It is raining so hard, and smells like iron. You know that petrichore smell you get in cities whilst it’s raining? It doesn’t smell the same when it rains on grass. I feel like crying. Have you ever looked at rain and just wanted to be it? Able to go anywhere, constantly cycling around the states of yourself: ocean, cloud, rain river and back again.
There’s thunder hammering somewhere and the light in my apartment has dimmed so that I can hardly see. I’m listening to Haim, and I’m supposed to be editing a section of the book in which I imagine that I found my dad in a park once on a summer morning, and cried at the imagining. It’s a funny thing to be tapped into how you’re always feeling at the moment. I feel a bit numb to myself, otherwise I’d be locked in my own cycle of existence without escape. I could stand in this rain for hours, I wonder if it would wash off all that sedentary feeling of being inside, I wonder if a little bit of me might travel with it: Rain, to river, to ocean, to cloud.
The face in the mirror isn’t my own.
The hands I write with don’t belong to me.
I’m a shadow, a shade, a passing cloud.
How did I make it here after all this time?
I imagine I was carried up the gulf stream by a storm, sent eastward by high pressure, and landed here like a forgotten train ticket left inbetween the pages of a book. Marks, MS – New Orleans, LA in between two pages of Light in August.
Is it spring or summer now? What is this storm? Have we crossed the boundary of the coming of the spring, and have i missed its passing through, like a freighter rather than a passenger service?
Last summer I went to Oxford, Mississippi to see a friend and she took me to Faulkner’s house. All day, it had been raining that hot, fat, Mississippi rain: big droplets falling on my face like finger tips tracing the outline of my cheek, rolling along the edge of my jaw. I’ve never seen rain like it. Not even this rain that’s falling now.
Faulkner’s house emerged from a green/grey mist, embedded in strong smelling pine or fir like a dream. It was quiet, soft, like foot steps through undergrowth. Hushed. The rain that hadn’t yet met the ground pattered over roof tiles, dripped resolutely from braches, whisered itself through the gutters.
In As I Lay Dying he describes rain like this:
They are big as buckshot, warm as though fired from a gun; they sweep across the lantern in a vicious hissing.
I didn’t think rain could be like that, but here I was seeing it. A real thing, big rain, mississippi rain. I think it changes the way you feel about it, if rain is always big, rather than the tiny little needles that try to burrow their way into your skin and freeze you to the bones.
Faulkner has another quote, too:
“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home?’
I wish I were home. I keep thinking of the open expanse of my English Oxfordshire, resplendent in the May, the blossom coming in through the green, leaves newly minted shivering against the cold weight of English rain. In Paris the rain falls grey, like it would in any city. In Oxford Mississippi, and in the shire fields of my home, the rain falls green-silver into the landscape, mercurial in its affections.
I have nothing more to say today.
Just think of rain, coming at you like kisses, or like bullets, or like tiny little fragments of a world that exists without you, and away from you, and extended from you, and how lucky we are to be allowed to exist within it.
In my mind, this year was gonna be a white table cloth spread with breakfast for one. Eggs and avo on toast and freshly brewed coffee steaming, sunlight streaming through open windows juiliette balconetted with views of a small place. The trees outside would hush themselves in gentle breezes and the rooftops of the city would range away from me to a river and to hills and beyond.
It looked like a cross between an Instagram post and a Monet. Soft strokes and warm light, like waking up well rested, like seeing the world through a glass of rosé: tinted and tilted.
In a way it has been that. It’s been a dream I’ve felt like I was living through. I felt like my life was running through my fingers like water, like I kept trying to pull one out of an ocean of lives around me and coming out with nothing. I think, in a way, I’d felt that for so long that I became content to be taken with the tide. Paris has not been about floating with the tide.
When I was about 21, my uncle’s wife asked me what I was going to do with the rest of my life. What a question to ask of someone so young.
At the time I said something like this:
I’m going to live my life by taking all its pieces and putting them on a table cloth. Then, every time I need to make a decision I’ll just flick the tablecloth and see where everything lands, and I’ll just do whatever feels right once the chips have landed.
That’s what Paris has been: putting the bits of my life onto a table cloth and flicking them into the air. This weird weird situation we’re all in has left me feeling like the chips still have yet to land. They’re caught in the air like clouds.
It’s clouds illusions I recall/ I really don’t know clouds at all.
I am feeling very at the brim today. It would have my been my parents’ 33rd wedding anniversary. I feel like it would have been a day they’d have spent together in confinement doing nothing much of note, like the day we’ve all had.
It rained all day. It’s a public holiday in France so I was thinking about how pissed off i would have been if I’d been working and had a bank holiday ruined by tempests.
Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” came on the radio. It’s conversational tones, and the sound of her voice as it sounds like it might break.
I told someone I didn’t love them anymore once beside a canal in London. It was about this time of year, and the sun was so bright it hurt to keep my eyes open. It hurt them to look at his face when I said the words I just don’t love you. Not anymore. I sometimes think of him when I hear this piece of music. It sounds to me like the earth turning under me, like water breaking against the canal walls, and like endings:
It’s love’sillusions I recall/ I really don’t know love at all.
This isn’t really a blog post, today. I’m sorry. It’s just me saying that I’m feeling alone in a way that I can’t express and in a way that isn’t assuaged by friendship, or by anyone really. Life is sometimes just lonely, and lonelier still when you wilfully upturn it’s contents because you’re tired of living it.
I wonder if the habit I have of picking up my life and rearranging its pieces is as a result of having had it rearranged for me when my dad died. I wonder if the process of flicking that table cloth feels safe to me because it’s a rehashing of what I’ve already done.
I keep thinking about all the lives half begun which have amounted to nothing. I keep thinking of the one life I’ve carved out for myself. life is rich and fast and then suddenly slow. At the moments of deceleration you’ve an opportunity to turn the viewfinder back on yourself. I’ve lived a life that was never the life I imagined for myself. I will continue to live a life that surprises me. I hope so anyway.
It’s life’s illusions I recall/ I really don’t know life at all
I watched blue crush last Monday because I was hungover as a dog and I didn’t want to do anything but watch a film I’d seen a thousand times before. It got me thinking: my favourite kind of hangover movie is the « girl is good at a sport and becomes pro » movie. Right now there’s blue crush and chalet girl in my mind, but also Ice Princess and Bring it On. I know you hate ice princess, even though I think it’s a stone cold banger. It 100% passes the Bechdel test, it offers multiple characterisations if what it is to be a strong woman, it combats anti-feminist ideas of femininity (that you can either be smart OR beautiful and not both, whereas the premise of this is that you can do both, which is true because you are both and I am both and so are all of the women I know).
Ngl another big seller of these movies is that there’s always a snog (prime hangover vibe) there’s something to root for (a big competition) and almost always the character has got no money to compete (REL8ABLE). It’s like they tackle huge themes of classed oppression, gendered oppression in masculine fields (snow boarding/surfing – not nec. Ice skating) whilst mixing it with a slice of romance. Even tho you sometimes r like « I do not want to watch chalet girl AGAIN Lucy! » I know that secretly u do, because secretly you love watching that girl from the worst witch and chuck bass from gossip girl fall in love in the snow, and also that you secretly love watching someone learn to b a great snowboarder. (Although ngl, this trope of the poor girl becoming a bad ass sports person could also lose the « rich boy » aspect bc I don’t feel like she needs a rich man in the end of any of these scenarios. Like the class barrier that keeps the two apart is only crossed by achieving a meritocratic status of success – becoming a pro – and really if it is T R U E L U V they should like idk have a relationship based on mutual respect for their origins but YOUKNOW)
I wonder if part of the comfort of these films on a hangover is that they’re interconnected with all other hangovers. They come with the associated memory of going to M&S to by the 2 for £10 ready meal deal and drinking a bottle of wine and having a fancy pre-cooked one. Or they’re tinged with the promise of an entire platter of chicken goujons, or they just feel like the taste of Diet Coke the morning after.
Every hangover I have has you in it, because almost every good night I’ve had, has had you in it. I mean not all of them, but when I go out with you I never wake up with the fear. So, when I go out without you, and am hungover without you, I put in a film we’ve watched and I feel like I am not hanging in my bed a l o n e.
Every single one goes something like this: eyes slit open at some ungodly hour (it’s actually 11am). I mumble something about wanting to die (I think I’m dead. How did we get HOME?) you are usually either a) already awake or b) groaning that I need to shut up and sleep a bit more. Then, when we r both ready we lurch unsteadily to the kitchen. I make a coffee which you decline because (quite frankly) you’re weird and don’t like coffee. Then we turn on the oven and put chicken goujons from the freezer onto the tray. Sometimes there are chips. Most times there aren’t. I get the ketchup, the coffee, and a Diet Coke and put it on the coffee table. You are pulling up Netflix on the telly. You tell me we have choices. We usually entertain the idea of watching something new or good before having the following convo: (There’s a dead dad in this one. I don’t want a dead dad movie – can we watch ice princess?. Absolutely not, Lucy. I hate ice princess.Chalet Girl? Fine) I think this is how it goes because one time we watched Love Rosie and you forgot the dad died half way through and I was absolutely traumatised by it.
Now normally I would not admit that these r my fave hangover movies because I think people will think that I’m lame. But ngl, they r lame movies but they are also very very good, and they serve a real purpose to remind me of something: not all women in film only talk about boys. Women in film can often be poor and do good stuff. Women in film can be bad ass, they can be good at stuff, they can look after a family and do a job and still achieve a dream. What’s more is that the women in these films are made specifically to talk to women. If you think about a lot of rom coms they’re made for women, but not necessarily by women, and continue to perpetuate the notion that we’re nothing without a man (BORING). The women in these films remind me of my sisters and they also remind me of you.
You are one of the smartest people I have ever known. You look at a situation and you just know what to do. You never fail to have a plan. You’re also 100% up for anything as much as I am. I think there hasn’t been a single time when either one of us has come up with a plan where the other one said « no ». It’s just kind of a prerequisite; if you’re going I’m going and there’s no two ways about it. You do ur job, you work hard, you work on ur dreams, you let no one take u for a ride, you get fucked on the weekend, and I am in awe of u.
To me, you’re like the women in Blue Crush, or Chalet Girl, except that the job you do is really cool. In those films those women are dedicated, a little bit distracted by boys (comme tout le monde), and completely and utterly driven by a passion of theirs. They’re unapologetic about being women in their chosen field, they’re unapologetic about who they are and where they come from, and they’re really fucking cool. You are all these things and when I hang out with you I feel like a little bit of that badass magic rubs off on me, too.
In a way both of these films: Blue Crush and Chalet Girl subvert the « romantic Comedy » trope by placing the protagonists’ wish fulfilment in a personal achievement as opposed to a man. Now yeah, I know, both movies have got a gorgeous dude as a love interest, and yeah he still functions as a kind of Richard-Gere-esque saviour (they’re poor, he’s rich, he offers them a way out) but the crucial thing is that both women, Anne-Marie in Blue Crush and Kim in Chalet Girl achieve success without them.
I think the reason people dismiss these films so readily is because they’re squarely in the category of « women’s film » (because they’re about women 🙄🙄🙄🙄) but they’re sports movies… (a genre typically geared towards men). But here’s a kicker: women generally are less choosy about the kinds of film they like to watch, and society as a whole is way more accepting of a woman who likes to watch gangster films or action flicks, than a man who really enjoys Ten Things I Hate About You, or hes just not that into you. In Feminism at the Movies: Understanding Gender in Contemporary Popular Cinema, there’s a general understanding that « women watch a wide variety of films, and if fans of the « woman’s film » rarely confine themselves to that genre »
It is important to note, though, that despite the alteration in outcome for the « love arc » in these movies, they still adhere to classic tropes of consumerist capitalism. Being poor is bad and success is only realised if you achieve success and become the very best. A mediocre life with mediocre dreams isn’t really the point of a romcom tho tbh – they’re classic escapism. Even so, the consumerism of the films settings directly influence our reading of the characters: Anne Marie as a maid in a Hawaiian hotel; and Kim as a chalet girl. In the latter though, Kim is still classed out. Where Anne Marie has comradeship in her colleagues, Kim’s class still marks her as an outsider in a role usually reserved for « posh girls »
Either way I recognise us in these two protagonists (which is definitely the point). I see our desire for achieving something, the ache for finding someone to love us. But what I see answered in these films is that love is not the be all and end all. In fact, despite the eye-roll worthy Herero romances, the films are full of love found in truly admirable platonic and familial relationships.
In Blue Crush, Anne Marie relies on her friends far more than the rich and pretty two dimensional football hero love interest. They’re the ones on their boards on the waves encouraging her to try again, they’re the ones who pull her out of the surf after nearly drowning (the surf, it could be said, might stand as a neat metaphor for the tides of life, pulling Anne Marie hither and thither and threatening to pull her under, riding the wave a metaphor, perhaps, for overcoming the struggle of a troubled home life, a lack of money, and needing to keep herself, her friends, and her little sister’s heads above water, the fact that her friends support her in the water and on shore a metaphor for their steadiness in her life) The women in Blue Crush love and support each other to be better friends, better sisters and better surfers. To have confidence in themselves, and trust in each other.
This is where I see us. In a way it’s where I see all of my female friends, in that we each support uplift and encourage each other . To be better at our work, to be better supporters, and to believe in ourselves. I realise, as I get older, how important my female friends are to me, and how they offer a wholly different kind of support to my male friends. I think, when you’re 16, you end up battling a whole bucket load of internalised misogyny. You don’t recognise yourself in the women in media, and so you wrongly assume that you are one of a very select group of women who think differently to this. « I’m not like the other girls » is a thing for a reason, and men similarly perpetuate this myth by saying the same thing back to you. But it’s just false, the more women I know the more I realise that the women in film simply don’t exist. No one spends a life only talking about boys, and what they are doing. Yeah we go to the pub to bitch about this weeks love interest turned fuck-boy, but we mostly talk about each other and about stuff we’ve seen. We all believed we weren’t like other girls, until we started talking to women who weren’t our blood sisters and realised that throughout adolescence were all performing this parody of masculinity in order to be accepted. It’s bollocks and it’s bullshit and I am eternally grateful to my female friends for their constant affirmation of the fact that « not liking pink or girl movies » isn’t a goddamned personality trait.
I think I learned this kind of comradeship from you first. I learned sorority in pub toilets; on walks home down dark alleys and badly lit streets; in seminars where we were spoken over despite the female majority. It is a wonderful thing to find more sisters in the world. I would pull you out of the ocean and into my jet ski any time.
Now get the chicken goujons out the oven before they burn.
This time last year I was resurfacing from a pretty deep depression. I know this because I remember, but I was reminded of it because my Instagram archive decided to display some choice pieces of last spring for me to look at. Most of my content last year was me waxing lyrical about birds or trees or light. Here’s one:
——— imagine here a brief hiatus in which I went deep on my insta and sent my friends photos of us from 2015 with captions like « omg so long ago » and other such vibes. I won’t bore u by including them here, but I can assure u that they’re good pics of me with varying lengths of hair and at varying degrees of sobriety ✌️it’ll probably be charged about in another vidéo -Apéro that I’ll have with my best pal sometime again this week (that’s drink wine & face time to u)
Anyway I spent an inordinate about of time looking at last spring today. Looking at the sun drenched, green robed fields of home. A ghost spring of recovery, silver streamed into my retinas whilst the depopulated spring outside my window battles the war for us. Paris occupied again. Here, there are two springs existing at once. One in my phone, one outside my window, and neither of which I am actually IN. The one in my phone is huge, i walked about ten miles a day with the dogs, over hill and down dale and across streams and through woods. I was documenting the wild magic of becoming. The one in reality small, one room, two windows, a courtyard, a corner of sky.
So many shots of chubby knees and heavy docs striding through fields growing progressively greener. Shots of the dogs running, begging, smiling, tongues lolling. shots of brickwork, of country pavements, of pub signage, or birdsong, or birds, or blossom, or blooms or new leaves. Where I’d been I’ll I’d posted relatively little. In coming back to myself in recovery I posted more and more. A minds eye view of both the return if the spring, and my return to myself. An almost « real-time » video essay: what does it mean to become in the season if becoming? An interesting question. One I have no answers for, except the list of shots I mentioned above. One which is still being answered as we never cease to become. Either way it is spring on my phone, and it is spring outside, and even though I am inside in my flat in Paris, in my phone I am running through fields in England. I am both. I am all.
In reality though this compulsive Instagram documentation is not a video essay, in that I have not consciously created it to have structure and form like an essay is supposed to have. More accurately you could call it a video notebook, like the stacks of notebooks at my mums and the two I have here that have every single thing I’ve ever written in them in pen and paper form. A video sketchbook: some light, some birds, some sky, a song I like.
I read a paper by Simon O’Sullivan called « Fictioning Landscape » (it’s on his website) about the relationship between landscape and fictioning in the form of video-essays. He particularly focuses on weird examples, that unpick the fabric of reality and posit weird fictions of the past and future within them. The examples he examines present a « porous border between fact and fiction » and insinuate a foreground of temporal shift; futures that won’t happen, pasts that didn’t quite. The notion of the then-spring encroaching on the now-spring implies a layered temporality, too: now-spring is all-spring.
O’Sullivan discusses some brilliant examples of audio-visual essays including Justin Barton and Mark Fisher’s On Vanishing Land and Victoria Halford and Steve Beard’s Voodoo Science Park. J would highly recommend looking them up – the book of voodoo science park is brilliant – highly recommend.
My friend, Josh Vyrtz, makes video-essays – you can look at them here. They each possess a kind of fictioned surreality, whether theyre about painting a landscape as toilet graffiti or sitting on a bench from 9-5. There’s a joyous kind of whimsy to them, that’s tinged with a melancholia, and a hunt that there’s some kind of Magic going on, links to external spaces, spaces outside of the frame.
Thé above photo is a still from my favourite of josh’s performance/video essays. It was about his dad, who died. About his own self discovery, and about learning about Switzerland where his dad is from. It was also not about this at all, but about vulnerability, and masculinity. In the film josh was himself and his dad and a plastic gnome. In the performance he was himself a cab driver, and a whirling dervish of emotion. It was a performance, an essay, a film, and a thing of beauty. To my mind josh was create a fictional past in which his dad had shown him Switzerland, and a future in which he had been shown. Fragile, vulnérable, wishful. It made me cry.
I’ve written a lot about music over the last few days; being inside all the time, it’s one of the few things I can always do without getting bored of doing it. This video essay of Josh’s starts very close to his face, like the moment at the end of a party when your smashed and on a sofa chatting shit:
« there are some songs which, when I listen to them, make me feel like the lead in a movie »
Cut to josh blue lit, by fountain, gazing around , telling us, conversationally, and in response to the obvious question « which songs? » the top five songs on the soundtrack of his life.
Cut to josh silhouetted against a pink dusk, London skyline rising jagged on the horizon, and josh freewheeling in his bike, bare arms conducting the symphony of a London bike ride: wheels ticking, bike creaking, wind blasting, river rushing. We don’t hear the songs he mentions, just the sound of the city, and of the weather. It’s joyful in its release, melancholy in its près back sonic element. It makes me ache for London, and ache for the outside, and for riding my bike. I don’t know why the lack of music makes it feel melancholy, like a dream. What do you hear in dreams? Music? Real life noise? Quiet?
Josh’s video essay turns the wind and the river and the bike into the soundtrack of his life, they become the music; that actual music may change that’s playing through his headphones, but the sound we hear never will. It makes a temporal shift. Josh will hear these sounds on every bike ride he goes on, and for someone who rides his bike almost every day pre confinement, that seems to me to be the true soundtrack of his life, if he ever manages to hear it. In the film josh makes the city an orchestra, the weather the symphony: himself riding no-hands-on-the-handlebars conducting the sky. The fiction here, though an aesthetic one – (re)making a conversation we’ve had before – enacting a freedom and joy of riding through the city in fine weather – creates a performance journey. One that exits real time and creates a « music-time » or a « film-time » as much is I created a « spring-time » within my phone. The film is saturated with residual emotion, and by not providing the music, Josh allows that emotion to speak for itself in the box of film time we can all dip into with an internet connection.
Both of Josh’s films that I’ve mentioned here are hugely emotionally charged. They both alter space-time and allow something to speak « not to us but to something within us » which is how fictioning works: creating a space-time in which the truth is made not true, and by which we can pro rated ourself on the plane of now. Whilst they don’t engage with the weird in the same way as O’Sullivans examples, they engage with a melancholia that seems ever present (I would call this grief-space)
like listening to a song u thought was happy but is really sad. Like Dancing Queen, or Boys of Summer, or Loaded by Primal Scream. Joy and melancholia: two sides of the same thing.
In these uncertain and tumultuous times, where the news is often based on « post-truths » it becomes « crucial to produce other and better » fictions than created by the state or the media « by which to orientate ourselves within our world.
“It is spring, that is to say that it is approaching THE BEGINNING”
Scrolling through Twitter at some god awful hour this morning I saw a green and yellow painting of daffodils. Mottled grey blue of sky and brown thatch of distant trees reminiscent of the arrival of spring in William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All :
Under the surge of the blue
Mottled clouds driven from the
Northeast – a cold wind. Beyond, the
Waste of broad, muddy fields
Brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
David Hockney, confined in Normandy, has painted the archetypal spring view, reminiscent to me of Lent fasting, of school holidays, of spring fairs. Of the becoming and the returning of the spring; new and old at the same time. He’s called the painting Do remember they can’t cancel the spring. The painting is joyful, yet there’s a restraint in Hockney’s iPad stylings that isn’t usually there, a pared back response to the view he’s been presented with. Hockey in confinement paints in starker, more drab colours. There is no true joy in the coming of this uncancelled spring. The joy of yellow cannot combat the sadness of brown.
I went out today, into the quiet of a Parisian morning, cold edged air like the cracking of an eggshell. The streets are deserted as they never have been, everyone inside and fearful, but the morning is as glorious as any one I’ve seen. The sun barely up, the sky itself pale with its own becoming. I had that familiar loosening feeling, of the ending of the long winter, and the upward spiral into spring; and then I remembered I had one hour within which to move around, to buy bread and loo roll and milk and then turn on my heels for home. I was unreeling from my insides, but tethered to the safety of home. Out on furlough for eggs and bread.
A few weeks ago, pre confinement, Matt @xenogothic tweeted something about Caribou’s new album Suddenly, that resonated with how I felt about it: full of spring bops, but tethered to an innate sense of melancholia that seeps through the alum with every subsequent listen.
The album stakes its emotional territory lyrically, and through the clever use of windy samples in “lime”, or Sunday morning soul in “home” to place you in a memory, whilst making the moment of that memory happen in the present. In a google hangout yesterday my friend was talking of the semantics of nostalgia making the memory always already present, so its tatters to the past become meaningless almost in the act of remembering. Another friend with whom I’ve been writing letters has written some questions to me about this to, like :
How do you know what was real? How do you protect memories from new feelings that will ultimately twist it? How do you travel in time throug memory without altering the memory?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I don’t think it’s us who travels in time, but the memory. We’re always on the surface, weathered by the ghostly returning of past/future moments: spectral weathers (if you’ll let me name check my own book?)
Suddenly is suffused with memory, with a retrospective glance inward, and feels, when listening to it, like an album made inside someone who’s been listening in on pop music and has made an album that orbits it: not part of it, but born of it. Apologetic soliloquies to sisters, mothers humming lullabies, the four to the floor of the club still reverberating in your bones as you lie in bed waiting for the room to stop spinning, an elegy to emotion, and rawness. Dan Snaith (the man behind caribou), when he sings, seems to me like he’s whisper singing in the confessional, or right into my ear. The fragility of his voice caught in close miced glory, and more often than not without reverb or delay. Dry, soft, and conversational, like whispering in the night to keep anxiety at bay.
I especially get this feeling in “Sister”, the albums opener, where Snaith whisper sings:
Sister, I promise you, I’m changing
You’ve heard broken promises, I know
Like a conversation had late at night, in response to a sister saying they’re worried about you. The rolling progressional chords and steady heartbeat like rhythm seeming a metaphor for revolution, and not the kind of revolution that overthrows governments or changes the world, but the kind that turns the world again, continues the revolution of a cycle. It feels like a mirror held up to life in confinement; the beating of my heart, the tick of the clock, and the cyclical shift of the sun as it revolves in the room.
“You & I” has a sense of the opening approach of spring, the synth chords warm and bouncy like the first day you can go out without a coat on. The arpeggiated chimes that punctuate the verses and chorus sounding like sunlight through freshly grown leaves, calm and calming, yet its chorus and outgrown derail this feeling of warmth and comfort by pushing us into a feeling of high tempo anxiety, discordant rush, snatches of voice. The end feels like the upcycling of a Bond climax, all running and car chases and guns and thrill. A final sampled “Hey!” Echoing into the void before opening into the inherent melancholia of the opening of “Sunny’s Time”. The piano warped like an old record rattling on a gramaphone that you’ve left too long in the garage. The speakers are damp, and it sounds as though the sound has to travel through time to reach the present moment; from the becoming of its recording, to the moment of its hearing.
Spring whilst seeming like the happiest of new awakenings, freshness, beginning again, it also seems to be suggested with the melancholy of endings. There’s an old English folk song I heard sung once in my local pub by a man with no teeth that caught, for me, that sense of euphoric release; albeit one that knows it cannot last.
The primrose blooms, the cowslips too,
The violets in their sweet retire,
the roses shining through the briar,
And the daffodown-dillies which we admire will die and fade away.
These lines, in acknowledgement of the temporary nature of the coming of spring are reminiscent of the scant lines sung by Snaith in “Sunny’s Time”
It all found me since I’ve been gone.
I’ll be back when this is all done.
“Sunny’s Time” slides itself into “home” with a relative danceability. It feels like coming throug the door with a baguette, and an avocado and a box of eggs, the coffee on to brew, windows flung wide to let in the new spring breezes; but with the bitter sweetness of wishing there were someone there to spend that morning with you, and a particular someone at that. Like the first lonely Sunday morning after a breakup, when you’ve gotten past the getting drunk phase and your friends have deemed that you could do to be left alone a bit, you wake up with not much to do, and a wish to do not much with someone that isn’t satisfied by eggs on toast. It’s the beauty of a good morning undercut with a lonely melancholia; like putting on happy music that only makes you cry. This is further compounded by the sample of Gloria Barnes singing “Baby I’m home, I’m home, I’m home”. The final time you hear this sample, it’s cut short with a gothic cut off, sending an echo like a door slam into the following guitar chords, pitch shifting like a memory. It’s like someone’s last words, like they’re ready to tap out: baby I’m home.
Perhaps this melancholia is part and parcel of spring, a cruel season, in that it rips us raw: raw winds, on new skin. This is how the wasteland starts,
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain
Like parents whipping us up and pulling back duvets to get ready for school, the world outside the cocoon of duvet is still too brutal, too cold, and too concrete. Winter, though brutal, is the season for dormant dreaming. I spend the three months of hibernation waiting for the spring, though – dreaming of bluebells. Is it as Emily Brontë says: that “there’s a spell in the purple heath” that burrows down inside us, “to wildly; sadly dear” that yearns for its partner found in springtime? Brontë mourns the coming of spring when she is without it. The “cold sun” with its “chill” beams, the “dreary sky” is “frozen”. The long winters make me feel this way, too. Chilled to my bones, warming myself at the first few rays of sun, almost kissing the daffodils and bluebells when they first show their bright faces above the mud. It’s driving me mad to be so separate from it. Yet even Brontë notes the “transient brilliancy” of spring, and of spring sunshine sliding swiftly over the garden wall. Spring is beautiful in its ephemerality. The Hauntology always revenant whose joy in arrival is tempered and haunted by the knowledge of its passing.
In “Never come back” the lines “and you never come back, and you never come back to” are repeated ad infinitum, it’s the feeling of losing the spring once it’s come, like being at the afters , intertwined on a sofa in someone elses’s house whose name you don’t know. Early morning sunshine beaming behind closed curtains, a sliver of dust filled gold breaking onto a table littered with beer cans and ashtrays.
In Williams’ spring and all, “dazed spring approaches” almost unaware of itself, with “the stark dignity of entrance”, dually reminiscent of Hilary Duff standing at the top of the stairs in A Cinderella Story, and of the procession of the cross at the beginning of mass, leading the priest from sacristy to altar.
“Magpie” from Caribou’s Suddenly is reminiscent of this duality, and of that tethered freewheeling sense I had walking to the boulangerie this morning; a loosening of the self, whilst still being tethered to home. The song wheels in circles, shining aurally like sticking an ear in a kaleidoscope. In a way it reminds me of the beginning of “Entangled”, the second track of Gensis’ A trick of the tail. At about the half way point, though, Snaith opens out the filter on the track, which takes it from 1975 to the present moment, and it releases you from the constraints of its first half. With the shift in tone, you’re released out into the depths of sound like into an ocean, or a huge crowd. The song de-isolates you, by disconnecting you from the self and connecting you with something outside of yourself, something that sleeps back to you, and almost cradles you.
The mood of Suddenly is almost entirely sweet, the chord progressions are so warm that, listening in my bed under a square of sunlight, I slip in between the grooves of the songs and hang there. Strung out on synths. Snaith’s control, and measured pacing, and restraint almost feels like he’s in confinement too. Like there’s something holding him back from unspooling himself into the tracks. That’s the feeling I had with some of the tracks on Our Love and Swim. In reality I feel like he’s in a space as small as mine, with the front door locked and the windows open only a crack.
The final track, “Cloud Song” is the only song that really embodies a release, a slack in snaith’s tight control. It opens with the close miced voice that seems to characterize the album, just him singing in my ears as the synths return to that cyclical pattern as found in “Sister”, the album turning and returning to the beginning as the chord progressions do. “When you’re alone with memories”, he sings, “I’ll give you a place to rest your head.” The place to rest your head is here. Not to be away from memory, but to converge in a collective practice of remembering. Dan Snaith’s personal traumas are writ large upon this album, but sung softly and quietly. His traumas become our traumas, and the act of opening them out allows us to share in them, and share ours within them.
The cyclic return of the chord progression is as smooth and azure as the water on Suddenly’s cover. Kaleidoscopic and rushing into the build of “Cloud Song”, the music slides in between me and the world: trills of synth like birds calling, or radio signals clogging the airwaves. Dissonant in repetition. Sliding.
“Nothing’s granted an eternity, nothing lasts it all will fade.
And yet it always ends too early.”
The spring outside the window rises like a Gershwin clarinet solo in response, so clean and clear I feel I almost pour out into it. What of the spring un-sprung, of the world unturned? Rather, what of the world turning without me, and me unable to break the winter chrysalis. Spring playing out there, and orchestra without audience – an unheard soliloquy – a film with the sound turned down.
The first spring of a new decade, unexperienced and lost. A necessary loss, one we must do, but a loss all the same.
In a way Caribou’s Suddenly is 2020s perfect spring/summer album. Seeking an escape, but confined. A spring sounding elegy to lost moments, lost memories, lost things. “I wish that you were here by my side”. “Do you ever miss me like I miss you?” I listen to it and I hear all the moments I won’t have, and I hear all the moments I am having, and all the moments I have had and will have, all existing in the cacophony of now.
In my apartment the spring turns his shoulder and shifts his weight away from the window, sliding himself into another crisp March night. The north wind blows chill through the window, and I close them. I put on “Sister” and begin the cycle again.
Do you remember what it felt like to lie down on grass and smell it’s green freshness underneath your face, and feel the slight dampness of spring soil under your palms? Or Better yet, can you remember the dry feeling of tickly grass on your legs and the firm resistance of sun baked earth?
For some reason this makes me think of Lenny Kravitz’s “it ain’t over til it’s over” and I could probably say the same for this quarantine if I’m honest: it ain’t over til it’s over. It’s day 6. It’s Sunday. Last Sunday I was lying in the grass drinking a vedett that I feel really guilty about since Macron got all “nous sommes en guerre” about sitting in the park. I understand why I can’t sit in the park tho, and I do feel bad about propagating the spread of the virus by normalising not social distancing. As Kylie Jenner said: “hey guys – corona virus is a real thing”.
I’ve been having a lot of very vivid dreams, and they’re all about the same sort of thing. I’ve been having them for a little while, probably for about a week and a half, but I just read a really great post by my new pen pal a little while ago. She wrote about dreaming of her ex, in the dreams they’re in various scenarios of relationship, but mostly they’re friends. Mostly the dreams are about the bitter sweetness of endings. I wrote a similar thing about an ex and sent it to her and now we’re penpals. Anyway: you can read her beautiful piece here. It is poignant and touching and it made me want to cry.
After I got over my nostalgic response to her post, I got to thinking about the fact that recently I’ve been dreaming about all the boys I’ve ever liked. I’m not kidding, I have been dreaming about every boy I’ve ever liked – AND CRUCIALLY mostly about the boys I like/liked that I have not told I like. This has included, but is not limited to, a boy I fancied in year eight and wrote (still fucking terrible) poetry about on bebo and PUBLISHED for the world to see (awful), a friend I had in year 11, a boy I met on the tube,a boy I met on the bus in 2014 who asked me what book I was reading, boy I met in LA: so many boys. So many dreams to be had.
In these dreams, what happens is, I live a whole life with one of these boys. We meet, we date, we get together, we stay together. Sometimes the dream jumps ahead and we’re making dinner on a June evening in the garden with a Chablis talking about the neighbours we hate (boy in LA), sometimes we’re 65 and the dream is us watching it’s a wonderful life at Christmas with a huge extended family (boy I met on the tube), and other times I have a huge lavish wedding with the person (year 8 poem boy – awful, truly awful. I’m cringing. Dream me loved it)
In those dreams I almost invariably feel really happy, like head over heels happy, like first sunshine of the year, vedett in the park, sunning myself with my friends and getting a damp arse cos the ground is still damp from the rain the previous day. And then I wake up and remember nous sommes en guerre and I am just like: “oh. Here we are”
The one with the Chablis was the most interesting, because it was just like I was living my life, except dream me had a nagging drive to check her watch. Dream me knew something was up because dream me knew that I am too much of a wimp to fess up to LA boy that I think he’s a dreamboat and I want to drink Chablis I’m our beautiful garden in high summer and bitch about the neighbours.
What’s a dream? Flo(my new pen pal) wrote about it being brain garbage, a way of processing our thoughts, but she also wrote about dreams maybe being weird little portals to worlds of possibility. Maybe my dreams are time-slips, rips in the fabric of space-time where all the versions of me who weren’t MASSIVE WIMPS managed to actually talk to people they fancied. Except I did admit my feelings about year 8 poem boy in FUCKING POEMS about how the sunlight coming through the tower block window shone on his chestnut hair in the middle of maths, and “what good is long division, when I can’t divide my love for you”. Yes, I know. Fucking cringe. I’m so glad Bebo is dead now.
Anyway back to the Chablis dream. I lived a whole life in that dream, albeit at an accelerated rate inside the 8 hours and 26 minutes of sleep I got from that night (thanks Fitbit). But a whole life: we were like 40odd in that dream scene. I died at the end.
In Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason He puts time as not a thing acting externally from us, like a Newtonian would; or as being entirely based on relation to a system without a physical existence, and only really existing conceptually like the Liebnizians (that’s a mouthful, jesus- the be-Liebniz-ers might be more catchy – tho a bit of a rip off); but as being something in between. For Kant Space and Time aren’t really things in and of themselves (conceptual or physical or otherwise) but rather they form a part of our own sensibility. Space and Time exist as they are experienced by the individual. So time, then, exists as we are experiencing it. Does that mean then, that on some other plane somewhere I have lived a full and joyous life with LA boy in which we wind up drinking our Chablis in June 2039? Does June 2039 already exist in dream-land?
Even though it felt like 30 years in dream-land, I’m not going to lie to u, Kant would not say that means it was real. In Critique of Pure reason Kant spends a long time saying that the experiential nature of space and time do not apply to imaginative play based upon experience. Transcendental idealism, whilst implying that time and space are subjective, doesn’t negate the reality of objects, and therefore kind of negates the reality of the unreal: dreams.
Kant would tel me to wake the fuck up and stop mooning about over a boy (or boys, keep up Immanuel, I fall in love multiple times a day! Shout out to the boy I saw on Rue Montorgeuilwhose beautiful blonde hair will stay with me forever – wish I’d said something 2 u before the quarantine – alas now u r gone forever)
I’ve stil got “baby it ain’t over til it’s over” in my head. It sounds like summer in the distance. Lenny, what you doing to me? The dream is that over but is my dream happy life over? the answer is like most definitely yes, but the question still remains why am I dreaming about it?
in an essay called “What is the creative Act?”, Deleuze writes that a dream is a dangerous thing, both to be the dreamer, and the dreamed. It’s a really cool essay that you can read for urself here. “The dream of those who are dreaming concerns those who are not dreaming” – which is interesting,m: it seems Kant would tell me the dream is all in my head, and Deleuze would (using Minnelli – not Liza ) tell me that it’s not about me at all, but about them. (this is both very Deleuze, but also really validating, so thanks Gilles) “beware of the dreams of others” he says, “ because if you’re caught in their dream you’re done for” – Hi boys 👋
This particular essay is really good, and it will be revisited in other posts soon, but these lines have been revolving in my head since reading Flo’s post so I’m knitting Deleuze into my banal dreams of Chablis drinking mediocritywith a boy I met in LA, talk to occasionally, and who almost deffo doesn’t fancy me back.
The dreams make me feel like I’m lying in the sun after a long winter. On slightly damp grass, with a beer in my hand. God that’s pathetic, man. I’m gonna cringe so hard when I read this later- I think this might be worse than my Bebo Poems. RIPme. Maybe I’m dreaming about them bc it is rlly hard to date in the apocalypse? Maybe I’m dreaming about them Cos I’m in love with them. Maybe it’s a rip in space-time.
Tune in for Near Window 7 to find out about what I think about something else exciting like maybe potatoes or Matisse’s use of blue. Or maybe I’ll write about the neighbours. Or maybe rear window… W h O KN o w 5
PS. LA boy, if you’re reading this and you’ve figured out that it’s about u, I am available for a Chablis en terrasse (or another beverage, I don’t mind) as soon as confinement is over if we’re not dead.
Solstice: through circumstance […] location takes a different meaning
I have listened to this playlist for about an hour so you should probably put it on and just lie down somewhere for a while and listen to it. Ur welcome. It also goes quite nicely with what ur about to read so it comes recommended by me.
Recently, a friend sent me a message about circumstance giving location a different meaning. I’d made a video about a day in the life of my confinement (near window 2) and sent it to him because he’s a film maker (a good one) and you can look at his work here.
He said: while I get a really interesting lens into your space and world, through circumstance then location takes on a different meaning.
I’m confined in one room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. From front door to bath tub(the back of the flat) it is 23 small steps or 16 big ones end to end. It’s five medium sized steps wide. The main room has two big windows that look out into a courtyard. Through it I am treated to a square of sky within which the theatre of spring weather is being enacted. Today is the first day of spring.
My friend, Joe, said that in the film I’d made I’d given him a lens into my world. It’s a small one, but then the world itself is small now, being as how we can have a normally paced conversation an ocean apart. my world in Paris enters into his in Ohio. A splinter in space time, a shard through the earth to layer us: one apartment over another, a Parisian sky playing on a screen in an American house. Playing perhaps on countless screens out there. I dunno, maybe, though most probably not. Most of the content we make goes mostly Unwatched like that guy who made a video of the streets of Tokyo in the rain and all it was was a view of what it might be like to walk in those streets at nightfall in a storm. I watch that video to feel calm. A lens from Paris to Tokyo. Being read by you, wherever you are. Two lenses now. Maybe more. Where you are, where I am now, where the guy in Tokyo was.
In the quite frankly beautiful book And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos by John Berger he says that “the notion of life as lived, is a story being told”. Action is Narrative, everything you do is narrative, it’s just that in order to see the true thread of narrative that runs through the core of your life you forget the minutiae of existence and remember just the big stuff. The film I sent my friend was just the minutiae: a cloud billowing over the neighbours roof, steam billowing from freshly brewed tea, pretending to be in a jungle pushing through my potted fern, my hand in the sun, my right eye.
The narrative doesn’t really exist in the moment though, not until the day is done and you sum up the course of its action. What have I done today, you think, as you slip into bed and close your eyes thrumming with the energy of being and the anticipation of dreaming. Just like characters in novels aren’t themselves aware that they are narrative devices, neither are you. To be aware of your narrative is to see yourself from the outside, to split yourself in two: one you doing, the other observing. One in the lens, and one looking through it.
As I wrote in Near Window 1, what feels like forever ago, but was really only 3 days, I am living my life now at a decelerated pace, like a beautiful but very dull film. Confinement allows you to be outside of yourself in much the same way that a creative practice does (or maybe only if you lend yourself well to a creative practice). except confinement also lets you untether from yourself entirely. Robin Hobb wrote a series of books set in a world where there was a magic called the skill. It allowed you to disentangle yourself from your body and find things in the current, touch minds with others, and listen in the slipstream. The feeling for hobb’s characters was addictive, and she describes it as drifting away from yourself. I feel like this in confinement, looking out the window at the clouds or the windows ranged around me becomes an act of social distancing in itself, except I am distanced not from others but from myself. I unravelled today into thoughts about clouds, that had no structure, and thoughts about time that were pretty juvenile (it’s endless but it’s also finite oooh) and i spent a lot of time thinking about when to make the tortellini I was going to have for dinner (it was good and worth the thought).
Joe said: “through circumstance […] location takes a different meaning”
What is “location”? Where I am right now? Is the location just now, even, and so it is allwheres but only now and not everywhen. Is it space, or place, or something in between? My apartment layered over his at moment of opening the message. One day in the past layered of his in the present, layered over yours in my future when you stray upon this link in the arse end of a google search.
Part of the narrative of the film, near window 2, that I sent to Joe, was the sense of loss I feel at experiencing spring at a distance. Spring is my favourite season. I can feel the becomingness of it in the air, like every morning is Sunday, everything tastes like french orange juice, and smells like grass and muddy knees. I feel a huge disconnect within myself to be separated from it so. I feel like a pressed flower drying out in between the Bs of the Collins dictionary on your grandmothers top living room shelf. Somewhere between Banal and Boring. Of the spring, but separated from it. a bluebell perhaps, like the ones I won’t see at Pinsley Woods this year; or a crocus or a daffodil the likes of which never spring up in Paris, or perhaps a wild orchid like those trampled by workmen last spring by the Quoits. These r v niche references about flowers and places I know so plz put ur references in here – idk what flowers or places u like.
The circumstances mean that my new location is altered, and the relationship between my location and it’s surroundings must be reimagined in order to welcome the spring.
The narrative of spring is different for me now. To return to John Berger: a narrative is “ground anew in every story between the temporal and the timeless.” By putting a lens up to our lives we see it from the outside, and we see the trajectory of our own arrival at ourselves in the current circumstances and location. I am a bundle of 26 springs, wrapped in train journeys and the extended strings of my friendships.
In a way, the current circumstances have rendered location irrelevant, but it has made space and the way we interact with it paramount.
It takes 16 steps to walk the length of my apartment. 23 if I take little ones, yet I managed to make a two minute film of squares of light, green leaves, and linen sheets. The narrative of spring shifts as the lens of its telling changes. These images will be spring now as much as the first blackbird after a March shower, or the first bluebell in the shade.