Seeing the Good

storm_ophelia

We’re having weird weather today. Storm Ophelia has made the air restless and the leaves sing. The sun is a blood orange ripening behind scudding grey clouds. The land dreams in tangerine and gold.

It’s a quiet day for me, and sitting with my coffee I want to write a bit about being thankful. The weather is mimicking these turbulent, strange times, and in a storm it’s important to anchor yourself to what really matters. So then, I am thankful for the people in my life. This above all else.

I’m fortunate to have had my life’s road run alongside, and join, those of some wonderful people who I love fiercely. There are only a handful, but they are my world and my rocks. As I get older I’m getting better at recognising diamonds when they whirl into my life, and better at not taking them for granted.

These days I put as much energy into these relationships as I can because I know how special they are; the result of a complex chain of events that at any time could’ve taken a different course, meaning we’d never have met. Think about that for a second; think how mindblowing it is that you met your partner, your best friend, that you were born into the family you’re in (if you’re lucky enough to be in one you like). I like to remind myself of this magic as often as possible, and I’m taking a bit of extra time to do this today.

The air is grey and heavy outside my window now. It feels like the sky is falling. I want to be at home, battening down the hatches in readiness for Ophelia’s fury. I’m feeling a bit primal; I want my loved ones close. In the maelstrom of life it’s easy to forget how much love there is.

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Posted in Nature, Personal Musings | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

On the Edge

Autumn is in the air, I can feel it. On my drive into work I notice the leaves turning, some beginning their graceful dance through the air as they fall from their branch onto my windscreen. I’ve been feeling a bit restless, I always do at this time of year. Autumn is my favourite season, one I associate with new beginnings and a welcome change of pace. I love the moment I notice the nights drawing in, when it feels like the world is paused between breathing in and breathing out. I love the delicious build up to Christmas, punctuated by smoky bonfires and fat pumpkins. I love the gentle introversion, the casting off of the lairy, sticky summer. Autumn is a time of magic and mystery.

Me and my OH went on an aimless, rambling walk through the city after work recently and I realised how much I’ve missed it. Walking around cities at night has long been one of my favourite things to do to unwind and calm my chattering mind. I love watching the lights come on in the windows of the myriad flats and houses that line the streets – little cubes of Turkish delight glowing orange and pink and golden. Cities become different places after dark; the same street in daylight is a foreign country under the sodium glow of streetlights, when everything is half shadow. They feel fluid, unknowable.

The city air smells different at night too – purer somehow in its stillness. I hear sounds I’d never be able to in the frenzy of the day; rustles, footsteps a street away, the gentle hum of the motorway a few miles off. Sometimes a fox darts out into a road and stops still, taken aback momentarily by our intrusion into its nocturnal domain before warily loping off to see what treasures the nearby bins have to offer. Our wandering feet inevitably take us to the river, and we stand and watch it for a while, listening to its song. It cuts through the evening, inky and ominous, an ancient storyteller interested in talking to no one tonight. Otters have been spotted in it recently, a sign of its good health and general cleanliness. I think of it continuing its slow, secretive journey as we head over the cobbled stones towards home, my mind calm, my body unwound.

Posted in Personal Musings, Place | Tagged | 7 Comments

Being Featured on Discover

I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has taken the time to follow my blog and/or leave a comment since it was featured on WordPress Discover. I’ve received many kind words about the featured post, On Anonymous Blogging, and also about other pieces of my writing. The positive response has been overwhelming and I’m really humbled by it all! Thanks again everyone, I hope you enjoy reading my future posts, and I look forward to checking out your blogs too.

Posted in Personal Musings | Tagged | 10 Comments

On Anonymous Blogging

diary

It’s the mid-noughties. I’m at university, London is blowing my mind, and I’m tapping away on my LiveJournal like my life depends on it. I’m documenting all of my experiences, preserving them through writing, and reading the blog posts of strangers around the world doing the same. I’m reading (and writing) about breakups, sex, mixtapes, road trips, family drama, and beautiful vignettes about places visited, or wild nights out, or a feeling.

I treated my LiveJournal as a kind of late night confessional, a place to process and unpick and get things off my chest. There was no Twitter, no Instagram, no Snapchat back then. Facebook was just taking off, the wifi connection in our halls of residence was patchy at best, and everyone still spent hours creating MySpace layouts. People didn’t think about ‘managing’ their online presence. Anonymity still had value on the internet, in fact it was the norm.

Skip to 2017 and almost all of that is gone. Reddit is the only mainstream site that springs to mind when I try to think of an online community that has anonymity at its core. Everywhere you look now people are creating glossy narratives about their lives on myriad social media accounts, and the kind of unfiltered ramblings that were the norm on sites like LiveJournal are just a dim memory. Selfie-consciousness reigns supreme.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what all this means for writers, and for me as a writer. My writing developed through the act of ‘journaling’, particularly online journaling; it’s the kind of writing I know best and am most comfortable with. As I’ve got older I’ve journaled less and less (something I’m trying to remedy with this blog), mostly, I suppose, because of time restraints and the fact that life becomes kind of routine with age. But the changing landscape of blogging and the relentless rise of social media has also had a huge impact.

The move from long-form writing to ‘micro-expression’ on sites like Twitter was the beginning of the end for the traditional personal blog. No one wanted to read a page of text anymore, why would you when everything can be neatly expressed in 140 characters? I fell into the habit of tweeting and found that I wrote – and wanted to write – less and less. After a while this left me feeling kind of empty. I can’t help but think that in the process of cutting down the amount we write we’re forgetting how to meaningfully write about ourselves and our lives.

Perhaps even more damaging than the micro-expression exodus has been the move towards almost total non-anonymity online, a change which has radically altered how people write about and present themselves on the internet. We have lost something in this merging of our online and offline selves. Anonymous blogs (even anonymous social media accounts, trolls aside) can be very engaging because there is less of a tendency to present yourself or your life as a ‘brand’. You’re completely free to be honest and vulnerable. This is what lies at the heart of good writing, and so by extension good blogging.

I miss the abundance of thoughtful, honest, creative writing that was around in those LiveJournal years. Yes, there was a lot of guff in the mix, a lot of badly written, ‘I’m bored so I guess I’ll write this post’ posts, but when it was good it was really good because people really opened up. The combination of anonymity and long-form writing being the norm created something beautiful and real. Thankfully, this fragile thing still exists in various corners of the internet, not least here on WordPress (LiveJournal has long since become a blog graveyard). For that, at least, I am grateful. I look forward to reading about your messy, imperfect lives soon.

Posted in Internet, Personal Musings, Social Media, Writing | Tagged , , | 267 Comments

On the Road

Washington DC

Hip-hop and low buildings. Shifty men in parks, rude taxi drivers and long streets. Infinite churches of various denominations. Creepy hostel owners and strange shower set-ups. Late bus drivers with neutral expressions, and office blocks mixed with expensive restaurants. Friendly lawyers and funny Australians.

Toronto

People’s faces when they’re asleep on buses. Sunsets with rock and roll playing through tinny speakers. British humour, travelling loners on the road to nowhere. Graffiti and poetry tattooed onto leather seats.

Chicago

Lightning over Lake Michigan and hot, hot wind. Turning street corners and seeing rain lit by the sun falling from skyscraper heights. Mock British pubs. Glimpses of stormy sunsets down endless avenues. Elevated trains running over the rooftops. The whispers of jazz and the roaring twenties on every street corner.

Salt Lake Sleeper

We rode through the desert in the sleeper carriage, watching the stars burn a new sunrise into the Nevada sky.

Las Vegas

Porn blows through the streets. Marilyn is on top of every seedy slot machine, and wannabe Rat Pack gamblers distill their whole life down to the queen of hearts. Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas.

Posted in Poetry, Travel | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Leonard

Leonard Cohen

I got into Leonard Cohen through my mother. She would play him while cooking, or when friends came over. She played him a lot while driving too. I have dim memories of listening to his vinyls on our 1970s record player (the size of a desk) in our lounge when I was little. He has been part of my life since I was too young to say his name (“Lemon Cohen”), and as I got older he was always there in the background – a reassuring constant, one of my many North Stars. His passing is bound up inextricably in my feelings about my parents, their lives, and their own mortality. It has felt deeply personal, and hard to bear.

But enough about that, let’s talk about those wonderful words. His poetry is both cerebral and raw – a heady brew of darkness, hope, spirituality, existentialism, love, and sensuality. The sensuality is probably what stands out most for me. He writes about women in a way that few men do – stripped of ego and expectation. Listening to his music is like stepping out of time, or walking a while with a stranger you feel you’ve known for years. He seemed to have always been an old, gentle soul, even when he was young. I’m so glad I got to share the world with him. As my mother said, it feels like I’ve lost an old friend.

Goodbye Leonard, enjoy the universe.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Posted in Death, Music | Tagged | 7 Comments

Frozen Autumn

Frozen lake

Posted in Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment