Thursday, February 12, 2009


Her dad's at the airport. He's come to 'give me a lift'.

I just want to be alone, alone with my grief, but now I'm being escorted back to my own front door. He thinks he's helping, but he's not. He'll want to collect stuff, take her clothes. Rifle through drawers and collect old photos.

Can't I keep hold of them, even if it tears my fucking heart out, for just one night?

The funeral's on Friday. Her dad, looking very old and tired. "How was Colditz" he states. No answer expected. "OK if I smoke?" I ask as we leave the Gatwick parking bay. "No, I'd rather you didn't, if that's alright" he replies, in the same tone of voice.

I can't associate this man with her. He means nothing to me, and she meant everything. He never saw her laugh the way I did. Doesn't realise how I now feel about the flat. The funeral's on Friday. Do you want me to make a speech, I enquire. "No, we've got everything sorted," he mutters.

London in frost. The capital mourns. Her favourite Suede song strikes up in the radio in my head, and I try to suppress a sob. Block it out with shortwave static.

Right up to the door. He's going to want to come in, take her stuff away. Thinks he owns her fucking memory. Must be hard to lose a daughter, but I couldn't care less about his feelings. Same as he doesn't care about mine. Convinced I was never good enough for her. That'll mask any sympathy on his part.

Thirty eight hypocrites, flocking to a funeral. We make arrangements in the car.

"Shall I come in" he intones. Doesn't deserve a question mark.

"No, I'd rather you didn't, if that's alright," I shoot back.

And then I feel shame - I'm dismissing her father. What would she think? She'd hate it. He shuffles off. I pull out a tenner and call him back."I'm not a taxi service," he growls, drives off.

Running to the local supermarket. Buying a bottle of vodka. The shelves are full of Valentine's Day promotions. Pink fluffy bears. 'Sexy' chocolates. I've never felt so fucking alone in all my life.

The flat's in darkness. Maybe it's a wind-up. Maybe it's some practical joke. It is! She's alive! Why else would her dad pick me up? They're all in on it. I slam shut the door, race in. A firework's about to go off in my face. She'll be sitting there laughing. "How was Colditz?" I switch on the light. Oh God, she's not there. She's dead. I'm down on my knees, a fist in my throat. The smell hits me first, stale perfume like tear gas.

Chugging at the vodka. Now the shortwave static's getting really loud and I can't switch it off. Everything as she must have left it on Sunday morning. Her last day on Earth. Before she left me forever. Picture of her and her friends, doing vodka shots at the Xmas party, KILL IT, knock it to the floor. I feel like a burglar. This isn't 'the flat', it's hers and I'm violating it.

Stumbling through to the kitchen. Kitchen Devils in the drawer. I can't face the funeral, can't face next week, can't face any of it. "How was Colditz", I'm buried alive in it. One deep cut and I'm out of here. No, she'd hate that. She had a lust for life. Cared about animals. Oh God, why didn't I fucking care about the animals? Why couldn't I have made an effort just once?

Switching on the kitchen light, a blurred yellow haze through floods of tears. She ate here, had her breakfast, didn't realise it was her last, just wanted to eat something and I'd hate my baby to leave a hungry corpse, wonder what she ate, what she was thinking when she ate it, if she tasted it or ate it in a hurry, did she clean her teeth after, did she...

I need to find just one mug, one mug with a lipstick smear, please don't have washed up, not this time. Please, just one mug with your lipstick, even a few specks. I can't ever hold you again, can't even see your body at rest, not after what happened to it, lips all gone, I can't live without your lipstick smudge, stumble to the table, I need a dirty mug, just one mug, just for one last.. last...


...last kiss goodb-???

Monday, February 09, 2009


Leipzig, the week before Valentine's Day.

The phone call from her mother, voice breaking on the line. My girlfriend is dead.

Walking under a weak sun, a high-pitched drone in my ears. All the plans for next week. All our 'futures'. Wanting to vomit in a fountain in a plaza. Your body now cold and lifeless. Never get to wear the Elizabeth Arden fragrance I picked up for you at the airport. Whiffs of bratwurst. Never get to hear your voice again. I always delete voicemail.

Your mother telling me that the paramedics did all they could, that it was quick.

Memories? Wanting to vomit right here, jump in front of a train. Never hear your voice again, gently mocking me, telling me that you could think of a hundred better places for a weekend break than a trip to Colditz Castle. But knowing that history was important to me. Just as everything you did, even the bits I never understood, were important to me too.

You are dead and I feel like I've been machete'd in the ribs.

Aimlessly walking around Leipzig, aimlessly chain smoking. A piss-weak sun. The funeral arrangements. Happy Valentine's. Your body in a box. Meeting your family again. Oh God, I feel sorry for myself. I'm the victim here. Nobody to come home to. Your dad will drive down, help me to box away your things. How can I even contemplate going back there? No life left in London. Anywhere on Earth.

I can hear my heart pounding in my throat.

Stumbling on that cafe'. Six hours of walking. Early evening. Couples drinking dark beer. The waitress has sad eyes, is shy but smiles a lot. Makes an effort to understand my order - though I'm just making noises. Gutteral grunts clogging up my eardrums.

I can't eat. I'm starving. Order a beer. The waitress tries to advertise, in clipped English, some dishes of the day. I can't face solids. The sound of a fountain, tinkling away. Everything will be as you left it when I get back. Except you.

Ice cream, that's what I order. All I can keep down. Waitress says something. Yeah, whatever, any one. Can't even look at the menu. She smiles and looks at me, puzzled eyes. "JA BITTE", I hiss. Whatever ice cream will do. Lighting another fag. You'll never nag me about smoking again.

I'll have to buy a suit. Make a speech. Tell your family what you meant to me. As if they could ever really know. Throw out your clothes. Oh Jesus, I don't want your photos around. They'll poison my eyes. That big, sucking, gaping hole. Couples laugh in German, utterly oblivious. Nobody cares.

Staring at spilt sugar granules on the table, eyes boring into them. Counting each one. Dead remnants of somebody else's coffee, someone who'll sleep heartily tonight, having never known you.

Shadow of the waitress to my left. Gazing through the window. Life utterly shattered. My order slides beneath me. Food I can't even bear to eat. The waitress giggles and exits. Is the bitch laughing at my tears? At my sobbing face, reflected in double profile in the window pane? Two pairs of puffy eyes layered over each other against a backdrop of Leipzig dusk? At the fact I've just had my soul slashed with a razor and that, in the space of a day, I've hit depths I never imagined existed?

Looking down at my order.

Looking down at my order.

Looking down at

Monday, February 02, 2009


I love the fact that London grinds to a halt in the snow; it's the truest manifestation of the British psyche, fired up and riding the skidoo of shame. A Canadian told me he can't believe how Londoners over-react to the weather, how today in London's just like the first traces of snow you get in Vancouver in November, before the real winter kicks in. But can't you see, I countered, we simply don't want to go to work? Any excuse - a rail strike, snow, rain, leaves, Mark E Smith dying - you just wanna punch the air with glee when you see a blanket of snow outside your window.

Oh yeah, I said, and the reason there's no buses, and half the tubes are down is simply cos...the drivers stayed in bed! So did the gritter man. If I was the gritter man, I wouldn't have ventured out on a day like this. Sadly, the Northern Line was still running (NORTHERN LINE DRIVERS=SELFISH) so I went in to work.

I figured that, if I showed my face, it wouldn't matter if I turned up late or went early, so I got off at Kings X and decided to walk to Regents Park. I'm quite fond of St Pancras Parish Church and it was a joy to see the four marble beauties smothered in snow (very Death In June album cover). All around me, harried office workers - the same twits who wear flip flops during summer - were skidding around in the slush, shuffling like zombies who'd just messed their kecks, their sensible shoes unaccustomed to the crunchy wet mess. It was the first decent opportunity to wear the black furry Russian hat I picked up for a tenner in St Petersburg, and I had some paraboots on, so I had no problem stomping along, breathing in the good, honest winter air.

Approaching TCR and Warren Street station, I noted that the slush had turned a filthy greeny brown, as if a flock of babies from the UCH maternity unit had staged a dirty protest. I carried on to Great Portland Street. A load of black rubbish bags lay sprinkled with snow, emitting a sickly sweet waft of rotting pizza. Someone had constructed a disabled dwarf snowman with courgette or cucumber slices for buttons, I couldn't make out what veg had been used to form his eyes. Ah, this is my London, I sighed, as I pushed an old lady out of the way, sending her under the wheels of a Renault Trafic van. It's not like the old bill would be bothered, they'd mostly stayed at home too - Hendon doesn't teach the plod advanced driving skills anymore - so, with the gritter man only just rousing himself to breakfast, the cops were too scared to brave it on the roads, and risk squealing across a sheet of ice into the front of an office block.

Up Marylebone, on and on, a man dressed like a snowboarder falls on his arse outside St Marylebone Parish Church, lands in a drift peppered with dog ends, soaks his rump. The church crypt is offering a fry-up and coffee, but I've got this horrible suspicion that the eggs will be the consistency of snot and that the coffee will taste of sludge (something to do with cheap Christian gourmet), so I carry on. I'll take in Regents Park on the way back. A load of waxwork-fancying tourists are queuing up outside Tussaud's. I've only been there once. I don't know if they've still got them in there, but they used to have the Manson family in the early 80s. And Gary Gilmore, getting repeatedly shot. And Bruno Hauptmann getting the electric chair. And the Black Panther hanging round outside his cell, needing a shave. The Gary Gilmore one was tops, I spent ages gazing into his eyes as the tracer bullets took him out, again and again.

Regents Park was shit. All covered in snow. Boring.

Someone has scrawled 'rich people live here' (all lower case) on the side of a block of apartments and offices near Hanover Gate. Like, no shit! Who wrote this? A team of amateur burglars? Someone from Class War? When it comes to state-the-obvious graffiti, my all-time favourite's still the legend sprayed onto a wall in Dunstable in the early 90s, by some idiot/genius. It simply read: "HITLER WAS A NAZI".

Three fellow Russian hat wearers spotted. Good range of colours, grey, brown, black. All with our little badges in the centre. Mine has the hammer and sickle in a red star. I don't know whether that indicates it's a bogus knock-off job, maybe you get more 'cred' if you're wearing a DDR one, or one with the logo of a tank division or something. But it was only a tenner off a deaf man in St Petersburg. Actually, I didn't even pay for it, it was some girl. Oh God, it's not authentic is it. Just some dead cat they punted to the decadent West. Nobody else has their ear flaps down. I just let mine swing in the breeze - fastening them round your chin would be a piss-take, it's not THAT cold - plus doing that makes me look like my child's just been shot in 1943 Belarus. Instead, I look like a fucking beagle in a long coat. But what can you do?

I thought I'd discover something new about Central London in the snow; I'm not sure what. Trudging back past the old MI5/Capital Radio HQ, I realised 1) I'd overshot my destination 2) When other people go on 'drifts', they dig up all sorts of urban esoterica. Like alchemists, they conjure it into a speculative view of the future, make all sorts of wildly zig-zagging connections before reaching a partially obscured and arcane, yet teasing, beckoning truth.

Me? I saw a wonky vegetable snowman, no buses, some crap graffiti and a man fall on his arse. It reminds me of the time I attempted a 'drift' of Wapping, a while back, hoping to unearth the remnants of the old Autonomy Centre, or find some traces of the dockers' ghosts in the silent parks and gastropubs named after dead pirates. But all that happened was I slipped on some steps and ended up slaloming, on my backside, into a small beach of River Thames quag. My drifts are disasters.

11.30 - I finally reach work. Six people are in, including my neurotic manager. She starts gushing on about how the snow's going to get worse and engulf us all, and how everyone had better hit the tube and go home ASAP, before we end up snowed in, trapped in the office and eating each other to stay alive. See what I mean about any old excuse? I'm not going to argue, she's my senior and the thought of death by snow drift's never appealed to me. Capt Scott may have died when his semen froze during a mid-morning wank, but I'd rather go out doing something vaguely warm. So, after 15 minutes of swapping 'how did you get in today?'stories, everyone bolts for the door, desperate to get home and hibernate, the taxi drivers licking their scabby lips and praying for the tube to grind to a halt...anything, ANYTHING, as long as we jump the tube before it descends into pandemonium - commuters pushing each other onto the tracks...screams and chaos as, one by one, the stations slam shut their gates...frozen corpses who missed the last northbound Victoria, rotting on the platforms. Our company had to understand our plight - we were at serious risk here, we needed to retreat to safety before it was too late! We had time to quickly hit the pub for a few pints and some nosh before we boarded our trains, though - went without saying.

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