Sunday, 20 July 2014
Thursday, 26 June 2014
Friday, 25 April 2014
Brutalist architecture has haunted my life. It has always been there as an obsession, an enduring, compelling aesthetic, and a site of possibilty and emergence. When I was a child we moved house quite a lot, the cast always reshuffled alongside a changing landscape.
I remember journeys along the A64 to visit my Dad. I must have been six or seven. We would drive through Leeds past the tower blocks of Seacroft, through the tunnels with their mosaics and orange lights, the International pool , Merrion Centre and Quarry Hill flats. The brutalist architecture of Leeds indelibly marked me; these journeys were emotionally heightened, suffused with a kind of sublime anxiety.
My early memories of family life are embedded in the black stone terraces , 70s new builds and post war council estates of West Yorkshire. Later we moved to a street of 1930s red bricks houses in Scarborough. Brutalist architecture seemed transcendent , totally beyond the microworlds I inhabited in my Grandma's semi detached house.
As I got older my relationship with brutalism intensified , the almost detached feeling of theatricality gave way to an experience of immersion and involvement. It was the beginning of the 90s and a roving crew of itinerants had started occupying the many abandoned housing estates around the UK.
I was squatting in Leeds at the time, in dilapidated red brick back to backs in the Woodhouse and Hyde Park areas. Some weekends we would go across to Hulme in Manchester for big gatherings of punks and travellers in the massive and horrifying Crescents. There would be soundsystems in abandoned pubs and the entire estate would be reconfigured as decomissioned ambulances and lorries parked up in the communal grounds. We went across to Wakefield sometimes and Bradford where we knew people living on big estates, in high towers where whole corridors had been occupied by various subcultural tribes. It was a kind of Mad Max scenario , people had customised flats using steel that had boarded up windows and furniture made from palettes and planks. There was almost a siege aesthetic , a kind of defensive architecture constructed to guard against bailiffs and territorial narco-gangs .
When I came to live in London in the early 90s there were huge estates that had been squatted by anarchists. These were militant sites where the potential for resistance and conflict went far beyond lifestyle politics. The past decade had been marked by the Battle of the Beanfield, Broadwater Farm, Poll Tax riots, Claremont Road and a second wave of pit closures. In Dalston, Hackney and Stamford Hill areas were demarcated by black flags, rusting military vehicles and Class War graffiti. I remember communal dining rooms and cafes, meetings and benefit gigs, and parties where speaker cabs formed pyramids of window rattling bass. Those estates were like honeycombs, you could drift in and out of endless rooms and corridors.
In these politically charged spaces people were taking the problem of housing and homelessness into their own hands en masse. Hackney council were badly managing estates in the borough, leaving them standing empty. Many of us decided to take possession of ruined buildings where we could burrow in and create zones that defied and rejected the heavy handed imposition of a neoliberal system of values.
I remember most vividly the tranquil dream moments before an intense sequence of events like the Criminal Justice bill protests, or the Reclaim the streets actions and big anti capitalist demonstrations like J18 .These moments, where normal flows of commerce and exchange are disrupted, where everything seems fierce and interconnected are always preceded by a dreaming lull and it is those days of plotting and yearning that have stayed with me. I love those times when the fabric of the architecture suddenly feels charged with desire,, when whole blocks of flats become prismatic, municipal landings and desolate courtyards become steeped in those emotional states, momentarily vivid with eruptions of fluorescent pink and acid yellows.
Rave, the free party scene, had recodified whole swathes of the UK. Abandoned factories and warehouses, squatted estates and crumbling rows of Victorian housing became sites of rupture, euphoria and anxiety. Our lives, as itinerants were played out in the limimal zones, places that don't really belong to anyone, the kind of threshold places that sit between abandonment and speculation, no longer stridently urban but never fiiting in with ideas of bucolic prettiness. We would travel in convoy to parties on the edges of towns and cities. Places that, in their crepuscular state of ebbing away had become punctured with possibility. I always liked how the pioneer species, the tenacious brambles, sycamore and bindweed formed a complex labyrinthine landscape beneath the elevated stretches of the motorway . I liked the covert spaces under the map; how when you looked at the A-Z you saw the thick blue line of the motorway but it was only by being present in that place that you could describe the territories beneath. I remember sound systems setting up and motorway stanchions suddenly illluminated with an intense, almost flourescent glow .
These peripheral lands offered a certain refuge from the increasinging homogenisation and 'Americanisation' of the British landscape. Here you could avoid the snares of consumerism and advertisitng unless you were peering up at something designed to be seen from the motorway. These were largely unsurveilled places, ignored by ramblers and heritage obsessives. They were inhabited by a different kind of character, those who moved along the edges of society, the transient populations , the modern ragpickers.
Sometimes adhoc mosques might appear in portakabins or African churches in some industrial estate alongside traveller sites and illegal parties and gatherings. Scratches and markings ermerged as communuqués. Graffiti found here operated as a series of fluctuating currents, residing beyond the bland acceptibility of 'street art'' and official historical text. These glyphs and sigils were the markers of territory, the expression of brash desires and militant demands.
In 2001/2002 I lived on the Aylesbury estate in the Elephant and Castle. Generally acknowleged as the largest council estate in Europe alongside the adjoining Heygate Estate it was built in the early 1970s as a solution to slum clearances and the devastation of the Blitz. The two estates were a vast interlocking web of 'plattenbau' blocks interconnected by aerial walkways and concrete yards. It was a place that seemed to repress and contain its energies. The blocks were a seething maze , cliff faces pocked with satellite dishes. The windows opened at angles, reflecting the sun in blinding oblongs of gold.
I remember hating having no balcony, feeling trapped in my 12th floor flat which was very different to the estates I had known before. There were elevated walkways and strange sunken gardens with ornamental trees and neoclassical statues but they were almost always deserted even when the estate was fully populated. The moment of cataclysm didn't come for these estates, they didn't erupt like Broadwater Farm, and were never squatted en masse like the North Peckham or Stamford Hill. It always felt to me that the emotional life of the 11,000 tenants was fated to crackle and sizzle in confinement, energies always caught in the corridors and flats inside, only seeping out in summer when walls echoed and resounded with the sounds of kwaito, r and b and gime.
After the Blitz there was a chance to carve a new idealised vision from the ruins. It's easy to cite the narrative that these huge social housing projects failed because there was something intrinsically wrong with the architecture but it seems more likely that they didn't work because they were starved of investment. The Heygate and Aylesbury never felt like good places to me, they were a cheap, diluted version of the brilliant complexes by the likes of Goldfinger, Lubetkin, Luder or the Smithsons. But the disappearance of so much social housing is surely cause for lament.
The current demolition of the Heygate estate marks the end of an era . The estate was completed in 1974, the dying days of the post war consensus and the moment when neoliberalism began. The Heygate emerged in the embers of a time when the idea of collectivity was valued but was doomed to live out its life in the rapacious individualism of the Thatcher years. Now , in 2014 it lies in ruins, a network of desolate chambers, eerie tinned up rooms reverberating with the spectral sounds of a lost era.
These forlorn landscapes appear to me now as reliquarys, place where voices can chanelled and in some way transmitted. They have become eligiac sites where walls are imbued with memories, touch and experience. Walkways, courtyards and stairwells have become the crystallised emblems of another time.
My psychogeographic drifts through different areas of London have become a melancholy project documenting the loss of certain aspects of the city . I return to places that have been important , sites of collective memory and desire that are being demolished. During the Blair years walking through the redeveloped and regenerated London streets was to experience alienation and familiarity simultaneously, fragments of memory would emerge as splinters in the smooth space of developers plans. Places that had been in the commons were being gated off, the consequence of a decade of corporate land grabs and sustained social cleansing. London was becoming an enclave for the wealthy, and the rest of us were being pushed out, scrubbed off the map and out of history.
My work is a conflation of my own memories, fragments of journals and half remembered episodes. I revisit convoy culture, rave scenes and 80s political movements as way of channeling those lost voices, attitiudes and scenes . I feel that there is a substrata of anger and resistance in England, that there is always a buried current of class anger and resentment just below the surface. For me,walking around the gentirifed sectors of the city today is about tuning into that, predicting those cataclysmic moments , listening for a haunting of the new shopping centres and corporate landscapes. .
Many of the ruins we see emerging at an accelerated rate around London and the South east are the ruins of the future, the new build luxury highrises and inevitable victims of the next collapse in the property market. There are ranks of empty blocks, like Capital Towers in Stratford, bought off plan in auctions in Hong Kong and Malaysia and left as menacing totems of a speculative free for all. What will become of these places? Maybe they will end up as negative equity ghettos like the Pinnacles in Woolwich, sublet to recent arrivals from the former colonies and left in a state of chronic disrepair , or perhaps they will be seized and occupied by bands of rent defaulters, young people unable to afford anywhere to live in the South East whose desperation has led them to take militant direct action.
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Sunday, 9 March 2014
Sudden explosion of warmth,, shimmering first days of spring.
leave the estate with a load of crew about midday,,
.. walk along the motorway, collection of corrugated hutches, Bow tube,,
loads of people I know hanging about, atmosphere kind of euphoric.. I was in black dress, silver bomber jacket , hair up in a bun..everyone looking hyped like we were going to a party.
Leaving in groups on tube to Kennington.. .the heat intense, a magical feeling. Kept picking people up on the way, every stop , more getting on, Whitechapel, Liverpool street, changing at Moorgate....on the platforms.., Spiral Tribe,, skinheads, lads in overalls and fractal t shirts, that lot from Brixton, punks with mohicans and studded jackets, some of the Italians and French lot from the Pepys.
a massive crew already on the tube and I loved that.
Arrive at Kennington, balmy spring sunshine and a kind of carnival atmosphere. Shimmering gold sky, the air is scented pink.. blossom already coming.. Soundsystem from one of the LCC blocks, Snap! I've got the Power and Dub be good to me, Beats international. Sounded so good, loud like that.
Magical and warm.. Rastas from St Agnes, loads of people , kids, old people everyone, accents coming from everywhere..the excitement is palapable.. could tell something much bigger about to happen, we all knew it, there's been talk for weeks, and there's been a glimpses as well, one in Brixton, one in Hackney, one in Islington, leading up to the big one...
Everyone knew it was going to kick off today...loads of mates from Yorkshire, Scotland, all over turning up with kitbags, laundry bags, stuff scattered all over.
Went to bed night before knowing it would go up. Writing everything down.. the feeling of it, knowing something massive was about to happen.. The kick off in Brixton and the one in Hackney, when they were setting the rate, they were just prequels. The thrill of violence , loved that more than anything.
That scene in Hackney had been fucking brilliant, when Radio rentals got looted and we helped an old lady hoist a tv into a tesco shopping trolley so she could wheel it back to the Pembury estate.
There had been nothing but talk of this for weeks,, but now, well you wouldn't know the darkness was brooding, not with the sunshine and the families and the coachloads coming in from all over the country enjoying a day out.
Kennington Park,... felt a ruffle of anxiety, had can of beer and a dab of speed...
saw more crew from Teviot, more people coming up off the tube,,
loads of people we knew straight away, including known trouble makers.. (ha ha ) there has been loads in papers about this, and that is what we are getting called. Saw loads of people we'd seen at Class War meetings in Stoke Newington, older , hard looking blokes. Everyone was in good mood.
March set off , it was big but a lot of us didn't bother joining it. On the march there was no indication of trouble.. no particular grouping could be called hardcore, black flags but not solid black.. anarchists were there, for the chance of a kick off,, the main thing...but circling, not in main march.
Everyone knew it was going to erupt.. everyone knew before the day..talking about it for days on end. Weeks on end. People I knew, hardcore trouble makers.. couple of thousand together, no plan, just circling, finding each other..
March got to Downing street.. to Whitehall... saw no indication of trouble.. we positioned ourselves,, people from our estate, people we met on way,,, and that bloke with the speed. Loads of boozing, cans passed round.
Steps of St Martins,, in distance Downing street, top of Whitehall, sticks and placards being thrown, didn't see mounted police.. lot of people there,
met someone on steps said most of our lot in Strand,, more sticks coming from there..
about 2.30-3pm.. didn't hear any speeches from podium, minds focused elsewhere,,
whole of square full ,tense and angry crowd.
Managed to get down side of St Martins.. got to the confluence of Whitehall and Strand,, could still see placards thrown but didn't look serious, not worth checking out, then police vans with armour, grilles down, advancing towards us.. nearly got to Whitehall, when suddenly realised surrounded by several thousand people. Somebody I was with tried to prise grille off van, then vans tried to back away,, trapped, kicked and booted, bricks were fired at them, it was as if someone had lit the fuse went bang, then riot just went up.
Made way back to Traflagar square, tried to get to St Martins, couldn't, truncheons, barriers thrown, quickly, police unprepared,, severely undermanned...barriers being thrown, bricks, bottles, scaffolding...windows put in, shops looted, police withdrawn,,
corner Whitehall and Strand..
crowd sounds, thousands, cacophany.. people closely packed together, police had been dispersed, smashing windows looting shops..
people on scaffolding, throwing at police..them taking casualites..
suddenly S amidst all that, the chaos and the smoke and the fire, running into a line of police, a crew of them.. throwing sticks and cans...
he is so sexy, couldn't stop thinking about other night.
Then they got cavalry in.. elsewhere.. detached from main group.. loads of people fighting police in the square.. police sending in the horses.. to what avail don't know, crowd just parted, didn't know what they were doing... momentum.. just spread crowds out further, suddenly lost S,, in that moment... just gone..in that instant...
found myself top of St Martins... one of our lot carrying round police riot shield, a lot of people doing that because police backed out, nutters coalsesed,, crowd absolutely hostile..
poll tax demonstrators, families and disabled applauded
top of St Martins lane outside National Gallery, Chandos with riot shield,, loads of people I knew.. no cops anywhere.. so we just advanced up Charing Cross road, putting through windows, bins in streets, Leicester Square station, said let's put barricade up, cars across road. In distance see smoke rising,, could see it was a massive building alight, and all stuff around it, portakabins above ground level on fire..
now any poice vehicles we saw got attacked immediately, police running for lives.. put up barricade, Leicester square, police didn't respond, driven out of area, needed to conslidate and get reinforcements, by this time we had taken control. Hippodrome attacked, once inside , said what are we going to do, so much happening...woman in hysterics screaming you're ruining our cause,, but she got completly ignored...
Charing Cross road, Covent Garden , shops looted , books, stamps, postcards littering ground,,
cars on fire, car showroom, smashed up.. group that I was with... talking hundreds..,several groups of hundreds doing what we were doing
Covent Garden, Royal Opera House attacked people coming out, scaffolding poles, putting through windows,, looting bottles of whisky, high on adrenaline, inflamed with booze...
got to a shop on corner of Endell street.. put windows through , deciding what do next, lets go and fight police, found one, special constabulary, looked like Benny Hill, with glasses,, chubby, got a couple of slaps,, could have been killed, we had him as a prisoner, didn't know what to do with him, made him run off, threw bottles at him, bottles smashing.. booze spraying up...
we swerved into Covent Garden piazza.. this crew was more than 400 people, .. plenty of them knew before,, just came together, experienced rioters turning up together at same place, chemistry. Got to piazza, putting windows through, didn't care, see faces of assitants, frozen no one tried to stop us, no police.. in piazza saw six coppers, two lads on ground, trying to arrest them,
we attacked the coppers, they ran away, lads dearrested,, been nicking stuff out of windows..
people come up from Strand..
S just reappeared,grabbed me, wrote address on my hand with marker pen...
nobody spoke to anyone, just shouting,
most round here not looters, wanted to burn cars and fight.
Near Traflagar square, cars in showroom on fire,,, police in sight,, we threw more bottles and bricks at them, munitions lying around, bins going through windows, Stringfellows smashed, kept on move... we dispersed into crowds and remerged, maybe about 40 mins later, old bill had more on ground, facing hopeless task, loads of people pouring out of stations, Leciester square, football hooligans, stations still open, people coming out of tube getting straight into it, knew why they were there..
up to Charing cross road.. it was just looters then, Denmark Street, people running away with amps and guitars,, Tottenham Court Road, electrical shops, cameras, video cameras..
kind of wandered around in a daze,, 5 o clock, boiling hot all day...
rioters down to shirt sleeves..
Oxford street, Soho Square skip on fire ,
Shops looted, dummies taken out of windows just standing on the street.
In Lyall street China town, group of dossers had been looting ,completley drunk making their own dosser barricade plastic bags and bins in road, nothing going on there but making barricade anyway..
Charing Cross looted shops, hand to hand fighting by now, chaos.
On own, impossible fleeting glance , someone you know, catch glimpse and then disappear again..
Could see police vans in distance people not attacking police just looting now, things thown in street, clothes, chairs, amazing.
Hung around for a while, lost everyone now,, then saw one of the blokes from the CW lot in Stoke Newington,
wasn't in the mood to leave, wanted to walk around until saw S again but thought chances of that were unlikely now.. thought about what he said, the few gasps I could remember...
there were plumes of smoke rising.. the bloke wasn't in mood for going home either, was buzzing as much as I was, up for more walking around.
Saturday, 8 March 2014
Beneath the motorway, hedgerows flery with rosehips, streams in concrete culverts.
You climb a narrow staircase, tracing graffiti with your fingertips, 1977, 1981, 1995. You feel those times, you lost yourself there and now little shreds are filtering back, coaslescing, fleshing out the spectre of yourself.
Muddy tracks, red campion, an expanse of space where a pattern making factory once stood. You creep through holes in fences and drift through blackened fossils of castings and machines.
Stand with your back to bleak suburban housing , cliff face of maisonettes looming over the ruins.
You recognise this place, grasp it in diaphanous threads; you are anxious with loss, restless for the future. This is the thin, diluted present,, a lull before the next flash of fire.
You remember those balmy nights walking,
the boys masked up,
the boys masked up,
willing them to take their time.
The market precinct , the tension,
the sight of them circling, ,
feeling the charge ,waking you up, piercing that sluggish gloam.
And the others gathering in pub doorways, the self appointed guardians;
sports wear, shaved heads,
malice seeping like black ectoplasm.
You deflect the stares. Flourescent caverns, Sky TV flashing over burgundy walls .
Monitoring the streets, shouting but you don’t hear it.
Burrowed into a forgotten seam, a hardened artery.
In these moments of rupture you sense a way out.
Flattened grasses, charred patches of gorse.,
Black circles by the towpath and the abandoned factory.
Narrow path between The Delves and the M6. 70s masionettes, childlike graffiti,,
‘Xfactor’,, LUV LUV and pink hearts.
You remember being trapped, marking out time. Those ghostly tracings, in exercise books, on walls. Staring at the traffic on the motorway from your bedroom window, dreaming impossible destinations.
In the brittle kernel of winter, in those thin short days, you drew the life you wanted, on rolls of old wallpaper, dream tableax of underground cities.
1997. Election campaign. IRA threatened to blow up this stretch of M6. Four small charges attached to concrete pillars .M6 section going to M54.
Isolated underpass left with warning vehicle—
Coded warnings from telephone boxes in Birmingham city centre. Manzoni Gardens.
Proof of concept, shift from spectacular to economic damage.
Dreams of pylons crashing down on motorway .
It was the time of the election, 1997, you remember the hysteria, the enforced joviality, accused of being a killjoy for not joining in .
Beneath those concrete arcs and columns, a splinter of discontent.
You watched the men moving briskly between vehicles, caravans and double decker portakabins.
not construction workers,
coppers off gym duty going soft.
A mobile city, special branch monitoring the unmapped territories beneath Spaghetti Junction.
You nearly lived here once in a black terrace lodged deep under a flyover. You remember the upstairs, the threadbare carpets, scatchy dark brown.. the house had been empty for years , woodchip wallpaper yellow with age and a sullen breath of damp beneath the pall of carbon monoxide .
The Sikh landlord wanted £15 a week for it, that must have been 1992. You looked upstairs, the front bedroom had orange curtains flltering an eerie half light through a glade of stanchions.
Now the row was condemned, boarded up. You sensed there were people in there, you saw shreds of those orange curtains through the corrugated iron, you could smell cigarette smoke, tomato soup heating up on a stove.
There were handpainted signs outside warning of security guards and dogs . You saw vehicles parked up round the side, a couple of transit vans and an old Plaxtons coach. There was a strip of land at the back, a thin plot of contaminated ground.
You say you’re going to the shops, he doesn’t know where you go.
With your skin, yellowing on the forearm, violet on the thigh.
Forgotten bungalow, overgrown garden, buddleia, sycamore,
nettles spiking through broken greenhouse.
Yellow dreylon chairs, glass vases smashed on the ground, little heaps of amber rubble.
Gas fire, still working.
Wallpaper coral and grey, iridescent with a sheen of damp.
Carpet, mint green and pale pink, swirls radiating from the hearth.
At once recognisable, but somewhere so distant now.
Will Alsop is coming to town! Urban Splash is working alongside Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council and Advantage West Midlands
to spearhead the comprehensive redevelopment of this 17 acre site
in Walsall town centre.
You remember sitting there, looking out on to Dudley Road, the rows of 70s semis, the hoardings and pylons.
And the allotments,with the little paths beneath towering fir trees leading out across the industrial estates.
He had a couple in the George first before he came to meet you. You remember feeling so flattered that he liked you. It was only the second time you had met him and you felt nervous.
You sat outside, in that triangular yard with the metal seats;
He came out to you, walking across the yard, blonde and stocky in a wax jacket and polo shirt. He brought you a lemonade and pushed a little wrap of speed in your hand,, he said he’d get you some pills if you wanted them.
Everyone at school knew who he was, him and his brothers . You got the little bottle out of your bag and poured some vodka in the glass. They were having a disco inside and you wanted to go but he said to stay out here. You remember him bringing you a pack of Regal from the machine inside, his hand on your knee , saying we’ll go round Mark’s soon, he’s bringing some pills, we can put your tunes on there.
Bombay blues, derelict,
Cobra Lounge, derelict,
Trophy shop, New Look, factory building in Albert Street. Derelict.
PAYDAY LOANS! INSTANT DECISION! 15 MINUTE PAYOUT!
Shannons mill. George street., little nests in the sprawling dereliction for smoking weed and sitting round with cider.
A place to pause, to hide out,
there were plenty more like you pacing to escape something.
Most of them were in hostels.
Hisses and envelopes passed. The men were clear in their instructions.. half now, half after.
Half when the sprawling mill lies scorched, when soft grey dust blows over blistered beams and arches.
They still talk about the arcade of shops, lament the loss of it.
The cafe in the Asda on George street, polystyrene ceiling tiles and windowless gloom, fabric of everyday life impoverished. When they sit there, with their foam beakers and plastic trays, they conjure that red brick parade of shops curving round, the sparkling window displays of antiques, jewellery and leather goods. They think of the tea rooms and the fine bone china and the silver cake stands
all gone .
St Modwen, Goold estates, Lend lease.
Dubliminal Wharf bar
Luminous drinks, purple lights, faux leather high back chairs.
He sits opposite you, glassy blue eyes, the last dusting of blonde hair clinging to his scalp like iron filings on a magnet.
You hope you’re nodding, saying yeah in right place.
Yeah, I know ‘em all---Seb fontaine, Carl Cox, Jon Carter…
I never had a chance, no one doin me no bloody favours, had to get there on me own. Andy Weatherall, yeah know im an’ all, none of them guys are as good as what they think they are….
Cream , Basics, Hard Times, Ministry---
He says it all the time, who else would be stupid enough to put up with you? You’re a mess, you don’t even look good anymore. I’m taking care of you because I’m a good bloke, I feel sorry for you.
He tells you you wear too much make up, you need to lose weight.
You struggle to push him away.
The walls feel close. He says you're nothing special.
Had better in Goa. In Thailand.
Had a lot better than you.
Smoky air, trees tinged with Autumn. .
Skipping meals. You think you look fat. You study yourself, you feel the weight of yourself, clutching handfuls of flesh, squeezing, dimpling. You think how could anyone fancy you and always feel shocked when they do.
Purple leather settee, magnolia walls.
Paint walls but black dots come through. He is paying a lot for this place. New build overlooking the wharf.
Paul Smith t shirt, looks fucked.
Blonde stubble and bald head, heavy jowls now. You remember him when he was 27, you thought he was alright then, he seemed older, mature, offered you a way out.
You listening to what I’m saying? Off out to get some fags, yeh?
Purple accent wall, black dots.
Bloated face, beady dial.
Kitchen spilling out, , stuff all over.
Glossy cupboard doors yanked open, bottles, tins , smashing down on wooden surfaces. His hands, ransacking, sweeping arcs , chrome containers, spaghetti jars crashing onto the floor.
That big mirror.
You stand in front.
You carry on along the canal to Pleck. You will walk until you collapse with exhaustion.
You meet some old bloke near a disused working mens club. Irish stock with Black country accent . You think if you talk to him it will distract you, break the pattern of chatter, the internal monologue.
You drift through the streets , past Balti houses and an abandoned pub with glazed green tiles.
These walks, these drifts might have gone on forever,, you walking, until you wore yourself out to nothing.
But there was always going to be another episode, a phantom haunting the stairwells.
He’d been watching you for a while.
You’d returned his gaze,
seized by a sequence of glorious images..
the dark skin, the russets and mauves ,
black hair, dark eyes , obsidian with flecks of amber.--
There was a repressed fascination.
You couldn't dare think that you might ever do anything, that was stupid.
You were stupid, delusional.
You let his face appear to you in dreams, in those hazy afternoon moments, tramadol, white wine,, you could let the image of him come to you then, weave around you.
And the dreams went on. Weeks and months. And he would pass you in the street, in that leather jacket, with those shoulders, the dark eyes flashing promises of other vistas, a different kimd of life.
People said to you, why don't you just leave, why can't you just walk out?
Thoughts kept returning to 1992. That momentous time---these eclipses were like the ones then.
Shards of your new life lacerated the old, prismatic gems of light dazzled the clumsy, prosaic and mean.
You became someone else .
Maybe this was supposed to be a time of endings—
, rum and cokes, altercations with the police, a bruising mob marching through the market square, the pubs all shut and you looking for that cataclysmic moment.
When everything might change.
An old railway line ,you follow the blackened sleepers, the tangles of briars and ragwort.
K Cider..Mad Dog 20/20.
You dream of fragrant cherry blossom, of hawthorn and wild roses.
And the thoughts become more insistent, more intense.. you know you are conjuring him, the intensity of your thoughts bringing him to you.
He’s waiting for you.
You think this is your chance.
It could be, if you let yourself believe it.
Smiths Flour Mill converted into flats .Factory ruin demolished.
You cross the footbridge that links the pub to Sainsburys, past the derelict swimming pool.
Reedswood Way, big retail park, Lidl, Macdonalds. Dunelm.
The phosphoresecent ghosts of cooling towers haunting the flat expanse.
Coal fields, open cast mining. Lorries. Noise. Scars.
The party is in a big site under the motorway. You sense that he is there.
You are kind of wasted, a bit hyped up on the rum, coloured tracers from the half pill,,,treading across embers, beneath the stanchions… his black hair,.his dark eyes.. the mesmerising way he looks at you.
Standing by a bonfire.. suddenly there, arms gathering you in, hands around your waist…
the smell of leather,
the smell of pine smoke ,
, the kisses, muffled then cutting, slicing through the fog , vistas beneath slip roads illuminated suddenly, pillars and ramps edged with luminous ambers and greens..
The muffled black, the muffled thuds of the soundsystem.
Soil and fallen leaves.
Walking beneath the motorway, abrasive, tender, everything sublimated, crystallised in those kisses.
12 floors up.. a room of magenta, indigo shadows .
Wallpaper, ripped carmine, black writing, codes , pixacayo, unknowable runic calligraphy
That music, haunting, mesmerising, otherworldly.
You lie in bed by candlelight talking about places when you were young, haunted places where you’d seen the other side.
Freezing, shivering, too cold to get out of bed. Legs entwined, hands gripping your arms, not sure where you stop and he begins. His sinewy warmth, the muscular arms, black tattoos.
The delerious feeling of his skin, your kisses scattered across it.
He tells you not to go back , says you can just take off together, now in the van, , drive out to the motorway and go wherever you want to go.
You get in the lift, looking at your face in the scratched aluminiun.
You can barely see yourself; pale , distorted, almost gone missing.
You say you will go back and collect some things in your handbag, your passport, and those little brown bottles form the bedside table.
When you leave like that you never know if you will see him again .
Electrics gone, room goes dark.
Walking through town you feel particles of warmth piercing the grey of your body. People smile at you. You feel surprised by it, undeserving of it .The town centre is a stage set,, quarter to seven. 60s shopping arcade, bleached coloured panels, boarded up shop fronts.
Places existing outside of time, charity shops, freezer vans, bric a brac.
You think you have to summon all the energy you can, steal it from every corner of the universe to overcome this blight that freezes you, keeps you gripped in this era that was never marked for you.
They wonder what keeps you there, your friends gone one by one, frustrated, angry with you for staying ,
in that flat by the wharf, walls resounding with bloated sneering
that voice, the slurring stagnant voice,
telling you how he would kill you
telling you all the ways he would do it
Club playing abrasive techno.
Wharf 10, gallery bar
Watching the news channels late, RT, Sky, News24 on permanent rotation.
City centres inverted, contents of shop windows spilling out, flying through hands of the crowd.
a multitude of selves slipping all over..interweaving, drifting—
drunk shrieking girls ,
‘Essence’, ‘uplifting’ trance anthems— plunging you into the black heart of bad e’s, soul blackening come downs.
It’s always there, the music takes you closer to the edge of it, the anguish.
Getting a glimpse of euphoria, only to be shown what you can't have.
Crown Wharf shopping park.
HMV, H & M, TK-Maxx;
Red Campion, pylons scratched nimbly into a yellow sky. You are thinking of him, the one you always swear to yourself you will never see again.
You daren't even dream that you can be with him. You think of those black tattoos, the dark collarbones as he looms over you pressing you down with kisses. You are scared, but hyper, kind of wired with the thought of him, the warmth under the blankets, the electric fire in the corner. You keep walking, thinking about him, your skin still tingling with the pleasure .
.Stilletos, snake skin, nipping now. Lower Rushall street…
Katz/ The Victoria… mirrored alcoves, ceramic cats and coloured glass ornaments.
You sit at the bar there,, waiting.., planning your move. You have tuned into a suspended ,moment,, a pause between eras..
You can see his flat from here, the yellow light in the 12th floor window. He is texting you to come , all these kisses, flurries of them. You feel paralysed, nursing half a lager,a rum and coke..
One of those moments.
Do or die.
He is in the van waiting and you can go. You can just go.
You’re done up in gold ear rings, coral lipstick, hair backcombed in a bun. You're walking fast pulling the fur jacket deep around you, arms folded in front, walking fast on the black roads. This is your last chance, your only chance and you can't risk being seen. The flats are high up, the embankments wide, six lanes and no traffic., motorway signs hanging overhead, Brownhills, Wednesbury, Birmingham. Walking fast
to the other side,, that cluster of caravans,,
Tv glowing through net curtains,, an orange lamp , the smoke and the oil. You walk on, see the junction, can get that far, faster pace, keep going on and on, to the bottom of that slope,, the shiny darkness.
His dark skin, russets and mauves , the eyes dark, flecks of amber,,
He is near.
You whisper his name, an incantation, a willing into being.
The van , a spectral trace, isn’t here yet… keep walking . keep walking, pulling the fur jacket, closer and closer in,, feeling the pavement slippy underfoot,,the black ice, the black, freezing night,
the paving slabs,, sloping down, shiny with ice,, and your feet, scrabbling to keep you upright.
9th January 1972.
Seven dark weeks. Gormley Miners strike.. You remember the boxes of candles under the sink, how you liked it when the lights went out. You remember that front room with shadows flickering on orange walls, and the strangeness you felt when there was a bright judder and it all creaked back on.