed. Xan tells the story of being taught to play dead arm at high school, swinging for the follow through and catching her opponent on the chin so that it swelled blue for weeks.
Paul tells about asking to take a photograph of a street seller’s range of Eiffel Towers and him asking fifty cents back. Paul explains understanding more about French culture—the protection of a small language—after a late night talk with a hotel porter who took the job to spend time writing. Danya tells the story of security at an Underground station tackling a man to the floor of the opposite platform and offering him, over and over, release if he just showed them his Oystercard. When the police arrived they were reluctant to get involved unless the reluctant station manager claimed assault. James remembers touching Danya’s shoulder at her interview, worrying it might have been inappropriate and Sam telling him not to worry, “she’s gay anyway” after only seeing her for thirty seconds. Danya shares how Paul got students to clean the classroom by telling them a member of the royal family would be visiting Wednesday and he wasn’t allowed say any more. Josh, subdued, tells us about choosing double-sided tape over glue to mount student names for his school’s exhibition and how the paper wrinkled.
The consultant mentioned “worst case, blood cancer” and she didn’t really hear anything he said after that. Ten days later at the next appointment he checked his screen and cheered so loudly that the count being down to 441 was heard in the waiting room.
Olga tells of Pancake Day in Russia with straw figures of Winter being burnt and phoning friends and family to offer apologies. Xan explains the slow understanding of radioactive orange glaze in Fiestaware. Josh tells the story of the friend who, looking to buy live mice for his python, had to buy a rabbit instead. When the rabbit was introduced to the tank it paused, fixed on the snake, charged and bit it on the neck, killing it dead.
Emmanuelle tells the story of being told the story of the two fishermen and one, in a storm, letting the cutlery slip overboard and to the bottom of the sea, asking the other “is something lost if you know where it is?” Lee tells about going to Guildford once a week to complete an online course on how to type, so far learning a, s, d, f, j, k, l and semi-colon. Ian mentions not knowing it was Pancake Day until hearing so on The Archers. Josh tells the story of being on the school swim team, showering one time and looking up to see a man walking toward him with a scrotum that looked like a satellite dish.
Alessia confesses asking a visitor not to touch an artefact and, when he scowled back, saying “Don’t give me that look!” without thinking. Steph remembers her graduation ceremony and the marquee where there was no savoury food, just mince pies. It was in early November. Jenny tells about her tutor connecting to Chatroulette in a lecture, connecting a sixteen-year-old boy with a theatre of grinning students.
Lee tells the story of winning the Christmas raffle and a weekend at the Guildford Holiday Inn with a TV that showed your name when you turned it on. Alessia reminisces about buying her first Olivetti computer with savings—choosing for it to have a floppy disk drive over a CD. Emma laughs about a ballet teacher telling her she should have five dimples: one in each cheek, one in the chin and one in each buttock. Nicholas tells that the Japanese tried to hold humpback whales in captivity, they tried with six whales and each died of depression.
Aaron offers a Coke, explaining that he’d chosen a Nutri-Grain bar from the vending machine but it had dropped down, bounced up and lodged on the shelf. He bought a Coke but that lodged with the bar so he had to buy another Coke to bring the rest down.
So did Ioannis. Thanks Ioannis, goodnight Ioannis!
You checked maps on your phones. Before I could stop you you were tracking us. And before I could stop you you were checking hotel reviews.
We were promised threadbare towels! Grey pillows! Blood on the sheets! The decor was to be ‘shabby, shabby, shabby’! You made note of every other hotel we passed. Too late to turn back?
You’ve already lost the way! And all we care about is the warmth of tonight. It’s May and our bodies, full of mild spice, match the air. Finally (the winter’s been long)!
We all but skipped chanting “shabby, shabby, shabby!” and shaking our heads!
We were looking for a picnic bench, bollards to jump along, a shipwreck, holes to climb in, a ladder down and our second Lord of the Rings joke of the day. In other words, a pilgrimage.
You can play the giant one. And you the one who wears a wrestling mask and laughs at the world through its leopard-print eyes. And the rest will be this big ensemble and we will throw our heads back into the sun, standing there for—minutes?— probably minutes.
I hear all Xan hears about Renée’s holiday in the kitchen from my bed. The sun is total and direct on my face and pillow. And I decide that this is a good way to wake up. It’s a really good way to wake up. I go downstairs and get a hug from Xan.
“Melis,” I whisper through, “can I go in your room?”
He nods and I run in with fish food. The fish don’t see the container with its blue shadow lady, caressing fishy-likenesses in her hand, they’re cowering under the plant from my running. I drop in six flakes and pad back, as softly as I can, waiting on the island of a rug. The bigger fish eats four flakes. I don’t look away from them when Melis enters.
“That woman who said they didn’t need a plant? So wrong.”
“Where else would they hide?”
There’s ten minutes sunshine out of an hour at the glass table, just about picking up from the felt pen slurring on Ryle last night and then I’m good for work. And the library—that book of Renée’s is still overdue.
Only the library’s closed weekends. And I should have realised that before I reached the library, stood in the library for a bit looking at the dismantled benches and the dust half scooped from under them by absent cleaners. Bloomsbury won’t be wasted. I stop off at PC World and buy an XL cartridge for my printer to print more articles that I pretend have the answers. I’ve a few in my bag right now for the tube, but when I’m down there, with the same The Field track over and over again, I’d rather watch the two women read Nuts magazine.
I walk past Scott holding five to his two and how, when he offers me a cup of water and I say:
“Thanks, some of us deserve a drink…”
“Some more than others,” he says.
And I say:
“Oh. Scott. By the way. Extra issue,” and laugh.
The three of us collect others, and sit for tea and lunch in the café, me with salmon focaccia, oiling my fingers, others with stews. I move between covering breaks in a lift displaying the message ‘Please stay calm—help’ on its LCD. I sit with Trudy on level six while Abdul goes for ice cream. She’s fretting, in a really beautiful way, about how her daughter wants her over to Ireland for Christmas and how she’d much rather be working for a children’s charity in London. Gareth offers a break, which Trudy takes to cross the landing for the toilet.
“How’s the ballroom?”
“Ah, it’s alright—the classic Southbank thing of putting on some Modernist composing and making it free? So old people come along and are, like; ‘oh, classical music for free!’”
We talk about work in a way that makes me really think about why we’re talking about work, then Trudy returns and we talk about whether the show is technically a success in a way that makes me really think about why we’re talking about whether the show is technically a success. I guess we care.
I pass by Peter next. He’s covering a break but asks about my essay.
“You don’t have to talk about it,” he says, so I sit for a bit.
He’s got plenty of “if I was in charge of the show”s—which is nice and freshens things a bit after five weeks. The rest of us had emptied that in the first.
Lunch is mine. I take a teabag from the offices up to the members bar where hot water flows for free. I sit facing Hungerford Bridge and its photographers on the terrace just below. The certain green of leaves on the plane trees works well with the muddy sky as just a few of the riverside lights flicker on at six o’clock. A colleague of Andrew’s from Farnham passes me with a smile and asks politely how the Wizard of Oz’s going.
“Only a week left!” I laugh.
I’m the runner for the second show, which means mental arithmetic and keys. Then nothing really to do. Tanya has been fired. John tells me before sloping off and I sit next to Jenine and under a hovering Scott to pass on the news.
“Apparently she left a full cloakroom unattended for forty minutes… I know!”
“But is that enough to be fired?” asks Jenine.
“She must have had warnings before…” says Scott.
“Oh—actually, the other day?” says Jenine, and launches the story of Tanya bothering the Wizard of Oz cast, talking to Gary Wilmot, as a fan, for ages then asking for an autograph; “Please write ‘Love, The Lion’!”
That upset Gary Wilmot enough for him to make an official complaint about her and for a team leader to spend three quarts of an hour explaining to her just why it was an inappropriate thing to do. We laugh out loud and I pass on that today is also Ruth’s last day as a leader.
Inside is darker than out—candles and amber chandeliers. Michelle’s at the bar.
“Hi Michelle! Good to see you!”
We embrace and I don’t even notice the crushed ice and passion fruit in her hand until we release.
“How come you’re not in uniform? What’s this?”
She tugs my yellow polo.
“Because my uniform says ‘Wizard of Oz’—front and back!”
“I know,” I say and grin happy birthday, but that I can’t stay.
She pouts—exaggerates a pout as I try to give her enough of a reason.
“It’s got to do with a goldfish. Seriously—a goldfish. So you can stop looking like a goldfish.”
She doesn’t stop. Then stops. I leave, cooled off, promising to meet up again, promising her a bed at our house if she needs and promising to bake cakes with her and David someday.
I run from the station to our door. There’s no reason not to. And it’s goldfish time. Melis is leaving the kitchen as I’m going into it. Renée’s been asleep since about six, and Alessia’s gone now too. Xan might not be around either. I try to figure out the best way of giving—but can’t get past early tomorrow morning—“It’ll be like Christmas, right? Like, when you’re happy to be awake that early, because of the excitement and all…”—before either Alessia or Melis leave.
Josh gets snoozed on my recorded alarm. Only sometimes I let him loop a bit. Melis knocks.
“Your alarm clock’s going off, so you must want to wake up.”
“Sh— you’re right. Thank you,” I say, sit up, lie down and sleep for three hours more.
When I walk down for breakfast Renée’s in the kitchen boiling water for cup noodles. She introduces it as nineties, which, for a second, takes on the hues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Current noodles are sold with fresh ingredients, strange fancies and lifestyles. She asks if I’d check her visa application and I say that I’d like to. Because I would. I first send emails about house bills, adding as much regret as I can. I only want the bills to be over. I don’t want the emails. Renée brings up her application folder and sits on my windowsill while I read leaf it.
“Half of them are definitions of war crimes!” she says. “Shit!”
“And I’m not a terrorist! Unless you count kicking the wall when I got mad?”
“I do. I’ll put that down.”
She leaves for upstairs and I turn through each page. Some are good. Some pages are good. ‘Please select the applicant’s method of entry into the United Kingdom: Aeroplane, Sea, Channel tunnel, Other, If other, please specify.’ London does not want me to think of it as a Kingdom nor an island, stops me everyday from thinking about how to get here or to leave. A tunnel—we could dig our way. I turn a few more pages and see that maybe Renée got lost, or maybe I’m getting lost around D31.
The bus passes shop window posters for hair, pizza and sleep—all but cyan from the summer light. I get standing wrong and rock to stops. Waitrose works through a hasty shopping list. I regret nothing in my basket. I would defend the olive shower gel, the whole nutmeg, the Savoy cabbage, the lot. I would say it is autumn, it is clean, it is cheaper than Sainsbury’s. On the bus back I watch a woman in Barbour read the London Lite with a magnifying glass. She holds the glass to her eye and the newspaper to her lap and the distance is great. I wonder if the distance isn’t inverted. Sometimes she looks up to blink one great eye and the passing dusk, clouds on the ground.
I stand on a chair in the kitchen to clear my cupboard of old matzo and a hundred noodle crumbs. If I had a saucepan to catch them, water would make it good. Josh comes in wearing a tie.
“It looks good on you! It’s really nice!”
“Sorry the kitchen’s a mess,” he says, distracted and opening the sink cupboard for the fridge.
“Huh?” I look to a slice of toast crisping on a matchbox. “The toast? You’re saying sorry for the toast?”
“The dishes, sweetheart.”
“Oh, right. There’s not that much at all—no need.”
He fishes in the fridge for jam and gets a bite. I unpack. I have every kind of stock. I didn’t mean to have every kind of stock. But it’s autumn. I didn’t mean to add Waitrose tagliatelle to an unopened Co-op pack. But Dave comes in to peel potatoes.
I wake up ten hours later. Alessia texts me that after her lunch at twelve she’ll be staffing Hadrian and won’t be able to see me if I visit her at the museum. I text back that that’s too bad, that I don’t think I’d get there for lunch anyway. I text myself that The Photographer’s Gallery, in the afternoon, of a Saturday, wouldn’t be good to me or to the clear sky. I sleep another two hours. And shower. The air and temperature is, for a bit, improved by my window being open. I let that happen and walk downstairs for breakfast, taking the bowl of All Bran around the garden. Two lavender flowers feed out of the last of the sun, which greys and stops. The herbs, untended, have burnt red and dark and hold themselves rigid. The Californian poppies are the best they can be. They screw the sand underneath the paving and flower. Screw the sand. I send Tom a text to ask if he’s free today. Nothing comes through. I could check with Jessie for tea, I could see if Alex is taking tours today. I could kick around my room only there’s not much to kick. And everything to kick. The floor feels cluttered. The rug a rug, if rug were a bad word. I don’t want any page on the internet—I try most. The best thing is to hear voices, laptop speaker voices, from upstairs. I pad up and knock on Josh’s door.
“Come in?” says Xan, under duvet on Josh’s bed. “I’m watching some bad TV.”
“Grey’s Anatomy. So close!”
“I just woke up.”
“And I’m freaking out.”
I do not buy bacon because the soup recipe offered Parmigiano Reggiano as an alternative. I do not buy Parmigiano Reggiano because I have cheddar at home and it’ll have to do. The pavement is rusted with the quick shadows of fallen leaves, dying into the concrete. I step between them and at home unpack to My Bloody Valentine. I brew three hundred millimetres of tea and add the snack packet of jumbo raisins to handfuls of cupboard sultanas. With the caster sugar, which dissolves to nothing I can see but is everything I can taste. Nothing is sweeter. I leave the fruit to soak, covering it with the weighing bowl that measured it. I guess to keep in the steam. Though nothing told me to. Dave comes in.
“Dave! Have you actually been at work today?”
“Yes, yes I decided not to be a flâneur today.”
I make a cup of tea for myself and not vine fruits.
“I bought some Assam the other day,” says Dave.
“I noticed. And you know what else I noticed?” I draw the packet from the shelf and read. “‘An alternative to coffee.’ To coffee Dave!”
“See, I try to like tea.”
He starts preparing his meal and I go upstairs for a little while. He’s not in the kitchen when I get back down. I should have cooked with him. I shred cabbage and up-end beans into fried onions and carrots, covering with stock and leaving to go upstairs again. When I come down again, Alessia’s in from another day. She says she’s sorry she couldn’t meet me and I say I’m sorry I was asleep anyway. She gingerly ovens a frozen pizza as I ladle out the cabbage soup and Renée comes in or down jeans to take care of the chicken left from her pot luck.