Boxing Day Cabaret

We decided to go and see La Soirée on the South Bank. If I’d visited something like this when I was fifteen I would probably have joined the circus, or at least done something physical a little differently. Yes, there’s always been an aspiration to live life not as an idea (Frank O’Hara: ‘If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, “Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep’); and there have been many hours on a cricket field flinging a ball as fast as I can and hitting it as hard as I can … but what would it have been like to do a back flip when I was fifteen and still do one yesterday? I like the feeling of doing things far more than I enjoy thinking about them.  Hell would be forever thinking.


There was a time, after my sister’s revelation that Santa didn’t exist and that there was in fact nothing magical about Christmas, when this time of year only ever felt disappointing. I don’t think I really believed in any of it – only in my parents’ ability to stage things properly. It wasn’t what my sister said as much as how my mother replied that did the damage: she said my sister was right, looked sad, things never felt even vaguely similar again … and in some way related to this kind of thing I ended up writing novels. Continue reading “Christmas”

Writing, or Writing About

It’s a small distinction, but one that always feels very important to me: that it’s possible to write ‘about’ or simply  to write. Writers I like, even when they are writing about a specific subject, seem to be doing something that conjures up all kinds of magic in me. People who write about a novel, for example, seem to be doing something the author never intended to do … they thematise, explain and elucidate. People who write may begin with, for example again, the subject of a novel, and of course they may elucidate, but what seems to happen in their writing is unpredictable, almost alive, and allows me to experience something other than the novel itself – its bones or whatever might be left after they’ve picked over it. Continue reading “Writing, or Writing About”

Socialists Anonymous

It’s painful to witness Labour MPs pronouncing and parading about how important it is for their party to remain ‘electable’. It seems as if they are putting something off … the moment they say what they stand for? I’m wondering if there are many differences between this strategy for survival and the one compulsively adopted by many of the people I treat for addiction: to try very hard to cause as little conflict as possible; and if conflict arises (done this way it inevitably does, somewhere, and is by then usually explosive) to distance yourself as quickly as possible by the most effective means available. It never ends well. Continue reading “Socialists Anonymous”


My anxiety is an experience of my absence. The less I am able to assert myself in life the more often I will find myself wishing I had. Anxiety is the experience of forthcoming resentment, of feeling trapped, becoming bored. Anxiety comes from the same place as anger, but as its ghost. Kill off, lose touch with or disavow your anger and you will feel anxious … and anger is there when I disagree. So anxiety arises when I can’t find it in myself, or the opportunity in the world, to disagree. Anxiety is a narrowing of me – a whittling down of me; a meanness. A difficulty. It’s Latin root: angustia. Continue reading “Anxiety”

Emergency Inertia

There’s a part to emerging from a difficult situation that is sometimes overlooked: the inertia that can creep into a life out of a fear of taking risks again. I mean ordinary, everyday gambles over remembering and feeling things. The past can feel too much. Getting closer to someone or something can feel too frightening – and perhaps what makes this most difficult is that the fear I’m referring to is almost impossible to catch hold of. It might simply come upon you like an itch, a sense of wanting to squirm; an instinctive no, or a sense of relief if you move towards it (away from where you might actually need to be: getting to know another person, trying out another way of doing something, or looking back at something you did and realising it wasn’t quite like you’d imagined). Continue reading “Emergency Inertia”

Beautiful, I Don’t Know and Love

I’m not sure what’s beautiful, but I appreciate it. What appeals to my senses might not appeal to yours, but I can’t be certain. The attraction I find to certain figures in the world … is it the degree of uncertainty that really draws my attention? The ‘who or what’s this?’ rather than the ‘that is’? Certainty makes me less interested, perhaps, because it’s an insistent lie. I can’t be certain. I lose interest in whatever I can’t trust; and I know I can’t be certain. Continue reading “Beautiful, I Don’t Know and Love”

Gentleness, Tenderness

This isn’t about my mother … this isn’t about harshness. Freud’s paper on Negation, one of the many reasons I find my jaw dropping when otherwise lucid individuals dismiss him as they would something found at the back of their fridge, suggests that my passion for gentleness and tenderness might have a strong connection to the lasting effects of my father’s ugly behaviour. Every time I find myself swooning at something like Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed’s pact to be tender (their decision not let themselves be frightened of anybody has a similar effect, but the best thing is her film with her dog playing piano) I’m in some way reminded that the brute Polish force of Dad won’t ever depart from these shores. Continue reading “Gentleness, Tenderness”

Nothing There: A Cure for Writer’s Block and Other Things

It feels as if there is nothing there. There are so many things I could write about but the ‘something’ I am looking for hasn’t occurred to me yet. It’s not a bad place to start writing, but one where people usually stop. After all, what can you do if there’s nothing to do? Before I began this I could have written about David Cameron’s ‘arm candy’, whether there’s something anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic in all of the pig-presence in the news lately … but these were just thoughts in my head brought to me by some things I’d been reading, some conversations. Continue reading “Nothing There: A Cure for Writer’s Block and Other Things”

Writing, First Thing

I like to start writing as early as I can, when I’m closer to the night. When I do I feel the brakes are off and anything can happen. If I don’t I find everyday realities, plausibilities and distractions claw in and leave me struggling to write anything I’d like to read. At the end of the day, when I ride the train home from London there’s a similar situation. Then, I’m letting go; letting the day that’s been slip through my fingers and, like dreams I suppose, some of the day resurfaces in what I write but often barely recognisably so.
        Just as I’ve woken most things feel strange, even the floor under my feet. I listen to something, uncertain what it is or where it’s come from: some birds, maybe, in a tree. A fox or the first train of the morning.