known unknowns (& unknown knowns)

If in doubt, post pictures of cats — it’s failproof. This is Sylvie helping me pack. She’s giving me her anxious look. The so where are we going, then? look.

It’s been a wee while between blogs. I was going to write at the beginning of the weekend. The thing I was going to write was going to be called benevolent elephants. Then the weekend took a slightly different turn and all of a sudden benevolent elephants didn’t seem very appropriate, and neither did writing, full stop, at all.

It still doesn’t seem so right to write this, even now. Sometimes life just comes out of nowhere. You don’t expect your loved ones to have sudden freak injury visited upon them. It’s not a call you expect to receive. But it’s probably better to live without expecting it… because what kind of a mincing, hedged-in life would that be? Sort of like knowing the exact date of your departure from this earth and trying to stay happy-go-lucky regardless.

In the weekend I spent a bit of time thinking about helplessness and prayer. Helpless praying, I mean. Then I thought about helplessness on its own, and then prayer in its own right, too. I tried not to get in an argument about it, given that someone in our house (and it’s not Sylvie… she’s far to busy with boxes) thinks that prayer is for the weak and deluded.

As for me, I would like to be able to pray. In times of helplessness, at least, it would be helpful. I started out my early life with knees-on-carpet at the foot of the bed (and then graduated to shut eyes and steeple-fingers in front of my face once the whole kneeling kick wore off). And then somewhere early in the teenage years (with their now-laughable turbulence and all that OTT hand-wringing and bleating uncertainty) I couldn’t do it any more.

All those years of carpet-burned kneecaps and not a scrap of faith to show for them. I guess that might have something to do with why I keep worry dolls in the drawer beside my bed.

But still. You put in all that prayer time in your unformed years — sort of like misguided groundwork — and on the rare occasions when utter helplessness finds you later in life, when all your logic and girlguideness and life skills and rote-learned mantras fail you, it’s hard not to assume prayer as the fallback position. So, I didn’t pray this weekend, but I did actually miss prayer. It seemed like it might have been the most useful thing I could have done.

At the moment for school I am writing about known unknowns. How to know them better, etc. It seemed a bit dumb this weekend. Another example of words being all very well and good.

So I thought about unknown things this weekend, too…. the unknown, but not really in a sci-fi kind of way. I wondered why I woke up at 3am-ish this Saturday morning for no apparent reason in a state of fear. And when I sat in my bed and I felt the tremors an hour or so later, I did wonder why my whole body went cold, when night-time rumblings are hardly new to us. I could probably quite easily retrospectively attribute some kind of clairvoyant quality to this, but I won’t. The truth is that while I hadn’t had a night episode before Saturday morning for some time, I don’t think I’ll ever be entirely rid of them. I think I’ll just call it a fitting coincidence.

Shit — I just read over this and it’s got quite heavy (sorry) and taken an existential turn I honestly wasn’t planning. (Did I ever tell you how I dropped out of philosophy 101 because people tried to tell me that my dog didn’t have a soul? That’s a bit  irrelevant right now, but I dislike talking about existentialism in the same way I dislike contemplating Pavlova’s impossible soullessness.) I don’t really know how to U-turn my way out of this sombre little pot-hole. (Is that a mixed metaphor? Or just a slightly uncomfortable one?)

I know. I will end this with 1. biorythms and 2. SLUT graffiti. The slut graffiti, at least, is sort of funny. Let’s go out on a bit of a high note (well, compared with the rest of this dark muddle, anyway…).

1. When we got our first family home computer back in the very late 80s (or it might actually have been 1990) it had a biorythm programme on it. You typed in your birth date and it whipped up a graph with three lines on it — physical, emotional and spiritual — which spiralled away into perpetuity. On the days when two lines crossed it was supposed to be a bad thing. On the days when three crossed — look out — you probably shouldn’t leave the house. We spent a lot of after-school time back in the day trying to predict bad shit with that programme. 

Oh, and I just found an online biorhythm calculation thingy here, in case you want to work out when bad shit is going to happen to you. (There are millions of these sites – this isn’t special or anything.) I admit that (the crockness of) biorhythms did enter my head this weekend too, as well as prayer.

2. SLUT graffiti, Vivian Street. Say no more. (Although it is quite interesting to guess at what might have possessed the graffiti artist to pen this… Bad date? Overbearing mother?) 

11.06pm, maudlin st


A good risotto experiment. Monday down. Ocular condensation. Red tape. Word counts. Cold in the bones. An impending farewell. Wet towels. Dead birds gone missing. Mood lighting. Burrowing. Organisation. Disorganisation. Here and now. Now and here. Yes and no and mostly yes. 

Moulting protea/parched leucadendron. Open door policies. Sweaty windows. Chipped nails. Internet. Prayers. Bed.


But when I say prayers I mean more of the worry doll than the god variety.

Thinking about leaving tonight I thought of this. (Terrible recording, terrifying/terrific song.) Let’s just call it a touch of Monday melodrama and leave it at that. (Or we could call it how many ‘ohs’ can you fit into a single song but that would just be being conveniently cynical, so we won’t call it that at all.)

Winter coming / Winter push on / (push on) / Oh, winter push on / Winter is so long / Winter moves on

The last night on Maudlin Street / Goodbye house, goodbye stairs / I was born here / And I was raised here, and …I took some stick here

Love at first sight / may sound trite / But it’s true, you know / I could list the detail /Of everything you ever wore or said

Or how you stood the day / As we spent the last night / On Maudlin Street / “Goodbye house, forever!” / I never stole a happy hour  / Around here

Where the world’s ugliest boy /Became what you see / Here I am – the ugliest man / Oh, the last night on Maudlin Street

Truly I do love you / Oh, truly I do love you

When I sleep / With that picture of you framed beside my bed / Oh, it’s childish and it’s silly / But I think it’s you in my room, by the bed (…yes, I told you it was silly…)

And I know / I took strange pills / But I never meant to hurt you / Oh, truly I love you

Came home late one night / Everyone had gone to bed / But, you know / No-one stays up for you / I had sixteen stitches / All around my head

Oh, the last bus I missed to Maudlin Street / So he drove me home in the Van / Complaining, “Women only like me for my mind…” / Don’t leave your torch behind / A powercut ahead; 1972, you know

And so we crept through the park / No, I cannot steal a pair of jeans off a clothesline / For you / But you … without clothes / Oh, I could not keep a straight face / Me – without clothes? / Well, a nation turns its back and gags…

I’m packed / I am moving house / A half-life disappears today / With “every hand waves me on” / (secretly wishing me gone) Well, I will be soon / Oh, I will be soon / I will be soon (etc)

There were bad times on Maudlin Street / They took you away in a police car / Inspector – don’t you know? / Don’t you care ? Don’t you know – about Love?

Your gran died / And your mother died / On Maudlin Street / In pain, and ashamed / With never time to say those special things …

Oh / I took the key from Maudlin Street / Well, it’s only bricks and mortar! Oh, oh, truly I love you / Oh, wherever you are / Wherever you are / Wherever you are / I hope you’re singing now / Oh, I do hope / I hope you’re singing now / Oh …    

wild things and worried shoes

All is love

Hey, look, I can review music too!

That’s sort of a private joke, or a not-so-private joke. This won’t be a review, so much. Or it will be a review of my own kind and of my own making.

Today at work I had a musical uplift moment. I don’t know what else to call it. In some spells of life these moments – and not just in music – are dime a dozen. They buoy things along, create a sense of depth and resonance and connection. The world is plentiful and abuzz with meaning and magnificence.

And in some spells nothing happen at all, nothing whatsofuckingever. Even when you hang out on street corners looking for the connection, your hopeful epiphany.  But it’s like using damp tinder for fire. And the more you look, or hope, the less there is anything there to be found.

So. Long story. Short. Work is currently what you would call the latter kind of spell. I don’t know why I bothered to listen to music but I did. I think it was to submerge myself in something. To use those little white ear phones as my do not disturb sign. I wasn’t expecting much; I knew not to look for it.

I was listening to M. Ward. And then he did Rave On. I guess you could say I have a residual Beach Boys thing going on (even though Beach Boys didn’t do Rave On, I think they should have). Beach Boys = happy. I wanted to call my second book Kokomo. This is fraught with a number of complications; chief amongst them is the fact that I haven’t actually got anywhere near finishing my second book. Secondary complications include the fact that getting the rights to just that one word might cost me more than I could ever earn in royalties alone.

I listened to M. Ward and a perceptible mood change took place. I say perceptible, but what I really mean is imperceptible to the world at large but noticeably perceptible to me. It’s not like I took my headphones off and brought joy to the world or anything. But maybe the temperature in the room did rise a notch or two, who knows.

Where the Wild Things Are

Music is one of those things. I don’t know what it is. Okay, so I am married to a music freak, but if someone says to me yeah, I’m just not that into music I know that I will secretly look at them with my head on a bit of a slant and never have anything meaningful to do with them thereafter. To me, no feeling for music suggests a fundamentally bland soul. And I am not an especially judgemental person (unlike some I could name).

Not long after I listened to Rave On Si picked me up, we got fish and chips and I returned to work at the kitchen table. But it was tolerable work because I had saved the best until last, and I also had a glass of wine and fish and chips, which helped.

As a sidenote or segue into my next thought, maybe one day I will write a post about how I have been totally shortchanged on the mail front. All my mail comes with windows, unless it is something I have purchased from the biggest and most dangerous store of all – the internet.

[Simon, on the other hand, receives bundles of parcels every day. On days when there are no parcels he supposes that there must have been a customary courier bungle or that there’s a mail thief lurking in the neighbourhood.]

So, tonight, in one of the parcels that wasn’t for me was the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack by Karen O and The Kids. I’m on my third go round and I will probably go back for a fourth, before returning to M. Ward and then capping the evening off with some of the Beach Boys’ mellower repertoire. It’s great! And there’s my review.

Adventures of Max

But before I slink off to be with the Beach Boys, I should probably say that my favourite song thus far is the cover of Daniel Johnston’s song Worried Shoes.

Paper lyrics against white and nothing else always seem a little bit lacking to me (probably something to do with the fact that they’ve been stripped of the music), but I am going to replicate these, anyway.

I am not much of a shoe shopper, but I do have a pair of worried shoes.


I took my lucky break and I broke it in two
Put on my worried shoes
My worried shoes
And my shoes took me so many miles and they never wore out
My worried shoes
My worried shoes
oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo
My worried shoes
I made a mistake and I never forgot
I tied knots in the laces of
My worried shoes
And with every step that I’d take I’d remember my mistake
As I marched further and further away
In my worried shoes
oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo
My worried shoes
And my shoes took me down a crooked path
Away from all welcome mats
My worried shoes
And then one day I looked around and I found the sun shining down
And I took off my worried shoes
And the feet broke free
I didn’t need to wear
Then I knew the difference between worrying and caring
‘Cause I’ve got a lot of walking to do
And I don’t want to wear
My worried shoes

my worry dolls

worrydollsThese are my worry dolls. I have had them since I was quite small. Or not really small but I have had them for about 18 years and have kept them by my bed all around the world. Once I lost them but then I found them again, in a whole new continent. I’d like to say the worries went the day the dolls resurfaced, but that would be a lie. The looming things did seem a bit more palatable, though.

In my time I have lost diamond rings and all manner of things you might call valuable. Although temporarily mislaid, I have never lost a worry doll.

Without the bag in this photo, you’d have no sense of scale. They might be massive. Totems in a snowstorm (actually it’s the bench in my bathroom and they are tiny). The mucky threads probably give the game away, though.

I suppose they are the opposite of voodoo dolls. And when I think of some of the worries I have bestowed on them in my time it makes me a bit sad, and sort of self-aware. Like looking back on a photo of your old self in a really bad outfit. But then realising you’d probably wear the same outfit all over again because that’s just who you are. Or realising you’re still wearing it. That you never took it off; you only thought you did.

My now worries seem more substantial than my then worries. But that’s a matter of time and perspective (rather than of true scale, speaking of scale).