Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The lonely life of a language assistant.

I grew up in the countryside, and my childhood is a blur of running through fields with other children, collecting spiders and examining slugs.

So I can't believe I now long for the city. It feels like a betrayal of that wide-eyed boy, telling his parents knowingly that he too would live in the country when he grew up.

What happened? I suppose University did. My student-hood is a blur of running through streets with other students, collecting friends and examining the opposite sex.

And now, so freshly converted to the rush of the city, I find myself back in the fields. Admittedly this time the fields of a different country.

Life here is more challenging than I thought it would be. My main problem is making friends. Ever since the I arrived, I have been part of a close circle of assistants in Gap, and a wider circle of assistants in surrounding towns. They are superb - we have lots of fun together, they are the ones most likely to understand how you feel, and have the same ridiculous amount of spare time.

But then, the majority of us are out here to practice our French, so you begin to look around for French friends. I simply can not seem to do it. I have tried to make myself available. Done stupid things like go to Judo classes and go snow-shoeing, met up for drinks with 18 year old IT students and even offered free individual conversation classes. To no avail.

The closest I have come to friendship with the natives is playing squash wish two French guys every week. This is progress I admit, but as I pointed out to a friend, we are not relaxing at each other's houses, we are hitting a rubber ball against a wall and then shaking hands. My point is that it is hardly a deep friendship.

As Christmas draws closer, for me the focus falls on the fact that I have failed to make friends here. I do not forget my assistant friends - but I understand that they too have their battle to make a life here, which can't simply be a series of anglophone nights in.

So, what am I supposed to do? Write angry letters? Advertise in the local newspapers that I am alone? Or come back in the New Year with a daft resolution to befriend a stranger every single day.

I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I believe finding friends out here MUST BE possible, I'm just tired of not knowing how, and not knowing where to look.


The Sun is a Man, final draft.

In not all but most mythologies,
the sun is a man. The sun is a man
who sets in drag the furrowed skies,
chained fast to the deeply scarred earth.

Unlike Icarus, who is
neither man nor sun. Neither man nor sun,
he is freed between starred sky and sea,
for just half a world's turn.

In not all but most mythologies
The sun is a god. The sun is a god
who paves the untilled sky,
gauging channels deep into sacred land.

Like Daedalus, who is
both god and man. Both god and man
whose son's rise became his downfall,
his creations became his prison.

In not all but this mythology,
God is a man. God is a man.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

the sun is a man.

In not all but most mythologies
The sun is a man. The sun is a man
who sets in drag the furrowed skies
chained fast to that deep scarred land

unlike Icarus
Neither man nor sun. Neither man nor sun
freed under the cool darkness
for just half a world’s turn

In not all but most mythologies
The sun is a god. The sun is a god
who paves the untilled sky
channels fast gouged into sacred land

like Daedalus
Both god and man. Both god and man
whose son’s rise was his downfall
his creations his prison

In not all but this mythology
God is a man. God is a man

Thursday, 18 November 2010


Dear Ether,

I have not abandoned you. I am just hella busy. I know you understand. I have much to tell you.


Monday, 1 November 2010

Words… worth?


I was walking down Gap’s highstreet today. I grabbed a baguette from my local patisserie, strolled past the bank, and was peering into the pharmacy when I was struck by a thought.

No one here cares about words.

Throughout my living memory learning has been the highest achievement, unquestionably the highest summit to be climbed. From the age of 16 onwards, this has been more and more expressed in my own personal fascination with words, and language.

Honestly, I have never even considered that anything else would be worth pursuing. I have dedicated myself to language (and by language I incorporate literature) whole heartedly, knowing it to be the right road to take. Today I realised that I may well be mistaken. Bakers do not care about words. Pharmacists do not care about words. Accountants most certainly do not care about words. However, these are different professions which I can see must offer different challenges and different rewards.
In fact, a deeper challenge to my love of words lay at the gym, later in the day. Here, lying on the floor, panting, defeated, I felt in a world entirely apart from the world of words. Instead, a world opened up in which effort was counted in sweat, reps and pure physical effort. Not word counts. Suddenly, words seemed a very cowardly retreat, a place where the most strenuous effort one could undertake is to write, or to dare to strain at a thought. Any old idiot can ‘think’ I realised. It is here, in sport, or in any other path which demands physical effort in which real action is taken and real meaning found.

It is very hard to express how deeply all this shocked me. I think the most accurate comparison can be made to an argument: You are arguing your side, you know you are right, you have the points lined up and are reeling them off in elegant, impassioned prose. Suddenly, whoever you are arguing with makes a valid and reasonable point with which you can’t really argue with.

In much the same way, I found my confidence in my words shaken. Who am I to say they are worthy of committing my life to? Or even merely my youth? I see now that learning has for so long been the given aim of my life – in school, in college, in University, that now I am at work I feel as though someone has taken the stabilisers off – ‘go on, off you go, find meaning!’

I also know that I am still free to spend my life in my world of words. But now I can see that it is merely a retreat – a paperback shelter against the world of work, can I still hide there guilt-free?

In between these lines already lies the answer. For none of this changes that I love language, literature, French, novels, poems, articles, lyrics, speeches… any old bit of writing really.

Thanks for the title Alex.


Friday, 29 October 2010


My eyes crack open and light fills my vision, as if it were a wave breaking across my aching eyes. Without moving, I survey what I can see: The sand, inches from my face, rolling away to a stark horizon of sky. I can only be face down. I take a deep breath – the air is dry and grates against my insides, sand suddenly filling my mouth, forcing me instead to retch and choke a forced cough, pain shooting down my sides. I attempt to get up, and drag my arms across the scorching sand, only for them to remain lying by my sides. I can see them now, wasted away and burnt by the sun, bare except for a few strands of fabric falling to my elbow. I stare at them, willing them to lift me to my feet, but they are still, but for a twitch.

I realise that in my fit I have pushed myself onto my side, and can now not just see the sand below me, but shadows and shapes strewn in the sand. I squint through the light, and can make out that beside me lies part of a great carved statue. Once an effigy of a man, all that remains is part of the torso, torn from shoulder to waist, as if pulled in two by some terrible force. The face remains, and stares upwards, unblinking into the light.
Slightly above him lies another shape, but does not appear to share the same sandstone colouring, instead the skin is dark and almost human. I blink sand out of my eyes and stare harder. I surely recognise that rounding of the shoulder, that pink bare foot splayed out to one side. My eyes dart at the sight of movement, only to catch a scrap of red silk fluttering weakly in the arid breeze. Red silk. My memory flashes images of the material wrapped loosely around the body, bright and luxurious. I know this man, and yet cannot name him. I retreat into thought, replaying snippets of conversations I know we once shared. My eyes now screwed shut against the invasive light, pounding against me, preventing me from remembering my friend. I lose myself in this, searching ever more frantically for who I am looking directly at, but the harder I think, the more forcefully this heat beats me back, forcing me to retreat back to what I know. The sand, the light, the heat.

I finally force myself to look away, knowing my friend is dead, for below the scrap of silk runs a gash which traces his spine, long since darkened and dried by the sun. I shift my eyes below the figure, to something much closer, and half buried in the sand. I remember this to, a slab of carvings and symbols, my eyes follow left to right, scanning the text for any sense. I cannot read it, I recognise the letters, and know they concern me, but cannot make sense of them. I frantically search with my eyes, tearing at the slab up and down, focusing hard and definitely, trying to pronounce every letter. It is impossible. I must be able to read. I wrote this. I know I wrote it with a certainty beyond which I felt capable. I look at it again, letters burnt into stone, engraved in my memory, but only see letters, shapes which now hold no meaning.

I once again try to get up, and this time succeed in pulling myself to my knees. My face hidden from the sun, my whole body crying out against the movement. The sun intensifies impossibly and feels now like a physical weight against my crouched stance, pushing me back towards the sand. I slowly raise my eyes and am faced by landscape of broken bodies and buildings. The scene is repeated over and over all around me: a land taken by force, not suddenly, but over time – in words, in work, and finally in war. This shadow of a former glory fills me with another rush of memory. I remember courtyards full of people, market stalls piled high with food and luxury and the constant calls of voices in the air. I listen, but now there is only silence.

In the distance, above the debris, a spire still stands. My eyes fix upon it, its silhouette seeming to stand against the stark brightness of the rest of horizon. At its peak I can make out the outline of a great eagle, spread against the sky, as if about to take to the air. I know this eagle is how I once was: grand and effortless in movement, atop every building and mountain, even in the air itself. I remember well the people’s half whispered praises and prayers. I felt their worship just like wind under the eagle’s wings.

I remember too when this new sun was merely a dim glow on the horizon, a curiosity which drew fleeting interest. It then broke as a dawn, casting long shadows from North to South across the land. It bred fear and suspicion, and the people kept their prayers to themselves and muttered against my name instead.
Finally this terrible sun rose, and I was powerless to help, as my people forsook me for this light. And now, I remember the end. I remember the terrible loss that was suffered and extent of the ruin which lies at my feet. I turn my eyes up to the sun, its ferocity blinding me immediately. I stare on, focusing upon its white hot centre in order to erase everything from sight, to have to look at my failure no longer. Finally my eyes are burnt out with light, even turning my head all that I can see is the forced, bleached white of a blinded man. I do not cry out, but with one last effort I throw myself back to my knees, offer my palms to the red hot sand and let the sun take my exposed neck.

Here I pray, not to my gods, who I have seen strewn around me, or to my people, who are long dead. Here I pray to the Light, to its power, and its forgiveness.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Still ‘ere.

Dear Ether,

I suppose simply being here should not be a surprise. But it continually surprises me; I thought I was just coming on holiday for a bit… I think Gap compounds this sensation by its idyllic nature. Every shuttered window and every sunset-lit mountain, every pain au chocolat and every ill advised third glass of wine insists this is not real life, and any minute the shutters will come rolling down and I’ll have to go home.

However, the show does go on, and thankfully my audiences of French teenagers seem to have taken to me quite well. Some of them even let me eat with them tonight. Others shake my hand. I did catch some girls giggling once, but then realised I was wearing my T-shirt inside out, so it’s 50-50 as to whether they were giggling at my good looks or my inability to get dressed for work. Oh and they also think it’s really funny I like cereal. Seems if its not pastry it’s a no go for breakfast.

I do get homesick though. I miss all kinds of things. I just tell myself you always want what you can’t have. I must have made a decision at some point to come all this way from home, so I have only myself to blame for missing it.

OH. And I did also spend my first day with Italians. The rumours are true, they are the slowest people in the world. I pray no Italians get this far through this post. But I’ll be damned if it didn’t take them THRICE the amount of time it would take any Englishman to complete any activity / walk / social custom.

And now I’m going to try and travel through strike stricken France to see friends and see France. It’s a valiant aim and one I intend to at least try and get on a train for. Wish me la chance, and wish me le courage.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Plaster cast teacher.

The bed is now covered in an assortment of clothes and discarded belongings, and the walls are plastered with an array of friends’ glossy faces. My floor is covered by a huge blue rug which I found for four euros in a second hand shop. Music is on for every waking second, and I already have several odd socks, despite only packing pairs. Life seems to manifest itself in a similar manner. Sometimes purposefully, but often serendipitously, a day’s events add another detail to the innumerable count which make up a full and happy life. I have not been here very long, so perhaps it is merely illusion, but very rapidly I have found myself in a life of socialising, work and furniture shopping.

This morning I took a class alone, by myself, un-aided, sans-assistance. You get the idea. Sitting at the front of a class of French teenagers with nothing but a board marker and a lesson plan feels a bit like going to battle unarmed. All these strange children suddenly look up at you expectantly, waiting for you to start. The feeling that I should be sat with them, looking up at some poor other foreigner was immediately overwhelming. However, I gripped my pen tight, put on my best teacher’s voice and began. And you know what, they listened, learnt and reacted, just as if I was a teacher. A shaky and somewhat strange teacher, but a teacher nonetheless.

I already reckon that’s the trick of it, this adulthood lark. You just have to know how to cover up the cracks which reveal your still a kid. If you can imitate the rudimentary moves which you’ve seen a teacher do a thousand times; hang up your coat, write on the board, demand attention, then your half way there. Of course, I didn’t have the same finesse as a teacher, my writing was as spidery and lopsided as it is in real life, and all of a sudden I couldn’t spell to save my life. It was my very first class though, and I reckon with a bit more practise you won’t be able to spot me from a real life adult. Except for my insistent lack of facial hair.

Work aside, me and ‘my assistants’ also had our first taste of French clubbing over the weekend. It was pretty surreal. There was none of that strolling down to the club at half ten. Oh no, we drank until midnight and then got into a car (equipped with sober driver) and did a half hour drive into the mountains. Not to a nearby town or anything, just to the discotheque that existed alone on the mountainside. Through the smoke filled car I could make out road lines and other, less sober drivers, but that was about it. We finally arrived, and us English found the drive had left us both sober and sleepy. However, we were at ‘la Garenne’ now, like it or not, so we hit the Jack Daniel’s and then hit the floor. 3h30am and we were still going for it, breaking moves that these French guys hadn’t even seen before. I danced so hard I’m still getting leg cramps several days later. After the long descent back to Gap me and Nathan got back to our flat with just enough energy to eat some leftover chilli before collapsing into our antique beds.

I suppose I shall stop there for now, although there is more to tell. I think I might like it here.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

above and below the clouds.


I KNOW. I know.

I said I would write to record these times. But I haven’t yet. Simply because I have been far, far too scared. Any attempt at writing would have almost certainly manifested itself in a gibbering rant of things I am scared of. Which is practically everything. Even getting here was scary:

I discovered, as the plane hurtled down the runway towards Lyon, that I was definitely and unavoidably scared of flying. So, I spent the first half of the flight clinging to my seat and mentally willing the plane to stay in the air, as I was sure it wouldn’t. My main problem was that once I had grown accustomed to the shrinking countryside below me ‘pretend its normal, pretend its normal’ we hit the clouds. I could not deal with that. My head just kept repeating, ‘we should not be next to clouds, we should not be next to clouds’. Then, ‘we should not be IN THE CLOUDS, definitely not IN THEM.’ Then finally, ‘OH GOD, NOT ABOVE THE CLOUDS. AT NO POINT SHOULD I BE ABOVE CLOUDS.’

At this point however, they handed out croissants and coffee, which at least distracted me from the temporary absence of ground. Supplementing my free food and drink (AND SWEETS) with music made me suddenly feel like king of all I surveyed. Here was the beginning of ‘the new life’; treated like a nobility, soaring above the ground and with a hotel booking on the other side.

The rest of the day passed in the same on-top-of-the-world kind of way: I booked into my hotel, using French I’d only practised three hundred times in my head ‘Bonjour, j’ai un réservation sou le nom de Ready…’ And proceeded to strip down to my boxers, lay on my bed, and watch French cops. YES. Then, I called my friend Chloe and made plans to meet in Lyon later – I had a few hours to kill, so I asked a couple of people, and explored the city in a straight line so as not to get lost.

The afternoon soon passed and I quickly found myself in a French apartment, sipping red wine, whilst surveying the dark street below me. This paired with a glass of cassis, catching up with Chloe (in French bien sur) in a bar in town left me with a good impression of the Lyonnais life.

I felt sure that my luck had to break soon. As I joined the early morning queue in Lyon station the next morning, I felt it might be then. I had woken up at 6:30am, giving myself plenty of time, but had squandered most of my time leisurely breakfasting in the hotel. My luck held though, and I eventually bought a ticket for GAP (EEE!) with the nice lady reassuring me I’d have no problem.

The train to Grenoble struck me as almost identical to my interail summer- on the way to a strange place, with only my bag and my passport to my name. At Grenoble though, my luck did break, and I was faced with something far worse than anything we’d encountered on the Europe trip:

Me: ‘is the Chamberly train going to Gap?’
Man-in-box: ‘non’
Me: ‘which train is going to Gap?’
Man-in-box: ‘it has been cancelled’
Me: ‘Oh! Well, when is the next one?’
Man-in-box: ‘18h15 ce soir’
Me: ‘WHAT?’
Man-in-box: ‘18h15 ce soir’
Me: ‘WHAT?’
etc. etc.

I was stranded in Grenoble with nothing to do until ‘18h15 ce soir’. The current time was 8:30am. With plans to meet my supervisor at Gap station at 12:30 I got my phone out to tell her I wouldn’t be arriving until nearly nine that evening. My phone refused to call her. Feeling hard done to, I tried to ring my Mum instead to tell her how unfair it all was. My phone instead died.

With no left-luggage, I then set off in the rain to find a café with wi-fi. I found a shitty fake McDonald’s, where I stayed most of the day, drinking coke and trying to pass the time, even resorting to verse:

I’ve killed so much time it’s a massacre,
and the seconds are begging to be spared,
and the minutes are dragging themselves
across the floor, asking at what time this will end?

I riled myself an hour before my departure time to go and see how the station was faring. It was chaos – most trains now seemed to be cancelled, only some of which had been turned into coaches and buses. I was one of those which now had a coach to catch. I faced the rain and joined a group of other people under a sign which read ‘18h15 Gap’. The coach appeared and the crowd began to surge forward. I had already waited for eight hours, and wasn’t about to miss the only way out of Grenoble, so I forced my way on, flopped into a seat, and gazed back out at the forlorn, damp looking crowd, most of which I could see were not going to get a seat.

Here things hit rock bottom. People tried to physically force their way onto the coach. Conductors were swamped by swathes of panicking people, demanding another coach into the Alps. There wasn’t one. The driver then stood at the front and then beseeched the seated to give up their seats for ‘minors and women’. Not many did, and I hid under the anonymity of the seated’s awful behaviour.

The coach into Gap was at least as scary as the plane. Fog descended so the driver could not have seen more than a few feet in front of him, rain lashed the side of the coach and flooded the winding path, and darkness fell. I found myself once again gripping the seat and trying to take refuge in music. This time, I did not feel like a king. I felt very alone, and very tired.

The bus did finally start winding its way down into what was evidently Gap from the palpable feeling of relief on the coach. Two assistants in Gap, one my future flatmate, had kindly agreed to meet me at the station, and despite me being approximately nine and a half hours late, they did so. My triumphant arrival in Gap had turned into a drag, but nonetheless I was unbelievably relieved to peer through the darkness at the building I was to call my home. Here, supplied with pizza and a beer, they broke the news to me that they had already decided to get an apartment together – this meant that Nathan would move out of this flat, into one with Lauren. Soon after this, I climbed uncertainly into my white, empty bed, in the corner of my white, empty room and fell asleep too exhausted even to panic.


Saturday, 4 September 2010


I have reason to believe, that I have victories to taste,
I can feel them on my teeth, upon my lips and in my chest,
I can roll them on my tongue, they are more supple than defeat
I feel the tension in my lungs and every move is filled with my resolve to…


Yesterday I received an email which began: ‘j'ai le plaisir de vous annoncer que le lycée pourra vous loger tous les deux dans un appartement de trois pièces’


I feel like I have landed on my feet without having set off yet: not just a great job in a cool place but the all important accomodation fix too! The relief cannot be described: There are a thousand horror stories I have written in my head in which I fail to find anywhere to live and end up paying 1,0000000 euros a month to stay in a ski hut, or end up staying the year in some terrible fucking bedsit.

Breathe. Maybe I can do this after all.

ALP. xxx

Thursday, 2 September 2010


Dear Ether,

I have a new laptop. It is beautiful. Too much time has already been spent getting to know it, learning its intricacies and complexities, holding one way conversations late into the night.

It is both for ‘THE NEW LIFE’ (as I refer to my year abroad internally as) and as an avoidance tactic against thinking about it.

As my Dad said ‘you might spend a lot of time looking at that screen where you're going'.

Aside from this all I want to do is spout clichés about moving on, being lucky and staying happy.

P.S I’ve just decided I’m going to quit my course and try my hand at shepherding. That can’t be that taxing now there aren’t any wolves around.

A la prochaine.

Monday, 30 August 2010

A long lost letter.

Dear Ether,

In my head Europe was going to be filled with intermissions for blog writing in sleepy little cafes off town sqaures. But of course Europe wasn’t how it was in my head at all, and there certainly wasn’t any time for sleepy blog writing. It was however, amazing and everything I wanted it to be – an unforgettable experience I will carry with me forever in the tiny diary with hundreds of pages scribbled on trains and yet more photos taken in both sun and rain.

And I think that goes some way to explaining why this blog post comes so late. Denial that it was to ever end: Me and L wrote a diary every single day, yet there is a space in both our diaries on the day we arrived home where the last entry was supposed to be written…

I am eventually coming to terms with the fact that I am no longer an inter-railer, traveller, camper, survivalist, or any of the other terms I liked to refer to myself as whilst in Europe, if only because I have to start writing again at some point before I end up leaving the country again…


Anyway: rather than merely failing to talk about Europe at all, I’m going to attempt a photo+summary of each place we visited on the trip:


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I think this photo nicely captures how ‘apprehensive’ (read: shit scared) we were about our adventure. I wish I could tell us not to worry.


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It’s Artemis our trusty tent! On his debut pitch, which was made v. difficult by exhaustion + ground made of PURE ROCK. Paris was huge and overwhelming – we spent our time beating the streets seeing as much as we could with our precious little time. We saw a lot, and walked further.


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Avignon was similarly beautiful, but strikingly different in its rural, fortified beauty. Also, our arrival coincided with a theatre and music festival which meant the streets were bustling with performers and actors. Wonderful atmosphere and constantly entertatining.


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An unplanned stop which yielded beauty, fun AND pizza in equal measures. We loved it here.


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Shockingly beautiful at every turn and every view, Florence really captured me. Also, good fun playing cards against some dutch girls late into the night…


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Another unplanned stop, this time just a one-nighter to see the tower (which was magnificent) before training off to:


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having been asked the question, ‘where was your favourite place?’ a few times by more curious friends and family – my honest answer has to be Rome. It is a deservedly famous place for its historic beauty encompassing two thousand plus years…


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It’s incredibly beautiful and was a great mid-trip break from being real ‘travellers’. Instead we turned into tourists for a couple of nights and just lay in the sun; eating ice cream and swimming in the clear waters. Blissssss.


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Venice is unique, beautiful, but not a great place to be in the rain. After getting fed up of the non-stop downpour we went to a restaurant instead. Take THAT weather!


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I know, a strange picture. But it gets in a lot about Vienna: it’s full of museums for one, but is also a striking mixture of new and old architecture, both striking in their own rights.

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Yet ANOTHER unplanned stop, but similarly rewarding. Fantastic lakeside campsite (super cheap!), beautiful old town and we only got flooded once…


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Another shot of camping life. I loved Prague, a city of incredible beauty and great beer!


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By now we were on a two night schedule, which didn’t feel enough time to do justice to a city as rich as Berlin. Yet as can be seen I continued to find the time to make new friends…


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Amsterdam was another city of seemingly incompatible opposites: cathedrals next to red light districts? A city with a campsite on a small island on its outskirts? It was a much loved stop and another place I’d love to see again.


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I know! We’ve already been here! But our circular route inevitably led us back to where we began. So once again we marched the streets of Paris, this time with the pavements of a dozen other cities already trampled under our feet.

I have never travelled before but now will certainly travel again: Just as our frantic dash around the continent did not do it justice, nor does this quick summary do our trip justice…

All that remains is to say a la prochaine, Europe.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Diving Board.

Dear Ether,

At three 'o clock tomorrow morning I will start my journey to mainland Europe.

I already feel as though I'm very far away from home down here in Portishead, or 'Posset' as it is affectionately referred to as by the locals. There is the tang of salt water blown over by wind which takes you back to English holidays as a child. There are strange views of waters illuminated by distant lights which could be of anywhere in the world.

However, it is the half-packed rucksack which already weighs roughly the same as me and the endless lists of things to remember which insist most forcefully that I am not quite there yet. That first day of holiday feeling, stood at the edge of a pool and trying to muster the courage to jump in. You know the water will be lovely, but lapping at your feet it looks cold and foreboding.

Next post from the deep end.

Monday, 12 July 2010

vegetation annihilation.



Even the utopian prospect of Europe is shadowed by money worries and by the impossibility of leaving Paris by anything but the most expensive train in the world ever.

I shouldn’t complain.

If you voted Tory I hope they fuck you over harder as reward.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Clover Lover.

Dear Ether,

Our house verges on what we affectionately refer to as ‘the wasteland’. A dramatic name for what is essentially an overgrown bit of grass where a garden was supposed to be. The farm who owns it ran out of money attempting to build a house next to ours.

However, the wasteland was once a treasured land to me. It was the site of many a ‘bug collecting expedition’ and even a favoured hiding place of my old cat. It’s real value though lay in an scraggly clover patch in one corner.

This patch is a place where I spent many hours scouring the ground, pouring over each clover, as I knew that hidden therein  were four leafed clovers. I have no memory of first finding a four leafed clover there, but the constant, if elusive, presence of four leaf clovers in that patch was something as certain to me as the order of numbers or the infallibility of parents. Still our house’s encyclopaedias and dictionaries are filled with four leaf clovers pressed between tissue and pages years ago.

Since then four leafed clovers have become a recurring motif in my life: Taking a six leafed clover into show and tell in primary school earned the strange boy from Singapore an even more mysterious air.

At secondary school I defended my detention free record by any lengths of swat-ery imaginable. However, on one fateful morning I found I had forgotten my French exercise book. An oversight that was punished unfailingly and unflinchingly, with a detention. I still remember being stood outside of the classroom with my friends smirking at the prospect of me on the verge of losing my detention free record. In front of them, I removed a four leaf clover from my wallet and asked it for the luck for the teacher to be ill (for supply teachers would not know to check). Inevitably, a supply teacher rounded the corner and I was spared. The look of disbelief on my friends’ faces as I escaped from this certain doom is still with me today.

More recently, a farmer took to the wasteland zealously with a strimmer and decimated the entire clover patch. I was upset, but was leaving for University and felt it was the ending of the clover era.

Last year, On walking with L through the countryside, I happened upon another four leaf clover which she now keeps in her purse and which accompanies her to exams. It was a bitter-sweet find as it reminded me that my clover patch was no more.

This morning however I passed the wasteland on my way to mow the lawn. At only a cursive glance I saw that the clover patch had grown back where it once had. On closer inspection I found that somehow, after all these years, and even after being mown down, that precious patch was still growing its four leafed clovers, now left unpicked and unseen by the world.

Long live its four leafed legacy.

A la prochaine.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

On a distant prospect.

Dear Ether,

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The last Liverpudlian sunset I’ll bear witness to for a long time.

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The prospect of things to come.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Go-faster thoughts.

Dear Ether,

My Dad driving us through the rain-splattered night, discussing culture and literature to the radio’s insistent slow-drumming beat is about as good as it gets.

I like to run at night and watch the lamp posts blur into go faster stripes, urging me onwards.

The smell and tension of rain yet to fall on parched concrete brings cities back to nature and heads back to senses.

Falling asleep on a train is the biggest thrill a commuter can possibly take: on awaking you could literally be ANYWHERE (on that line).

Emotive writing is both weak and superficial. All else is mundane.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Lines written: #1

we drank so much the stars
crossed before our eyes
whispered sweet-nothings
and disappeared

we woke to traffic
criss-crossing the sky
blaring monotones
and insisted

we rise and face
the crusted mid-day
nagging sensibility
and waited

we hid so the dusk
kissed our conscience
soothing sins
and repeated.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


Dear Ether,

I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard of Roland Barthe’s semiotic readings, but here is a short article / analysis of an iPad advertisement in a similar style to his. Enjoy!

The Must-Have Facebook Update:

Apple seems to think they’ve found it. The new iPad is featured in advertisement boasting of its ‘groundbreaking’ Facebook application. In this advertisement the user is reclined on a luxurious looking sofa casually updating, ‘Grab a coffee with me after you’ve finished unpacking?’ This seems an inane enough statement at first glance, so why on Earth have Apple chosen it to guide the hordes to their doors?

Of its significance I’d first seize upon the idea of ‘grabbing a coffee’. Coffee is synonymous with both luxury and convenience, the ultimate statement of metropolitan life, perhaps a reflection of the nature of the iPad; itself heralded to be the ultimate combination of quality and ease of usage. The act of ‘grabbing a coffee’ is also attractive to a large section of potential ‘iPadders’: lovers grab coffees on sunny days, work associates reluctantly huddle over over-sized mugs on rainy days, teenagers with birthdays grab coffees to establish their newly found middle-class identities.
So why choose to specify the task of unpacking? Here unpacking is not simply menial activity resigned to the end of holidays but an implication of travelling; the exotic and horizon broadening nature of globe-trotting. Once again, comparison must be made back to the iPad, not only is the iPad for travellers say Apple, but it is as worthy and multi-faceted as travel itself.

That our user knows this friend has recently been travelling also implies a past dialogue, which when advertising social media is crucial. In fact, not only does this ‘iPadder’ know what his friend has been doing (travelling) and what she is doing (unpacking) but he can also make future plans (coffee)! It’s almost as if they’d held a conversation– which sadly they cannot have done, because the iPad does not function as a telephone.

Also notable is the very deliberate move away from the ‘dialect’ of the internet. There is a marked difference between the rather civilised request to go for coffee (written in standard English) and text-talk’s melange of acronyms and phonic spellings often found on social media: ‘LOL @ mi kat, it iz asleep’.

Whether the advertisement’s update is truly must-have is perhaps questionable. I can’t help thinking more scintillating requests must have been made over Facebook than Apple’s example. What is undeniable however is that Apple’s version is as carefully crafted to its clientele as its product is.

Friday, 18 June 2010

I got love.

So let’s party in the supermarkets,
Move to the rhythm of my heartbeat,
I’ll take my tie right off my neck,
and wear it tied up round my head.

I’ll laugh right in the face of death,
I’ll fight this fight until my last breath,
For the frightened fall as often yet
far closer than the brave,
We’ve only got one life, let’s use it,
You can’t stop the movement,
So choke on that, you can quote that
You can write it on my grave,

"I got love", I’ve got so much love
Love in my heart and this feeling I can’t let it go.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

False Idle.

Dear Ether,

I am very much in love with Oscar Wilde’s writing. So I am awfully sorry if I imitate any of his mannerisms. But the only original writing is stolen, as Wilde might have said.

However, no matter how much I admire Wilde, I don’t think I’d call him an idol of mine. I think idol implies that you admire their lives as well as their work, and although I hold Wilde’s work in high-esteem, I don’t think I fancy being locked up for buggery. I’m not sure you can be locked up for buggery anymore, but the point is I don’t think I’d cope well in a prison environment.

I did once argue that my favourite band were my idols. The voice of Patrick, the body and the lyrical verve of Pete – why not? Well, because they’re just kids with guitars who got lucky. I don’t think luck is a particularly desirable trait in an idol.

One of my friends objects to idols in principle. Arguing that to idolise someone, especially someone you’ve never met, is senseless because they are human and therefore are as flawed as you. I however think that’s like objecting to having dreams on the grounds they might not come true.

So in my post-exam idleness I’m on the hunt for new idols, a team of superheroes to silver-line my clouds and reinforce my inner monologue with the desire to do better.

Any suggestions?

A la P. x

Monday, 14 June 2010

Sleep Talker.

This curtained corner of the world is asleep. Yet still she implores me with scratched-face, rubbed-eyes, arms held out and laughter bursting forth. Neither a dream nor memory, a mockery of each which haunts me every night.

Perhaps too tired, too stressed, too deep in sleep to contain her dreams, instead they spill out and confront me in pleading voice:

‘I don’t understand, I don’t understand. I don’t understand.’

Friday, 11 June 2010


Dear Ether,

To get it out the way; the exam was ok. I read like hell before the exam and wrote like hell in the exam and that’s a combination that’s yet to fail me. So in the absence of superstition all I can do is not cross my fingers and wait.

The immediate aftermath was deliciously blurry and late night-ed, which picked me up and threw me back into the social whirlwind which I love so dearly. That weekend was also charged with the anticipation of the LUDAAS which I was gut-wrenchingly excited for.

And oh how they delivered. It was an incredibly night and exactly what it should have been: a celebration of a great year of great drama. Everyone was dressed to the nines and beyond in dresses and suits, smiles and nerves.Because of course the night included AWARDS. I think everyone who won an award had earned it, and even those winners were merely la crème of a very high quality crème.

I concede I was amongst the serendipitous few to be blessed with an award, and I honestly could not stop smiling. All night. Not a photograph smile, not a happy smile, but a full on crack-your-face-in-two beam.

I was that happy because it recognised not just my own effort (and I do admit I spent a lot of nights shouting at my wall in a cockney accent for that award) but the efforts of everyone involved. When I went up I thanked my casts and my directors, and I genuinely think that’s where the magic lies. I couldn’t have been Les without Barry/Jerry/Steve and I couldn’t have been that actor without all the others who were with me on stage and at the bar.

The night began in a full suit in a posh joint in the docks and ended at dawn under a tree with a friend, and the time between was spent throwing myself onto the dance floor, into a thousand photographs, and into the arms of my so very very inebriated friends. I couldn’t have been happier.

The next day promised a new chapter, in the form of an unanticipated trip to Wales. To be honest, it should have been anticipated, apparently I had been informed of the dates several times. However, in a bar the night before when I had been reminded that we were leaving for Wales tomorrow I simply insisted that it wasn’t until NEXT Tuesday. Oh dear.

In the end all that confusion paled to the greatness that was the Wales adventure. It seemed the perfect opportunity to rest our fatigued minds and bodies in the peaceful surrounds of the Welsh countryside.

Picnicking beside a slow-moving river, skipping stones and taking in the beautiful landscape, that’s exactly what it was. I don’t think city-soiled students ever thought they would appreciate the serenity of the setting so. Except of course for Morris, who I assume missed this moment as he was trying to work where EXACTLY we were on google latitude, despite having no idea where we were in Wales.

The rest element of this trip was however side-lined slightly by our insistence on taking the night as well. We talked, a lot. An incessant stream of in-jokes, impersonations and teasing which has left me with aching ribs even now. We also found time for debate and conversation which made me fall in love with these fascinating creatures I call friends all over again.

We also found time for an awful, awful film, which left us in tears and laughter for such wrong reasons. For reference, one scene included a small Japanese boy throwing condoms filled with holy water at his newly zombified foster-father. You can only imagine.

This blog-post is rapidly spiralling out of control. The more that happens, the less time I have to write about it. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. Above all however, these times are all the more special because they celebrate the end of; second year, East, life at Liverpool and for some the end of their degrees.

For those of you who haven’t been dedicated enough to translate ‘a la prochaine’, it is French for ‘until the next time’. And so to all those who I might not see for a while, or who feel it’s the end of something, I say, determinedly:

a la prochaine.

Because there will be a next time.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


Dear Ether,

It was admittedly a bad time to buy a camera, I have managed to more or less control my creative urges and keep my head down, but here's a couple of shots which should interest both the photography lover and the pet lover:

Blades of grass. And sun. See?


...a la proch. x

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Bringing sexy Barack.


Apparently this is a young Barack Obama. I may be being deceived by that sly mistress the internet.

If it is Mr President, it gives me faith I can still achieve my two single life goals; to be really, really cool, and to be a world leader.

A la proch. x

Monday, 31 May 2010

Dance Routine.

Dear Ether,

I find that my life (but presumably not just mine) is dictated by routine.

I’m not sure how I feel about these routines. In term time, the ‘routine’ was always such a mixture of lectures, seminars, rehearsals and socialising that I never minded. If anything, routine can be comfort. I don’t think I could sleep if I neglected to brush my teeth before I got into bed, and that’s not simply out of compulsive dental hygiene.

However, the last few weeks have bred a kind of inside routine. I wake up (inside) and find I have no justifiable reason to go out. Milk is infinite, books are never-ending and the computer offers endless half-hearted entertainment.

I hate this.

Despite having my only exam this Friday, last night I went out with some friends and had a meal, then did the classic combination of conversing and dancing. I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t (very) tired, I wasn’t worried. At the end of the night, stood in the street waiting for a taxi to pick us up and take us home, I truly felt alive.

I don’t think it was simply the pleasure of a routine broken. The fact that upon waking I began my morning routine without hesitation suggests I really am a creature of habit. Just one who occasionally needs to be out in that wild, wild outside.

Sunday, 30 May 2010


The walk to the park involves a cut through a grave-yard. .

I once walked through it alone on an evening in which the scrubby churchyard cemetery looked beautiful; the sun setting over the park turned the graves into mirrored monoliths, the silence gifted it a sense of solitude you rarely perceive in a city.

I can’t say whether I’d stopped walking to savour the moment or not, but with a sudden crash I was suddenly in the company of a small sparrow, writhing in the dust.

The bird was clearly hurt and scared, unable to fly. My instinct was take it back to the house and try and nurse it back to health. But I was a good walk from home and couldn’t possibly carry this flurry of frenetic energy across main roads all the way home.

It was a moment in which I felt truly helpless; alone in the prime of my youth, surrounded by the dead and confronted by the dying.

I eventually walked on, and ran through the park so hard it stung my eyes and crippled my sides.

Saturday, 29 May 2010


Dear Ether,

a lost clip found:

A disheartening day's revision made this find all the more valuble. It's simply a quick pan around, but it's pretty precious. It is of me, Alex Morris, Alex Milward, Ellie and Sarah at some unholy hour continuing the Junk afterparty until dawn.

There are of course a plethora of stories which narrate this night (the Asda expedition at 4am in which Morris bought himself a top quality fleece, Ellie some fine boots, and Milward got turned away for attempting to buy alcohol free beer several times). The stories though are mainly buried in in-jokes and blurred with memory.

However, I think its real significance is that it's a clip of a memory which forces a smile out of me every time I think about it.

I hope I never shake that stupid smile, or those stupid friends.

a la prochaine. x

Friday, 28 May 2010

That Weekday Disposition.

Dear Ether,

‘I don't care if Monday's blue
Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don't care about you
It's Friday, I'm in love’

So said the busker in Liverpool Town Centre. The one with the big hat who reminds you a bit of James Blunt. I believed him too. The sun on my face and the shiny bracelet I found on the floor made every alright with me.

The Friday Feeling quickly evaporated with a frantic episode of attempting to catch missed trains, and trying to convince two very scouse ladies in the ticket office that B-O-R-T-H was in fact a real place. Much sprinting up and down stopped escalators and a little flirting did eventually ensure L a safe journey to meet her family.

With the busker’s words still ringing in my head however, I picked up some beers and headed determinedly home aboard the hottest, foulest excuse for an 80a I have ever witnessed. The journey dragged. I resorted to translating my own thoughts into French to try and dull the ache of being surrounded by people for whom buses are not only a form of transport, but of entertainment. My stop in sight I snatched up my possessions and began excusing my way to the front of the bus when RIP.

Nothing died, the bag just split. Now clutching two four-packs of premium lager in my hands, I staggered from the station and broke into a jog, determined to put a halt to the rapidly increasing journey time. The beers made their own bid for a freedom half way home and I was left chasing eight individual cans of Carling down a main road. Bereft of dignity, beer and any trace of Friday Feeling a kind lady cautiously offered me another bag. I did my best airs graces and tried not to seem like a young drunk who had just stolen his night’s bevvies from an off license.

500 Days of Summer concluded the day. Our protagonist of the film loves Summer. Matured, he eventually however falls for Autumn. I cling to the hope that I can treat the days of the week the same way. When Friday offers nothing but frustration, I can but turn to Saturday for sensation.


a la prochaine. x

Thursday, 27 May 2010


Dear Ether,

A new blog!

I’ve always loved empty pages. Mainly because my god-awful handwriting makes full pages look terrible.

New blog is new because the old one was already far too achingly self-conscious for any of you literary types to read. This one hopes to serve the much simpler purpose of being somewhere to document my happenings. I’ve got big plans for the next year. And then some.

Right now I’m in the depths of exam period, and old FB is brim-full with the woes of examinations. I However, have only one complaint. One exam. On the last day of exam period. WHY TIMETABLE, WHY?

Aside from that, I am so nerd-ily infatuated by the likes of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley that it hurts me more that I’ll never get to meet their acquaintance than that I have to read their poetry.

Anyway, my real hope is that this blog will be about what’s to come in my life. So as my favourite film, Up, would shout at you:


a la prochaine. x