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.

Punctuate Yourself

When I see someone coming towards me I get a sense of who it is, if I know her or him, long before I see a face. There’s something about people, their signature in the world, which I try to help people cultivate.
        I did something with a group of people last week, an exercise I’ve tried before and which always seems to help if there’s something troubling the sense of who you are. Continue reading “Punctuate Yourself”


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”