I was talking to someone about having to complete a form. It was the first one I’d filled in by hand for some time, and returned to someone who checked it, who looked at whether I was eligible for something, who sent it back to me with a request to fill in another form, which I then returned, signed, so it could be passed to another person, to sign and stamp and return it to me, so I could post it off to its final destination, an organisation I needed to join. The first form arrived in a manilla envelope. My address was written in small, spidery letters slightly offset from where I’d normally expect to see my name and address on an envelope. As soon as I saw the envelope I wondered … what was it about the process I was getting into that started with such a trace of humanity. I could almost sense a pulse. Continue reading “Touch”

This is a Cul-de-Sac

I lived in London for years. I shared a house just off the Kings’ Road, another near Brick Lane, one in Greenwich, and there was the family home further south, in the suburbs. This place, though, and I’m sitting in the garden now, looking up at the sun on the back of the house, on all that old Victorian brick, this place is the one where I’ve been happiest.
        That strikes me as odd as I can’t stand the town I live in (it calls itself a city, of course). Some of the noises I could leave – but not the birds. Not the sound of the students on the playing fields, and I like the traffic when it’s like this, generally distant without being a hum, the odd car sounding as if it’s lurching towards me as it comes off the main road, and the train a decipherable clatter. Motor cycles in the night, and you can always hear a breeze blowing the leaves, or the branches in the middle of winter. Continue reading “This is a Cul-de-Sac”

The Truth Isn’t Out There


I used to enjoy watching the X-Files. Perceptive cynics might draw a link I’d find hard to dismiss between my early attempts at being a psychotherapist and writer and Fox Mulder’s approach to life … (and there’s so much an ellipsis can contain). Whatever. One thing I can say with certainty is that the truth really isn’t ‘out there’. It’s always close at hand, a hair’s breadth away. Whatever gets between it and the world can, however, take  long time to understand. If you’re talking to me and you’re lying, or if you believe you’re saying something truthful and then change your mind, or if you think back and realise you said something truthful and that still seems to be the case don’t expect me to know the difference in that: your information. I will, however, hopefully come to know a difference in you. That’s what we can talk about. The truth is your responsibility. My connection to it is what I think and feel. But you know, only sometimes, perhaps, not quite yet.

The Seaside


I realised yesterday, on my way to Brighton, that for the last thirty years I’ve lived within touching distance of the sea. Now, I’m possibly as detached as I have been – but if I walk up the hill at the back of our house and climb to the top of the university library that stands there in amongst the heinousness of the other university buildings (it isn’t a place I like) there’s an aisle of books I’ve found from where I know I can see the coast. Continue reading “The Seaside”


I’m not sure about fashion but I do like clothes. I like the clothes actors wear in French films: Michel Piccoli in Le Mepris or Jean Paul Belmondo in Pierrot Le Fou. Jean-Luc Godard’s actors. It’s something about how he likes to see things, and it must be something about how he likes to see himself. I can barely watch a scene from those films without feeling myself on the edge of something extraordinary. Bridgette Bardot; Anna Karina. The island in Le Mepris. The garden around Jack Palance’s house. The studio where Paul, Camille and Jeremy watch Fritz Lang’s Odyssey. The room with Sam Fuller in Pierrot Le Fou. All of the sea and the sky around Marianne and Ferdinand. Continue reading “Clothes”

Travel Light

Every few weeks empty your bag out. Mine’s one of those leather courier bags and it can hold a surprising amount. Organise whatever’s inside into three piles: essential, questionable and unnecessary. Do this quickly, instinctively, then leave the piles for a while and find something absorbing and unconnected to do (set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to think about your bag, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it). When you go back to your bag, and I’d leave it alone for at least a couple of hours, glance at each pile and see if anything seems out of place. It might not even seem in the wrong pile – there may just be a feeling about it that makes it stand out a little, or draw your eye without you knowing why. Continue reading “Travel Light”

The Voice of Reason

Beware people who appoint themselves as the voice of reason. Reason can be a defence against life as it happens which leads to us not noticing what’s actually going on, whatever the reason for it. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to work out what, perhaps, a course of action means without even touching on what it does, what its effects are and how it leaves people feeling. Why would someone want to be the voice of reason? Continue reading “The Voice of Reason”


Perhaps you like keeping things to yourself. It may be that you feel life will spin out of control if you talk about it too much, or that you might jinx it, spoil it or take the fun out of it. Sometimes these things can be true but be careful about holding onto secrets. If people around you detect something about you is unknowable they’ll find it very hard to trust you.  Relationships need trust if they’re to offer us the things we hope they can contain.


Next time you’re feeling anxious, irritated or sad (although it might also do to try and remember this when you’re feeling happy …) notice the way you are sitting, standing or lying. What are you doing in relation to the thing that’s on your mind? If you shift yourself at all, maybe uncrossing your legs or moving your arms, what happens? It may feel unpleasant, in which case go back to how you were! Continue reading “Shifting”