December 28th, 2001

glasses on the webcam

flushing it out of my system

Okay, what I didn't have time to explain before I went (f***ing firewall) was that I was going up to the Isle of Mull, Scotland, for Christmas, to visit my lovely housemate Damian's family (Mum, dogs, nephew-in-arms) for Christmas. Lunacy or wisdom? Well, the air is clean and cold up there, and the water on the Sound of Mull very lovely. But a family Christmas is nevertheless a family Christmas, and I certainly wouldn't do anything so foolhardy with my family.

Nevertheless, we went, we played mah-jongg, we survived. We didn't kill the baby or lose the dogs. We survived the rail system (just) and now I'm home and clean and don't smell even a little bit of dog, though I think I have baby-germs in my throat.

The next few posts are collected from the holiday (I took my Palm, lifesaver, thanks so much Jinty). It's not especially traveloguey, but if you really don't like hearing about holidays and christmas, you may want to skip the next few ....
  • Current Music
    run lola run!
glasses on the webcam

heading up country

Travel-time now, starting with a trip to Witney on the lurching top-deck of a double-decker bus. Lunch with my boss, smug as summer. Is there a truth of the matter? Lurch back to Oxford. The thin ecstacy of winter sunshine. Head. Home. Pills.

Euston. Art in unexpected places. Simple abstracts with complicated explanations in a waiting room with star-trek doors. I have a pound but the photo-me booth is broken, so I go looking for another. Euston suffers over-adherence to the principle of symmetry: there is another Photo-me booth on the other side of the station, but it, too is broken. A train pulls in, a tide of christmas-red faces, scatter of sequinned ten-gallons, luas and tottering heels, stop the office-party, I want to get off. North, please.

Sleep and the train, stopping and starting, fitful dream of a vast Victorian station, duck-egg blue and dripping gold, like a Fabergé egg, redolent with the thought - I shouldn't be here. I wake up, panicked, realise I'm still on the train, but as soon as my eyes close I'm in the same dream.

Morning, no real sleep, head flickering thoughts. Poor John Cusack, trapped in romcom hell. Central to Queen Street, past wonderful lights - green and gold puppets, vast silver bells. We shock the locals by buying large coffees. Our decadant Southern ways.

Pull out under an apocalyptic pink glowing dawn, dark tower(block)s of Glasgow baleful under a burning sky. Eastury lights, an early dog-walker, cranes and bridges, dimly perceived graveyards through the black fingers of winter trees.

Everything is becoming taller. Hills which seem to be all of one piece, like experimental glassware, only the colours sliding and changing. Lochs patched matt and gloss by the artefacts of shifting tides. Frost on christmas trees, snow on the mountains, chickens crowded onto a compost heap to keep their feet warm.

Sleep. Then a white ferry in front of a white sky.
  • Current Music
    sleet on the windows
glasses on the webcam

the ghost-dogs

Can't wake, can't sleep. Jenny's dogs have changed since we were last here. Tubbs has grown old, a newer, fatter labrador called Buster has lurched in from a next door neighbour, and Polly? Well, Polly's in the flower bed. So she's got two new dogs, to fill out the company, white alsatians called Sacha and Jerome. Sacha is elegant and pure white, a true sport, with an inclination to rest her chin on things and stare up sadly with her big brown eyes. Jerome is vast and hairy, like a luteistic (sp?) wolf, his patterning picked out in pale wheat-white. They drift around like ghost dogs; Jerome is eerily quiet, but Sacha barks and croons and rurdles. They are continually larger than I expect them to be. Later we discover Jerome likes to jump into brambles and get so entangled he needs to be rescued. He goes home with blood spattered across his snowy face, which looks terribly dramatic, but we can't even find the scratch. He found a muddy hollow and is now cappuchino-couloured, black to his hocks, frothy white above. I tease them until they jump for my Action Sampler. Jump, ghost-wolf-monster-dogs, jump!

I had a dream this morning, I was straightening liriselei's robe before he had his portrait taken. He was wearing black, and a long chinese robe of gold brocade, with a pattern of dragons, clouds and bamboo houses in red, pink, gold, white and different shades of green. It had the softness and slight creasing of a second-hand garment, and I felt briefly jealous of L, who has the perfect figure for second-hand clothes.

Cornettos for pudding again. Good gravy! Generational ideas of decadance. Where is my luxury? Answer: in bed.

White light, white skies, white water, white dogs. We go for a walk, risk snow in an abandoned village called Ardmore grown through with Christmas Trees and over with moss. There are trees in all the houses. The path down to Ardmore Point is mossy and secretive. We hop between red-marked poles, rock to stream to broken tree. At the end of the point, I find a rusty post stuck into bare rock, and photograph it for my Mum who collects posts.

In one of the houses I find a slate and scratch a message on it, but I've already forgotten what I wrote. "Message" probably. I remember that I photographed Jerome, stood outside the door of a ruined house, like a ghost messenger in a strange dream.
  • Current Music
    bark bark bark bark
glasses on the webcam

the wrong path on Sunday

Woke up to a faint light outside the window with a ringing, buzzing sound in my ears, and a powerful urge to go outside. Slowly the buzzing resolved into music, very faint, pipes and singing ... or was it church music? I looked at the time, 8.49, probably not, but then what? Odd. Maybe if I went outside I'd hear more clearly. I looked at the weather, grey, rain. (You could wear a coat) Odd. As I raised my head, the music faded, as I dropped it back to the pillow, it returned. (Is it bells or voices, pipes or strings?)I looked across at Damian, on the other bed. In the dim room, his body had been changed by the duvet into something ghastly and lumpen with huge reptilian legs. (Go outside, outside) I turned my back on the window. Yeah, right. I grew up in the countryside, and know all about taking the wrong path to church. The music grew louder, more distinct. Go away. In god's name. (You don't believe in god) Damn it. I wish I hadn't lost my earrings. Go away, go away, go away.
  • Current Music
    elf pipes
glasses on the webcam

Sacks on migraines/the estuary of my mind

Up till now, everything I've read about migraines has been practical; coping strategies, off websites like The Migraine Society's so when I found Oliver Sack's Migraine on Jenny's shelves, yeah, cool, let's get some context, and it's a great book, though very technical (read with a big dictionary or a doctor to hand) and some of his conclusions are more pretty than convincing (as he admits freely enough). He has 100 case studies -- enough to tell you how mild your problems are -- a thorough description of the main types of migraine (there are different sorts?) plus social surroundings, perceptual and actual history of the syndrome, theories of causes, etc. etc. I got about half way there, I mean through. I suspect he's working towards a theory of migraine as self-inflicted purging of slowly-accumulated mental pain, necessary for some people, sometimes demonstrated as other "unexplained pain" type syndromes, "analogous to the annual sheddings of leaves and skins" which may actually be good for you -- "an alternative to neurotic desperation and assuagement". Consequently he occasionally comes across as very classical, with his description of water retention and constipation (a gathering of evil humours) followed by a stream of pain, piss and vomit (a purging of the evil). This doesn't really accord with my experience of a period of sensual exaggeration, aggravation and confusion, peaking to the extremity of the migraine aura and then ebbing to a bit of a sore head, irritation, nausea and tiredness, but I only got halfway through, like I said.

What did strike me was that it seemed a good explaination for why I feel so good (psychologically) after a drunk, even if physically I feel like shit. One of my my favourite models for how my mind works is as a hugely complicated estuary, hundreds of tiny channels, little rills of thought, attitude and mind which can be protected, eroded, diverted, dammed, dug out or silted. The drunk is like a flood, sweeping away the silt and deposited crap, the weeds and rot and lobsters and stagnant pools, so afterwards I feel (counter-intuitively) refreshed and cleansed.

I suppose Sacks would point out that this year, I've been drinking less, and maybe the migraines have stepped in to fill the gap. I wonder if he'd have any practical advice. Maybe that was in the later chapters.
  • Current Music
    twittering of sparrows
glasses on the webcam

territory, light, context, confusion, idea, fear

Always mistrust the people who say naturally this, and obviously that and evidentally the other, or, worse yet self-evidently anything. It's likely that, perfectly naturally, they'll fetch up hurting you horribly and then blaming you for not seeing it coming. If you're especially lucky, they may fetch up dissecting your behaviour and deciding that you deliberately planned it so that they would hurt you all along, and that you are therefore plotting against them, and that they should start counter-plotting right away. Better to stick with the ones like yourself, who have to construct "natural" human behaviour from echoes.

Lollies, treats and sweets are not the cakes I crave to eat. No, actually, the problem's one of context -- while choc ices and cornettos may be fine and good I find it strange to have a choc-ice in a bowl as a natural end to a meal. I struggle through it twice and then politely refuse pudding, a girl can always do that, nobody's miffed when a woman refuses food.

Blue blooms black over the Sound of Mull. Take another pill, keep putting it off.

Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Common Sparrow, Hedge Sparrow, Robin, Common Gull, Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Buzzard, Sea Eagle, Golden Eagle, Hooded Crow, Rock Dove, Pigeon, Cormorant, Heron, where's my Michael Nyman soundtrack when I need it? And why do they have a plain video tape labelled "AIR CRASH" ?

Over the Sound, the clouds echo the mountains and the mountains aspire to be clouds. On the slopes, the moss and grass lump in appliqué tussocks, scribble of wet bracken like brown lace and amber beads, black satin of wet rock embroidered with threads of silver water, patchwork of grey and green and brown fading into a soft white velvet sky.

Grey-green on the water, and flickering lights. Stifling in dog-stench, walking dogs in my sleep. Pale fungal trees and strange toadstooly gingerbread. Wierd sweets, stale crisps, flavourless coffee. Anxious dogs and dimming lights. Slabs of meat and hairy feet. Wet and cold, water and wind. Strops and sulks and misunderstandings (it wouldn't be Christmas unless/they're not happy unless, she has something to panic about/complain about, a good cry/sulk, tears into me, makes a huge fuss, carries on) and how did I fetch up everyone's mother confessor, and looking after the baby, to boot?
  • Current Music
    thrumming/ringing in my ears
glasses on the webcam

all your views are belong to me!

I wish I were away already, but we're travelling with Mike and little Darren so it feels like we're still on holiday. Luckily I manage to grab my booked seat (ha ha ha - all your views are belong to me!) while Damian and Mike sit back with Darren swopping theories of Potter and waving trading cards at baby.

Snow! The train is going through snow! Light white winter all around. We had snow on the island but not enough to worry; just enough to say "goodness, it's bright outside" and then "oh, that's why". My. That's quite a lot of snow, isn't it? Ho hum. I'm sure Scotrail is used to it.

It's rain again. There's a cloud slumped over a hill. It looks like it's thinking, "Oh my god, what was I drinking last night?" Damian says that last night I was talking to the dogs in my sleep. (sigh) My own room, my own bed. Tomorrow, tomorrow.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

That wasn't so long, was it? It felt long at the time. I notice I've not said a lot about little Darren but honestly, kids of that age (9 months) don't really interest me that much. The journey back down was just awful, I think we've conclusively proved that the seats in a Sleeper are no more comfortable than the cabins, I was sat opposite some fucker who decided my leg room was his, honestly just too tired to fight, I read Maldoror and a Pelevin one of the young ones had leant me (yeah good cool) instead, directing all Maldoror's vehemence against him, stuffy and light-buzzing, smokers everywhere always worse when you're tired, Euston Station grimmer than 7.30am in a London station had any right to be, bags tearing our arms off (Damian's mother had given us boules for fuck's sake, and of course I'd bought whiskey) and finally, finally, the Oxford Tube --- warm, clean, comfortable ride home through a gold grey and blue dawn.

I drifted in and out of consciousness, the familiar scenery seemed clean and lovely, but strangely jumbled, as if we'd got back too early from being away and they didn't quite have everything back in its right place after cleaning yet.

Home looked perfect, though.
  • Current Music
    fat boy slim - love life