Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Everything changes when someone you love dies. Everything is wrong. The unfairness and impersonality of the world become, for a little while, completely irrefutable, and you are left without words. Nothing will suffice. Solemnity feels self-indulgent but gaiety seems frivolous. There is nothing you can do or say or feel that is right. Everything is wrong.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

Genuine grief makes self-pity look like the pale shadow that it is. There’s no guilt in this revelation, either– just the knowledge that life and love and work and happiness and anything that means anything does not emerge from a cowering anxiety about everything. Death reasserts your priorities.

I’ve lost someone that I love very much. It hurts. And I would slap anyone who said this to me, but it has made me realise that no matter how awful things are, I still have my life. I can still make words, and it is time that I stopped making excuses.

I have to be honest. I have to face the things I try to look away from when I write. I am not invisible. Who I am will emerge in every word I type onto a screen or write onto a piece of paper, and what I have to do, what I must do, is stop fucking apologising for it. It’s a stupid way to write. It’s a stupid way to live. It’s not productive. It’s not meaningful. What could be more tedious than a work that constantly apologises for its own existence? What could be more tiresome than a person who does the same thing?

There is nothing respectable about insecurity. There is nothing admirable about guilt. You can’t pre-empt everything, and it is a pernicious exercise in self-defeat to even try. Stop it, cut it out, and knock it the fuck off. Life’s too short for this shit.

Filing this under ‘advice to myself.’


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The eternal struggle.

Human versus nature.

Me against an established network of tubers and runners, weeds, thorns and nettles. I have a shovel, so I think we know who is going to emerge victorious here.

Nonetheless, it’s slow going. I’ve done perhaps eight or so hours of work, and I’ve barely made a dent in the vegetation. Weeds have been growing unchecked, so that I had to hack through stems nearly the size of my wrist. It’s mostly nettles and some large weed that I can’t identify. They were just about to come into flower before I annihilated them, a tiny Godzilla with a pair of hedge clippers. There’s something satisfying about taking a wasted piece of land and doing something constructive with it. I’d be happier if I could just do that, but circumstances (like the weather) make that difficult.

It doesn’t help that there’s building waste and just general rubbish dumped on the site, either. I’m always appalled by how many people treat their surroundings like a landfill. Never mind environmental laws or groundwater contamination or just how ugly it looks, just toss it over a fence or around the corner. It’s disgraceful. Thousands of years of evolution and cultural progress, and this is what we do with our surroundings.

Anyway. I find myself getting grumpy a lot. Perhaps no more than usual, but I think the consistent backdrop of the island highlights it. I know exactly how much human interaction I can take before I have to flee to my room. It’s tough being on an island with people you don’t know very well, especially with a constantly changing flow of newcomers.

I assumed I knew what sort of people came to the Arans before I got here, and apart from the nasty group that was here the first weekend, I’ve been pretty much correct. Gore-Tex clad people carrying huge backpacks, ruddy-faced from sun and wind. Most of them are pretty nice, although I do find myself wanting to distribute tubes of sunblock. All the fresh air in the world doesn’t prevent skin cancer, people.

Speaking of fresh air, I haven’t been getting out as much as I should. I went for a nice long walk the first weekend I was here and a shorter one the other day, but apart from that I’ve spent a lot of time indoors on my computer. I spent hours every day when I first got here responding to emails and messages. Those have tapered off though (ahem), which has given me more time to write. I think it’s a good sign that I’ve been neglecting my diary in favour of my work– particularly since my diary started to consist mostly of comments about the weather and the latest group of tourists.

“Rainy. Now sunny. Rainy again. Windy. I dislike Americans. I’m worried about my visa application.”

Et cetera. For all my grumpiness, I don’t find myself stressing out about things here, partly because of the quiet environment and partly because I can’t do anything about those big life issues anyway. So I garden and I change beds and I write, and I try not to subject myself to too much awful television. Or too many awful people, heh.

There’s also the selection of food and drink. You can drink anything you like in the pubs here– as long as it’s Guinness or Bulmers. (In all fairness, that’s not true: you can also drink Carlsberg and other things that come in a can or bottle.) The Spar (the only shop on the island) stocks gluten-free biscuits (at €4 a package) but nothing else that’s gluten free. I can’t be arsed with the hassle and expense of going to Galway on the ferry, so I’ve been eating a lot of gluten lately. Oops?

One thing that’s nice is being close to the sea. Living in Brighton has ensured that I can never be very far from the ocean again. There’s just no substitute for walking down to the water and listening to the waves.

The island is rocky. There are beaches of grey sand with worn and crevassed flats of limestone. Clumps of little pink flowers grow on the rocks. From the hostel, I can see the pier and the little bay. On windy days (which is to say, most days), in the distance, I can see huge waves breaking on the shores of Galway Bay. It’s breathtaking. Today the water is cerulean and fairly calm, glittering in the sun.

I wish my friends could be here to see this. I’ve taken some photos on my phone, which don’t begin to do the place justice. I’m planning to send some postcards once I find some good ones. I wish I had my camera. Well– I wish it worked. Although I don’t really think a picture can really express everything about this place anyway; the windswept rockiness of it, the colour of the water on a clear day, the way the sun warms everything when it’s out and makes it feel like summer. The glowering greyness when the clouds come in off the Atlantic and the bleak colouring it gives the scenery.

I want to write something set here. The isolation and the weather lend themselves well to something hair-raising, but someone’s already written The Shining, so I’d like to do something different. We’ll see what happens.

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Up until now, I’ve been hesitant to write about this because 1) if I think someone is desperate for attention, I don’t want to give them any more of it and 2) I’d rather be writing about things I like. What’s finally made me do it is not just my intense dislike of Laurie Penny and her warm and fuzzy faux radical romanticism; it’s also the habit she’s getting into of getting snippy with people who have the nerve to call her out on her poor standard of work and her bratty, self-absorbed attitude.

Like her tweet from this past weekend (now deleted) which went thusly:

I misjudged yesterday’s demo. It’s not the movement that’s fizzling out – it’s me, my energy, after working without a day off for 4 months. As soon as I realised that, I turned round, walked away from the protest with just my coat and phone and got on the first train to the coast.

Melodramatic much? I’m sure all of us have little cinematic fantasies that we set to poignant music in our heads. But not all of us are foolish enough to post them on the internet, particularly in the context of a huge political movement. The only thing more pathetic than the initial self-involved tweet (now deleted) is her response to people calling her out on it. Watching Penny respond to her critics is like getting a lesson in How Not to Argue on the Internet 101. One of the chiefest signs that you don’t have a leg to stand on is when you try to be an interwebs badass and sort of vaguely threaten people. Laurie Penny apparently does not know that, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is her stunning lack of self-awareness. (more…)

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That’s right, I’m officially employed, so I’m officially one of those evil immigrants who comes into Britain and takes jobs away from hard-working put-upon English people. Now that my dissertation is handed in (thank god), this means two things: I have a source of income, and I spend half my day commuting. I’ve started taking the bus because it’s cheaper than the train, so my commute, from my house to my job, officially takes two hours. Which is ridiculous. A quarter of my waking day is spent on buses.

Of course, my job also means that I get to handle books. Lots of them. Old books. Books that are fifty, a hundred, TWO HUNDRED years old. It’s awesome. Except for the part where it’s a bit tedious. At some point in the near future I will post about the weird, funny, and disturbing things I run across, like the book of limericks that featured a naked man on the front with a huge flower growing up between his legs. They were THOSE kind of limericks.

One of the (few) perks is that I get to take home the books that we throw out. I have a growing stack next to my desk, and I now officially own three different versions of Brideshead Revisited. I’m not letting myself take anything else home until after I move house.

The quasi-direct result of this is that I’m starting to read again (usually on aforementioned bus). Yesterday was Hannibal Rising, the hilariously ridiculous origin story of the world’s most urbane mass murderer, Hannibal Lecter. Thomas Harris’s books are a guilty pleasure of mine. They’re ridiculous, but this one was entertaining enough to keep me up until midnight finishing it. I’ve read Hannibal several times. I think I was the only person who actually liked the (again, ridiculous) ending.

Now it’s Vintage Wodehouse, which has made me laugh out loud several times. Mostly the joke about how it’s a Russian sport to try to assassinate Lenin with revolvers.

And reading always takes me to writing. I haven’t written anything in a while that wasn’t related to my dissertation, and I feel the need to… something that rhymes with ‘need.’ The need to screed? Anyway. Once I’ve recovered from this exhausting week, I’m going to get back on the wagon and work on a couple of things I have sitting around. It’s amazing how taking time away from a piece can clarify things.

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