Old Boots

Wash me

I’m stained

Worn out

Drained

Troden in

Scooped

South

Burnt in

Dripping

Out

Broken in boots

Longing to be new

Peeling sores

and thin

where the toes have rubbed in

Crooked sole

keeps you from walking straight

carrying the weight of every pavement

A foot print waiting to be filled

I want to be new

greeting the floor for the first time

clean

with optimisim

But even new blisters

You either wear down the shoe

or it wears in you.

The Novel Side of Chaos

April 2020

The rain patting down onto the ivy outside is applauding all of our efforts today.

It is hard to grasp the significance of the time you are living while you are there. There are those events heavy in the timeline you learn growing up. Moments that should anchor you. That will matter enough to be learnt about when you are gone as they pass you by; when Britain voted to leave the EU, when Obama was sworn in as President, when we watched the twin towers crumble across the world.

In a time of emergency, protocols and rule books are torn up. People are scared. They fend for themselves, closing their doors around better judgements and sympathies. Today, the collective lies on a knife edge-. Only heroism and the greater good will keep people together and convince them to risk it all to help each other.

I remember reading a book as a kid about a young girl who worked in an apothecary shop in London while plague ridden bodies piled up in the streets. The heroine wore sliced oranges around her neck to protect herself from the virus. Imagining that novel terror with a childish wonder, I craved the adventure. To feel in the middle of something exciting and dangerous and to be heroic in the face of it. As if the struggle to survive would make life feel more meaningful.

They were the only books I would ever finish. Diaries of people living against some unsurmountable fear. Anne Frank started my love of reading. What would the young girl learning to read, diving her imagination into such peril, think of the woman she grew up to be?

She would think I was wasting the adventure.

We are living in the novel side of chaos. The world has been turning differently here for almost a month. People rebel peacefully, meeting in groups in the shadowy side of parks. Hiding picnics away from patrols. How long before this summer of surreal discontent and peace runs out? Who will lash out first? An extreme action on either side has the potential to ignite the fallen leaves of our everyday.

The depressive part of me is a cowardly adult – addicted to bad habits, an unhealthy lifestyle, and the status quo. She wants to drink with her friends, fuck and forget what is happening. When I was a kid, I loved the melodrama. Play was always set-in wartime, inspired by the power in Anne’s words as she hid from German soldiers in the attic, and the picture of my Grandma in her Women’s Air Force uniform on the mantel.

I feel lost where as a child, I was not. That little girl knew what she liked, who she was and what she wanted. Funny how the world presses that out of you till you are shiny and smooth like everyone else. Washed over by time, the judgement of others and the traumas that wear us away.

When I read about heroines as that little girl, they inspired me. Now in my own moment of historic difficulty, it is she who inspires me most. The little girl who faced the thought of such terrors with fearless conviction.

In isolation we depend on information more than ever. Headline snapshots signal how our world outside is changing. But news, like justice, is owned.

The truth of the outside now more than ever is filtered through media platforms. While we wait inside these platforms inform us of the danger and we are vulnerable to manipulation from all sides. We know what we are told. We do what we are told. We are scared and so we police each other. Handing over extra powers to our governments, distracted, without a timeline or notion of how long this will last. The longer we are isolated and disconnected, the harder it is to imagine the frayed threads of society returning to the pattern we recognise.

Life is full of history. Some pulls you back, afraid to look forward, pinning you to the present. In this moment things are changing.

Our world is faced with a threat like plagues before, but never in a time quite like ours. People are dying in a way we are not used to. The numbers rising every day. People are scared and it feels like it is always getting closer and closer to home.

Before, in crowds singing along together, there was a worry at the back of our minds that violence could come from one of us. That a catastrophe could disturb that joyful moment with a bang and ripple of chaos.

How will we go back to enjoying that moment in the crowd when we have learnt to be suspicious of every-body. Each suspect without intentions or malice to reason with.

How long will it take to rebuild trust in each other? Or perhaps like the threats we have grappled with before, we will lock the fear away. Walking in the present with the same blitz spirit of our grandparents. To keep calm and carry on so we can live the life we have. Standing firm even though the everyday has never felt more fragile.

Now more than ever, how we look after the vulnerable people in our society is at stake. And where we go from here will define who we are.

While disconnected, we came together in wild applause to the NHS and key workers safeguarding survival of these days. A sound that resonated across roof tops and reminded us we were not alone. In sacrificing so much, we show the vulnerable in our lives their safety is worth more than the everyday freedoms we go without. But we are tired, and this fear and desperation make us vulnerable to turn on each other. Looking for an easy way out or someone to blame. If we leave people behind now, we will lose ourselves. Protecting the vulnerable is the only way we can preserve hope of a future defined by equality, respect, and access to shared opportunities for all of us.

Social distancing itself is a privilege that requires safe walls and a roof to stay inside. While we hunker down to control the number of cases, we sacrifice those who keep the cogs of our society going. Those nurses, doctors and carers keeping us safe. The supermarket workers keeping us fed. The refuse workers who ensure this COVID nightmare plays out as a drama on TV, rather than streets turned to barren wastelands. Some of us forced to sacrifice safety every day to pay rent and put food on the table. Then there are those without homes to stay in, who have been temporarily housed to control the virus, highlighting the choices behind keeping them on the streets in the first place.

The impact of this virus is different depending on who you are and the privileges you enjoy. It plays out on a stage built on inequalities, so to claim we are all in this together ignores the injustices that have plagued society long before coronavirus. To keep family safe by staying at home has become the ultimate sacrifice and privilege.

A rumbling silence.

Civilisation built on Speed, Access, Crowds, Entrances, Exits, Escalators.

Still.

London Apple Tree in Bloom, April 2019

Quarantine Cravings

A hand shake

A hug

A reassuring squeaze of the shoulder

A pat on the back

A kiss

Holding hands.

A dance

his hand at your waste.

Little or big spoon?

A kiss on the cheek. Kissing a stranger. Or long overdue.

Beer pong

Forhead kisses

High fives

Eskimo kisses

Thumb wars

Blowing raspberries

Puff puff pass

Sharing

All you can eat

Tapas

Swing dancing

Singing in a

Crowd of people

A booked out venue

A muddy field.

Mosh pits

Work shifts

Protests.

Fireworks,

Oohs

Aahs

Ordering a round

Pubs and Bars.

Busy, crowded

Squeazing past.

Raving

Rounders

Conga lines.

Chips’n Dip

Picnics

The mexican wave.

Normality

Routine

Trivial anxiety.

A hug

To kiss

Feeling held.

Walking in a busy street

Passing people

On their way somewhere.

Anywhere.

Isla Holbox, Mexico April 2019

One Man and the Destruction of an Egg on a Bus

As life cycles by it is easy to become complacent, ignoring the cogs behind scenes that turn the world around us. We move seamlessly through this space. Focussed on our own path.

She sits daydreaming, beams of light reflect the fallen rain on the pavement. From the top deck, lanes of people pass each other by outside, huddled under umbrellas, hoods and collars up.

The seats are full with a chorus of talking, laughing and shared silence. The quiet humming beat of a neighbours’ headphones is our baseline.

The front window is alive with the the bus behind, boots framing the front row, knees against her chest. Mascara has smudged, shadowing her eyes.

An ordinary figure sat on the opposite side of the aisle takes a black plastic bag out of his rucksack.

Mr ordinary is the protagonist in the play of people in the window. His ordinariness suits her daydream and he sits in the perfect seat for her absent mind to wander.

What happens next sets off an adventure of questions.

From Mr Ordinary’s black plastic bag, he pulls out an egg. Perfectly formed embryonic fluid cased in a hard shell. The layer, miles away, could never have imagined the journey said egg would embark on the day it was laid into the world.

He begins to pick away at the shell, apparently hard boiled, casting the fragments aside, carelessly, thoughtlessly, until collected by his feet is a pile of egg shell jigsaw pieces.

Then, the naked egg, white and vulnerable, is demolished. He brushes his hands together, a distorted applause of his on board snack. Crumbs fall away from his mouth as his tongue churns inside to leave no egg behind.

Her once absent mind is incredulous at the event she has just witnessed, a wilderness of wonderings…

Was the egg prepared that morning, boiled in bubbling water as part of an extensive plan to consume on his bus time commute? Was it carried with him all day? Savoured until that perfect moment.

To wonder of the journey the egg has taken. Was it bred in the cold harsh realities of a battery farmed world? Or did it travel from nest to box to kitchen counter, to black bag to bus floor? Where would the pieces go next? Would they lie abandoned and adrift, kicked from one corner of the bus to the other? Or escape on the sole of a shoe only to face the concrete outside. Or would they be brushed up in a collection pan of bus floor dust, crisp packets, tickets and bottle caps? Would they begin to decompose in a landfill site? the mythical resting point of the world of waste.

Then, the audacity sinks in. How could this man leave behind such destruction? Who would carry this crazy snack around all day, only to dispose of the carnage on the floor? How could he be so arrogant to assume that someone else would eventually come along after him and pick up the pieces he has left behind.

But then again, who can say they are truly guilt free? Haven’t we all consumed without thought for the destruction we leave behind?

With another casual movement, he puts his hand back into the black plastic bag and pulls out a second hard boiled egg…

Be better than the ordinary man. Put your egg pieces back in the bag and deal with it yourself.

Don’t make it someone else’s job to clean up your mess.

And while we’re here, lets look after people better. Those people who come after us, cleaning up the spaces we share. Let’s make sure they are paid well enough to enjoy their lives, despite having to deal with the pieces we leave behind.

Let’s give them the respect they deserve, for they are the heroes that keep our aisles egg shell free.

Kitchen Floor, London 2019

The Quiet Before The Storm

Picking up the pieces after polling day. The Left sit uncomfortably on the losing side once again. Each election result since I cast my first ballot in 2014, has felt more painful than the last.

This Conservative campaign was without a doubt the most despicable shadow of democracy we’ve seen in a cannon of low blows. As much as I disagree with David Cameron, the man knew how to be a politician. He was charismatic, he had a veneer of honesty and integrity. He by cast us all a drift when he put Brexit on the ballot.

In arrogance, Cameron assumed the people would side with him. He took us all for granted in a gamble to silence murmurs of unrest from the Brexit faction of his party. But Brexit won, to the shock of either side. No plan had been made and from then on began the dubious divorce that plagues politics today. Cameron couldn’t survive his own referendum campaign, and when he left, he took with him any potential for ‘one nation’ conservatism.

Inspiring the masses with her quivering endurance to the tune of It’s not what I wanted, but we’ve got to do it anyway, May held our sympathy but lost respect in her attempts to provide strong and sinking leadership. So ‘Get Brexit done was born’ clueless, and vulnerable to exploitation.

Boris Johnson promises that the union isn’t under threat because of Brexit, in his growing brand of Colonial Conservatism. Barely United, is this how we prevail?

Those against Scottish Independence who championed Brexit in the Leave campaign are ironically, the victims of their own success. If they wanted the Kingdom to remain United they shouldn’t have had led such a vaguely successful marketing campaign, with easily transferable ideas. Who wouldn’t want to Take Back Control from this blundering British Government; Leave.2 Scexit, Leave.3 Wexit, Leave.4 FECK IT.

Keeping Calm and trying to Carry On, we down the irony of the Leave campaigns’ disregard for independence, Within Our Own Union, like the bitty dregs it is…

Who can begrudge calls for further independence and taking back control, when this Government has sponsored this rhetoric for the last five years? Cut and plastered after each question that dares to suggest working collaboratively as part of the European Union in this globalised world, might make more sense? To many, in England, Scotland Northern Ireland and Wales, European involvement in our politics would feel more at home than such isolationist nationalism. To us, we are Europeans, who desperately wish to Take Back Control from this Conservative Government.

In the context of Scotish Independance, the veneer of the Conservative Party’s passion for independence slips away, revealing that taking back control only applies to their brand of free market capitalism. One that is not held back by human rights insured by European convention. Free from European food quality standards, Air Quality regulations, clean energy targets, and a European standard of diplomacy. In this Conservative Brexit Utopia, they are untethered, free to make deals that benefit the rich and the powerful by lowering basic standards that do not affect the privileged dining on the cream at the top.

Restricting migration while behind the scenes gold passport schemes are brewed, so for a price you can purchase the freedom of movement they will enjoy, but openly criticise and curb for those fleeing war and persecution. Those ‘low skilled’ workers who run our NHS, saving our lives. ‘Low skilled’ people from the EU who make up the back bone of this country. A golden age of access to work and live across the EU now in the balance for all of us in the UK.

This is where we live now, in the void, enjoying those freedoms we took for granted, while the rug is pulled beneath us, revealing a cold pavement existence for many while the red carpet is cordoned off for the few.

The work now is pinning it down, with the weight of all of us who see this injustice for what it is. If you have weight to give, pile it on. It is our responsibility now, to hunker down, and protect the freedoms our grandparents fought for. The NHS. The same generation who took in child refugees. The generation who risked their lives hiding the persecuted. The date has changed but the risks are the same. People are dying in immigration detention centres caught between war, destitution, captivity and freedom. We still need to work to prevent Poverty, Disease, Squalor and zero hours contracts may hide the reality of unemployment, but the growing number of people falling into homelessness is the reality of how conservative austerity has transformed this country.

All the while the world is burning. Global warming can no longer be a partisan issue. It is unacceptable for those in power to opt out of discussing climate change. There should not be a debate on the fact that changes must be made. My generation are questioning whether they can justify having children when the future of our planet is in the balance and yet Boris Johnson has nothing to say on the matter? People are dying, species are being allowed to slip into extinction and the planet is crying out for change.

We need politicians to collaborate and reach compromise to take us forward. But let us be clear, there can be no compromise on planetary and human injustice.

There is no more space to push human rights. We are already living in a society where suffering and injustice is built into the everyday practice of life, as normalised as passing someone by in the street who is asking for help. As official as the immigration process, that takes your passport and detains you indefinitely, status above humanity.

There is no more time to quibble about how to tackle climate change. People are trying, we are buying less plastic. Some of us have cut out meat. We are thinking about how we can do better. But more plastic is still being made every day. It’s time for the message to get to those at the top, stop making plastic, embrace alternatives as part of your daily business practice. For the sake of us all and those people who have not been born yet, make renewable the energy source.

There is no excuse.

Pinar Del Rio, Cuba May 2019

Searching for Fireworks

We saw each other through the screen. I thought he was fit. Alone we swipe yes.

What happened to the way someone made you feel?

That uncomfortable, self conscious, attempt to catch their eye. Hoping they’ll see the best version of you. Awkward stumbling. Saying the wrong thing. Hoping he finds it endearing. Lost in the unknown. Lost, navigating, giddy with butterflies.

In the dark unrequited moments perhaps we love the simplicity of a single swipe for clarity. But making it easy, also makes it boring. Files away the butterflies. Erodes the delicious excitement of the unknown.

Make me laugh in real life, make me laugh so hard I snort and blush and cringe.

There’s no fireworks in a selfie. No tummy’sults in reading he loves the same things you do in the words of his profile.

Looking for real in the face of a stranger behind a screen.

An emotional lottery.

Genuine connections are an investment. Anyone who has loved and lost knows. You invest yourself when you really open your heart to someone new. You build a narrative for two. It takes time to unravel and unwind. In the process of moving on, you sacrafice parts of yourself to the separation.

Starting a story with someone you don’t know feels forced. You’re seeking something you saw in their self promotion, a kindred humour or lust that you hope will come with whatever spark is needed to make magic happen. But the thought that goes into a profile means whatever you see is filtered through so many layers of human insecurity, narcissism and cultural expectations… who is that person on the other side?

You take a risk on this stranger and maybe it works out. Maybe this screen brought two people together that should always have met and just needed this catalyst to collide their space and time at that very moment.

Or maybe you came from such different worlds the collision leaves you more broken then you started off. You went in looking for something, which made you all the more certain you had found it. Real love and all the fallout from a manufactured connection. Real love from the same black mirror you order your groceries on.

Love inspires sonnets and plays and songs and the best ones are never as easy as looking and finding. The best ones are clumsy and messy and take you by surprise.

Inconvenient. Fireworks and butterflies.

Wherever and however you find it, as Dolly says, I wish you joy and happiness, but above all this, I wish you love.

Fireworks from Nottingham, England 2018

An Open Letter To Start Fresh

19th November 2019

Finding some peace at the close of what has been a bit of a year, for all of us.

Sometimes it feels like we are on the edge of disaster. Poisoning the earth beneath our feet. Fighting amongst ourselves. Destined for collective self-destruction. If not from drinking and smoking too much. Drinking eating and strangling the world with plastic. Choking on our own fumes. Or handing control to the maniacs who seem to captivate democracy these days.

Whatever you think. Whoever you vote for. Perhaps we share the same sinking feeling. With all the stress and injustice in the world, it does not feel like we are heading in the right direction.

We are lost.

We do not know how to keep living the only way we know how without plaguing the planet. Nature paying for our short-sighted choices.

Looking to our leaders to guide us into a world that gives us respect, opportunities, fulfilment, and love. We want to be free to enjoy our families. We want stability and hope.

Such basic things, yet too often we are left disappointed.

Spending more time working towards other people’s dreams.

Watching the clock that is always too fast or too slow.

We deserve better. We should be treating the people we love better.

We need to start caring about the spaces we create.

Make it beautiful. Fill it with sensitivity and respect.

Make a space better by being in it. Joyous and caring.

Without the mess left behind.

Dare to hope. People will disappoint you. Do not disappoint yourself.

Be your best you. I will be my best me. And maybe, little by little, the world can be a better place for all of us in 2020…

The view from Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland