For the birds

Day three of relentless sunshine, and I have taken to hiding indoors. I’m a cold-weather person. I like blue skies and light, but I also like the temperature to be cold. And dry. I’m actually (it turns out) ever so slightly allergic to sunlight. I wear a lot of suncream but will still get little ‘aaaaargh UV LIGHT!’ welts on my forearms after a day doing stuff outside. Continue reading

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Twit twoo

The evening before Easter weekend, I deactivated my primary Twitter account. In the great time-suck that is social media, Twitter is the Big Boss. Facebook has messed with the algorithms of the newsfeed to such an extent that it’s barely worth looking at it, because everything is advertising or repeats from three days earlier. Instagram is a pleasant skim-through, done in five minutes. But Twitter – especially what I think of as my Big Twitter newsfeed – is intensely literary, political and oft-times angry and once I open it (which I mostly do without thinking) I sit there reading and feeling shittier and shittier.

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bric-a-brac, basically

I’m writing a blog post, which is how you all know I’m procrastinating. We’ve got this massive whiteboard propped against the fake fireplace (the furnishing skills of myself and CM are such that our home permanently looks like a long-con grifter HQ crossed with a bric-a-brac stall. This morning I woke to find that the Giant Toy Hedgehog that we use as a pillow for long car journeys had been propped on a shelf in our room between a rarely-used Gothic chess set, and my TBR book stack and necklace stand that I made by warping a cooling tray. It was staring at me. I nearly had a heart attack, and our room looks more like a storage box than ever…)… Continue reading

NWA aftermath

So, update time. Nothing but Writing News in this post. I’ll do a more general entry later this week.

Last time we were here I’d just won a Northern Writers Award. Which was (is, still) pretty exciting, after it sunk in. In the classic way of all things writing, there was a whirl of a few weeks with tonnes of activity – followed by weeks of quiet, just me, in a room, swearing at a screen.

First up was a pitching workshop, which was invaluable and taught a group of us how to network, essentially. Which is a skill no one actually teaches, I don’t think, except for maybe finishing schools. There’s an art to strolling up to strangers in a crowded room and being able to smoothly introduce yourself and why you’re there and be able to pitch/promote your book / project without umming and erring and feeling silly.

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More news…

I’m exhausted – but the good kind of exhausted. The kind of exhausted you get when you’ve been swimming in the sea, fighting against the tide, learning to roll with the big waves and enjoying the ripple of the smaller waves, occasionally worrying about the lack of control and being dragged out to sea, every so often realising that it’s all much deeper than you realised. And then – when you smack a hand into the sand and pebbles – realising that you’ve floated back to shallower shores and can stand for a while. Which I where I am now: utterly exhilarated and knackered but, after a good sleep, wanting to go back for more. Continue reading

Warning: accidental pep talk

Saturday, April 1st – and the local council’s April Fool is to set workmen going with a jackhammer right outside the house, uprooting lampposts. Again, it’s Saturday. It’s the weekend. Everyone’s home trying to have a little lie-in and then do some household chores – at least, they are at this time in the morning. When the noise started up, I went to the window to snoop and scowl, and it seemed all the people in our little cul-de-sac had moved as one. We scowled at each other across the tarmac and then at the poor workmen who, let’s face it, probably don’t want to be working on a Saturday any more than we want them to be. I imagine in a short while there will be a mass exodus just to get away from the rattling.

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Chorus

Four months, according to WordPress, since I posted here saying I would not be posting regularly anymore, if at all. Two months since the post I stand by, the one that some people told me was scaremongering and over-reacting while I fervently hoped they were right – only so far nothing I’ve read in the news (and I mean verified facts) is making me feel that they might be.

So, in the new tradition of a post every two months, here’s one that is not about global news. Back to the good old days of updates about life, home life, projects, the little bubble that I live in. That sort of thing.

I’m musicking, these days. I’m musicking the fuck out of my life, in a way I haven’t since I was many many years younger. There are songs written and being written, and I am working with a lovely producer (though that title really stretches to collaborator) and recording songs. There’s one song out. It’s even had airplay on BBC Introducing, which is nice. And on local interweb radio show The Grind. It hasn’t had airplay anywhere else, but then I haven’t sent it anywhere else. It has a pretty video and a couple of fans. I have a Facebook page and perform under the name that I’ve used for the internet since I was about twelve.

coming-soon-2

There’s an EP on the way, too, which basically means I’m recording a little cluster of songs and sending them out into the world together next year. Truly, if I never do music again after this, I’ll be pleased that I did this much.

Hell, I’m doing a gig at the end of January. Yep, this is the woman who had ‘play an open mic’ on her to do list for something in the region of 15 years. I haven’t figured out the logistics of gigging and instruments, but I will. I have to, because I already said I’d do it. The biggest upside to putting the fucking fear of whatever into myself by saying yes is that open mics seem even less scary by comparison.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a person for whom the world and the unknown isn’t scary as hell. I’m just a lot better at throwing myself at the scary stuff and not worrying too much about landing on my face. Speaking of said face, I think I’m going to have to get over my general dislike of mine and start putting it out there a bit as well. I’ve been meaning to get a couple of reasonable photos done for the writing side of things for the past few months. I think I probably need a couple of the music side of things as well. I wonder if I can get away with the same photo for both?

God, but asking for portraits is weird though, isn’t it? ‘Please do not make me look like me. A more musical version, please. A more writerly one. And also unrecognisable. Can I wear a mask?’ There are some rather brilliant pictures of my sister-poet that were taken last week. We look slightly similar. I’m toying with the idea of just stealing those and pretending it’s me.

Anyway. Photographer suggestions welcome. The whole art and marketing side of things continues to baffle me, but again, I’ll figure them out. I know what I don’t want, and that’s a start.

Writing – I’ve levelled up. I’ve been shortlisted for Bristol and Bridport this year, which feels like a breakthrough though I also haven’t managed to complete a short story since. But then I also haven’t completed a blog entry (duh), a letter, or a poem. I’ve managed a song. I’ve managed articles I had to write. Writing’s been tough, is what I’m saying. It seems like a selfish act in a world that needs loud voices and less selfishness, and less hot-takes and more action. So it’s not been happening. Except for right now, because I am sat in a café waiting to catch a train.

Shit, guys, I feel as though I should be making this more of a call to arms or something. Or some sort of perky lifestyle inspiration. But neither of those things is my bag (honest to god, the aforementioned portraits should be of me looking slightly tired in slightly dusty dim surroundings, if they’re going to be at all honest. Just please – reduce chin. Add cheekbones.)

Reading over this with my editor eyes on (and Editor Me is sniffing and saying that this really isn’t good enough – but traditionally I have just thrown words on to the screen when blogging. I’m nothing If not giving the honest-to-god thoughts from my brain) and here’s the thing tying all of this rambling together. Some point in the last year, my voice kicked in. Writing, singing, speaking up. Turns out I have one after all. I mean, obviously I always did, but it was kind of squeaky and deferential. These days, it does better. It can hold the tone and hold the note, and it’s got power coming from the core and it is very much all my own work – and it has taken work. Feels kind of good to use it.

Lists of foreigners

I’ve rarely used this space to comment on politics in depth, or world events in depth beyond the emotional impact. I’ve always looked at the abundance of hot takes, statuses and tweets out there and figured one more voice yelling the same thing of sympathy/condemnation/etc made not much difference. I’ve also always been careful, in my own reading, not to be swayed by media rhetoric; I dig for the facts, look for the information and try to think for myself because I think that’s the conscientious thing to do. Better not to be led by the nose and someone else’s ambitions or careful spin.

But that’s not the case anymore – because most people are led by the papers and the headlines that shout loudest, and what they are told spun in the way they’ll agree to it, and right now, those headlines and the leaders creating them are leading readers to facism. So this is absolutely the time for one more voice, and then one more, and as many loud voices as possible to say, ‘No, enough, not in my fucking name and – actually – not at all.’

 

Looking at the news and plans coming out of the Conservative conference, and looking at the way it’s being reported in the press, I can’t sit quietly. It’s been brewing and rising for a long time, this xenophobia, and I’ve touched on it before. And I’ve been scared by it before. I had a proper cry after the result of the referendum because it felt like we as a country had just thrown ourselves into a fuck-off great pit that we will have considerable difficulty crawling out of. And now, a few months on, I feel like I’m watching the government and the newspapers and a terrifyingly large (but hopefully not large enough) percentage of the country grab shovels and keep digging that pit deeper, until, presumably, we hit some version of Facist gold. A new state, a pure one, no foreigners.

 

All those films, all that history recorded and taught, all that horror – and we’re, as someone pointed out on twitter, sleep-walking straight back into it. And I’ve tried to believe (truly have because it would be more comfortable and I could sleep better at night) that this is some sort of hysterical reaction. There’s no way that we, in this country, would ever let things get as bad as they did in Nazi Germany, right? But the Germans thought that, too. It’s how it works: bit by bit, move along, until suddenly there are concentration camps and ghettos and it all seems perfectly inevitable and nobody says anything because that’s just the way things are.

 

The right has become far-right, the left has all but stopped opposing while it fights internally and the government and media are howling about the evil of all people foreign and how we (yes we, hi there) are a threat to jobs and safety, and ‘suggestions’ being put forward by the party in charge include making companies provide lists of foreign workers, well. It’s happening, isn’t it? After the lists, do we get badges? How far will the suggestions go? ‘Should we remove them from schools so British kids get better educations without them getting in the way?* Maybe we should set up special areas where the foreigners can live out of the way of the real Britishers while we figure out what to do with them? Wait, how do we qualify foreign? Everything got so liberal and mixed up over these past years – should we check skin colour or parentage back to grandparents? Place of birth or place of growing up? First language spoken?’

 

I would really, really love to believe that I’m looking at this as a worst-case scenario and I want, more than anything, to look at this post in a couple of years and laugh and say ‘flash in the pan, over-reaction, you muppet’. I want to look ridiculous. I’m willing to look ridiculous in order to say no. Not in my fucking name. No, never.

 

And to say: I will not put my head down and pass as British in this day and age – by my own choice, not because there’s a list or a badge. By almost any of the most basic standards of what constitutes foreign, I’m foreign. I was raised here, not born here. I got British nationality at 21 (at my mum’s insistence  – and props to her for having the foresight). My parents are not purely British. My dad is an Australian immigrant. He got British nationality around the same time I did. My mum is the daughter of a German immigrant, and to her grandchildren she is Oma, not Gran. She’s a nurse, by the way – yay healthcare). On any day, on any street, you wouldn’t pick them out and it has never mattered. (Unlike for people of colour who have to deal with shit on the regular whether British or not, and now are dealing with even more shit as it’s been framed as acceptable to be a racist fuck). But today, now, they aren’t welcome, apparently. I’m not welcome. Stick us on lists.

 

I’m taking comfort in the fact that so many people are standing up and saying no, not in my name, in the face of everything that’s saying that it absolutely is in your name, for your own good you silly liberal, now sit down and shut up. I’m taking comfort in that there are these voices out there saying it in my world in real life. Not just in the echo chamber of Twitter, but people in the Northeastern town where I live, one that voted for Brexit, but still, still, had 44% of us wanting to stay. I’m trying to take comfort in that, by the referendum numbers alone, it was close. A massive chunk of the country is not taken in by racist rhetoric. But then again, the Nazi party only needed 33% and a coalition government.
*UPDATE: I’ve just found out that the government have updated school census questions and demanded schools record the nationality and country of birth of students. So. Yeah.

So this is goodbye (for now)

This post is a non-post, really. A note to say that I won’t be updating this blog for a good long while. I’ve been lax about it this year anyway, so this is not a huge change except that by putting ‘I’m taking a break’ in writing, I get to stop trying to think of how and if I even can address the world as it is at the moment in a post. A lot of other people seem to have that covered. Everything I want to say I’m not brave enough to post, or else needs more thought than my throwaway approach to this place allows. Maybe I’ll do some longer essays at some point, but not blogs. The page of published stuff will stay up and keep being updated because it’s basically my CV; all the old posts will sit there; I might add some music.

In a nutshell: I can’t face writing about the bad things, and they’re happening too fast and too often to offer any perspective. I don’t want to write about the good things, they are happening so fast that to stop and write about them would be to jinx them and miss them. So I give up, for now. Thanks for reading for this long, and for all comments and support. x