Friday, 22 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 22



Higher


A fine, solid house,

4 floors, no doors,

layers of students,

just us in the sky.


Camped in the clouds,

my neighbour turned raver,

bought Peace (in the valley),

played it really bloody loud.


In the kitchen there’s talk,

don’t look in the bathroom.

I had a mattress on the floor,

mixtapes to live by.


Who slept in that house?

Not even the mice,

all eyes were propped open,

not missing a beat.


RF 2021


In August 1991, aged 24, I moved to the top floor of a big student house back in the Hyde Park area of Leeds and stayed there for nearly a whole year (quite a long time for this period of my life). Each floor of the house was technically a 2-bed flat with its own bathroom and kitchen but there was only one main front door for the whole place so it wasn’t very private. The students downstairs were nice and I don’t remember them complaining about us non-students (though we were very noisy and kept very late hours – maybe they did too, I don’t remember). The house had terrible plumbing – some really foul smells at times. It had been a beautiful grand house at some time no doubt, but it was not much cared for by this point. 

I was sharing this place with the same young woman I’d lived with at poem 18 (I’ve called her A – we’re not in touch anymore). She had the front room you can see in this picture (up in the roof) and my room was next to hers hence she is the neighbour in this poem (whilst technically my flatmate). She had split up from her long-term boyfriend (gorgeous but not much of a laugh) and so, though she had been a goth up till then (a big movement in Leeds in the ’80s), she decided to come and try some rave culture with me. She loved it and pretty much joined in with whatever I was up to for a while (I think she found it liberating to be allowed, nay encouraged, to smile for a change). We still didn’t use our kitchen for cooking. There were a lot of dodgy people hanging around (old goths turned rave providers – at least one of them kept drugs in our bathroom now and then), a lot of loud music, a lot of sleep in the day. I left my advertising job around this time (I just walked out one day, couldn’t pretend any more, no Jerry Maguire moment, no big speech, kept the company car for far too long afterwards…) and I started working much more suitable hours (for me) at a small alternative magazine (that I mentioned a couple of posts and poems ago). The income came from a string of the kind of job schemes that don’t really exist anymore (income support/housing benefit plus £10 a week) and it wasn’t much but it was enough. We had a lot going on and most of it was pretty cheap (friends running clubs, free tickets for reviews…).

The boyfriend I had met in May 1991 lived just a couple of doors down and in fact most of the time he lived with me in this flat (or sometimes I was at his, I can’t remember how we decided where and when, possibly something to do with laundry). By now, he had a show on the Leeds pirate radio station Dream FM (huge with ravers and assorted others in Leeds in the ’90s) and he was always faffing about on decks and hunting down 12” singles. Now free from the advertising 9-5, I got quite interested in all that too (more on that next time).

A and I left this flat in July 1992 and moved across to town… see you there tomorrow.


This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.


Thursday, 21 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 21



Bolthole


This is not my place,

every splash is her choice.

Grateful for escape,

I close my eyes, say nothing.


Borders on the walls,

slogans in the kitchen,

‘This house is a home’,

but not mine (always weird).


She cooks too much ‘chilli’,

a dense meaty mess,

it festers in the pan,

fetid fumes just hang.


The old pub nearby

is all local folk,

grimacing, posturing,

polished and primed. 


RF 2021


As I mentioned yesterday, things did not last long with the boyfriend in the last house so fairly quickly (in May 1991) I had to move out as it was very much his place (and I, shameless heartbreaker that I was in this instance, was already seeing someone new). Quickly, I rented the spare room of a young woman I knew at work – the attic bedroom of a small back-to-back terraced house in a part of Leeds I hadn’t lived in before (Kirkstall – nice abbey, busy roads). It wasn’t too far from where I’d lived since arriving in the city in 1989 but it had a very different feel to the areas I’d been in up to now (far fewer students, hippies and anarchists as far as I could see, though I may have missed some and it may have changed by now of course). I suppose it was still what you might have called ‘traditional’ Leeds (terraced houses, mostly white people, pubs). The owner of the house and I (again) didn’t have much in common but she was sweet to give me shelter when I needed it and she had a big, Brummie heart (and, if I remember, particularly terrible taste in men). 

The new boyfriend was someone I really did like and we had shared interests (i.e., we were both dedicated fans of the groove and class A stimulants – though he also had a taste for hashish*, something I’ve never got on with, so many bloody names for it for a start). Other than that it was nice to finally have a proper partner in crime and we had an especially happy summer, if I remember. Unfortunately for him, this was also when the anxieties caused by this lifestyle were starting to make themselves known to me but this didn’t put him off (in fact it is generally my experience that good men are not put off by these things and in fact will help you recover, not make you feel bad about your problems). Throwing myself deeper and deeper into the alternative lifestyle (as I did) probably didn’t help with the growing anxieties but at this point I was in some pretty strong denial on that front. What other kind of life was there? Why would anyone not embrace the joy that was ecstasy and endless dancing? Never a religious person, I was a fairly strong convert to this particular faith. I believed, I worshipped, I was devoted.

My landlady was lovely but about as far from alternative as you could get so it was pretty soon time to move on from here too (I stayed here about 3 months). Back to the chaos of Hyde Park (and lots of students and hippies) tomorrow… and a change of workplace.

*Other names for this product are available. Most of them are ridiculous.

This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 20

 



Cuckoo stew


A hidden-away house.

A hushed city secret.

The garden is tended.

Miracles grow.


The shop on the corner

is just a greengrocer’s,

apples and brussels,

signs of the past.


Something is stewing:

‘best end of neck’,

a vapour, like wartime,

stale and unknown.


He simmers here quietly,

better without me,

a space invader,

I alter the tone.


RF 2021


As mentioned last time, I had started going out with a guy who was a friend of a friend (well, a friend of a friend’s boyfriend). We had nothing in common (he didn’t even like clubbing which was pretty much my life at this point) but he liked me so I’m afraid I moved in with him far sooner than was advisable (Jan 1991, I was around 24). My bedsit was horrible and he lived in a rented terraced house just a few streets over that was comfy and spacious (certainly compared to my recent homes, it was owned by a friendly person, not a career landlord). This house was quite a change from my Leeds places so far as, whilst still in Headingley, it was in a hidden, friendly street and people had gardens that were used for other things than just storing empty pizza boxes (though judging by the current google pic, above, the garden is a little overgrown just now...). Another friend of his living was there too and they both had odd hours (one a postal worker, one a croupier). I still had the advertising job – by the skin of my teeth – and they were unadvisedly sending me on business trips and things like that (I can’t have been a very good representative for the company – I guess in advertising the standards are low). By this time (after well over a year devoted to hardcore raving) I was very thin and often ill (lack of sleep, lack of food, always coughing and wondering why I felt so ill...). It was starting to show mentally too and I had my first panic attack on the flight back from a few days at some interminable nylon conference in Germany (ICI Fibres was one of our clients…). I wouldn’t recommend having your first full-blown panic attack in the crowded ‘business’ section of a small plane (it was same as the rest of the plane – just everyone, except me, was in a suit). It was pretty horrible and panic attacks of one sort or another were my companions for years after. I’ve never really enjoyed being a plane since (well, apart from the last ten minutes of a flight). 

But back to the house - this boyfriend (it was his place) was quite an old-fashioned young man (long before this was seen as a good thing) and if the word had existed then you might have called him a ‘hipster’ (he had a beard, liked bread, made things, drank ale), but it didn’t and he wasn’t. He was just an individual, I suppose, behind (or ahead) of his time, and he didn’t care about anything like terms for groups of people or any nonsense like that, I’m sure still doesn’t now. He didn’t much like his work but he liked to cook (meat!) and smoke (roll-ups) and go out for beers and dream about travelling (we got as far as Edinburgh together). I had Sunday lunch with his parents one time and I’m sure they could tell I was not right for him at all (and, as parents often are, they were totally correct). I hope he did find the right someone – we didn’t stay in touch (I hope he’s not, Sleeping Beauty style, hidden behind that overgrown garden ...). I moved out in May 1991 (a bigger love story beckoned) so it wasn’t a particularly friendly farewell. Maybe, as in My Name is Earl I need to go round making amends for some of these crimes. Or maybe somethings are better left alone… anyway, next time – Kirkstall, Leeds (not that far).


This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.



Tuesday, 19 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 19

 



Basic


I just needed a bed,

so I got a bedsit:


one grim, grey room, 

one sad, brown smell,


gas fire, coarse carpet,

Baby Belling (I imagine),


bar stool, shared shower,

laundrette (somewhere),


seven AM blare

of a regular neighbour;


I never once saw their face

but I heard them (distorted).


RF 2021


I think this is what happened. In the summer of 1990 my flatmate moved in with her fairly long-term boyfriend (his flat was nicer) and there wasn’t anyone I wanted to share with particularly so I had to find a different place just for me. I was so not interested in where I lived (at this point it was just somewhere to keep my mixtapes, trainers, car keys and, very occasionally, to sleep) so I took the cheapest, easiest option – a small bedsit in a big Victorian house of about 6-10 other bedsits quite near ‘work’. It was roughly on the Hyde Park/Headingley border, if such a thing exists, for those who know Leeds. It was not a pretty or charming home. It was very institutional… and quite weird (there were so many other tenants and yet I don’t remember ever actually seeing any of them). 

I had a room at the back, middle floor, no view, possibly even the room’s own aged net curtains. I made no changes at all to the room. Did I even unpack? Who would have known? This was still before laptops and mobile phones for most of us but I had my own landline in the room which was my most used accessory. I mentioned a company car in the last post but that must have been a mistake (and I’ve amended it) because I just remembered that I sold my first (crappy) car when I lived here so the full-time company car phase (first an old Fiesta XR2, then a new Citroen AX) must have only started around this time. I sold the crappy car (Fiat 127, barely roadworthy) and it immediately broke down. I apologise profusely if the person who bought that car is reading this (unlikely but ‘hi Fiona!’ if so). I wasn’t sleeping a lot then, I wasn’t in my right mind (and other excuses). She's a huge success in TV production apparently so well done to her (and karma...).

I was still working at the same job, and I went out a lot. Living here, I started seeing a postie (friend of a friend) and his hours were even odder than mine. I wasn’t a very good girlfriend to him (and he was a sweet guy). Looking at an old diary I see the phrase (early in our time together) ‘forgot it was his birthday, forgot for ages.’ I was such a charmer. He was more a pub than club person so my pub hours went up significantly around this time (though they were added onto the club hours, they didn’t replace them).

I did make some tiny headway with writing when I lived here because I started doing reviews for a local Leeds magazine. It was called Leeds Other Paper, though it later changed its name to Northern Star, and it was a workers’ cooperative staffed by members of pre-Tubthumping Chumbawamba and various other hardworking anarchists, leftwingers and the odd hippy. I started off writing unpaid reviews of comedy/cabaret shows (free tickets were the payment … and there was the glory too of course) but I gradually wrote more and more for them (on music, books, clubs, also I did interviews and even worked there, kind of unofficially, later on). Like my quaker school in the ’80s, Northern Star ceased operations not long after I left. I’m not sure what to say about that. Can I blame Thatcher (answer ‘yes’, for everything)? 

I moved on from this show of a home in January 1991 after only a few months. But where to? And why? Was it an allergy to net curtains? More on this and other news tomorrow at the same time…


This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.


Monday, 18 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 18




 Feathers


A and I flew the coop,

moved our minimal possessions

to a cavernous ground floor

with views of a road.


There was so much space,

we didn’t fill it or fuss it,

not the homemaking types,

we just let the dust reign.


The kitchen at the back

was a place little troubled,

not a trace of a cookbook,

nothing matching, one pan.


I don’t even remember 

what passed for a bathroom,

but there must have been one,

we were clean, I am sure.


And in my giant room,

I did sleep, here and there,

not always alone,

sometimes in a pile,


say, 5 of us heaped

on the great island bed,

feet worn to the bone, 

fairy tale style.


RF 2021


At the end of February 1990, after six months in the first Leeds place, one of the other tenants and I moved from Hyde Park to a flat in the nearby area of Headingley. The two landlords of the first place were older guys (in their 30s maybe – they just seemed old to me, I turned 23 in that house) and they were friendly but also more than a little creepy. One talked about his genitals a lot and the other was a really heavy drinker with a bit of a twisted sense of humour so I think that’s why the only other female tenant and I moved to a place of our own. A and I didn’t have much in common – other than that we both liked going out (to anything really) and neither of us liked anything remotely homey (no cooking, very little cleaning, not a scatter cushion in the place). So we moved into a pretty sparse ground floor flat that had good access to pizza and we were sorted. I feel like maybe someone else lived there too but it was a lively, much stimulated time so that might have been a dream of some kind (or just her boyfriend). Or did we bring the young Sicilian from the last place with us? I really can’t remember.

It was nice to be in a home where we could make our own decisions and have a bit more space (I had that corner room on the ground floor with the huge windows – I certainly didn't have blinds, it was very minimally and cheaply furnished, I’m not even sure there were curtains). I was pretty heavily involved in raving/clubbing at this point so that took a lot of my time and attention (in Leeds and in London, quite a few friends were living there so me and my crappy little Fiat 127 or borrowed cars from work knew the M1 pretty well). I did still have a full-time job but luckily it was one where quite a lot of the time you could pretend to work whilst really sleeping with your eyes open or talking to your friends on the phone. Often I would finish a task in a day then stretch it out so it looked like it needed to take a fortnight. As I mentioned in the last post I’d only gone for the advertising job because several famous writers of the time had been in advertising first and it seemed a possible route. Of course I wasn’t actually writing anything at the time so there was a massive flaw in that plan. I was, however, having the time of several lives. Novelists often seem so miserable, I’m not sure I made the wrong choice.

I moved out of this flat after 6 months. But why? And where next? See you tomorrow...


This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 17

 



Gateway


My first stop in a new city

is a big, bright house.

It’s filthy, full of characters,

front door always slamming,

the kitchen bin constantly 

bursting its banks.


Two landlords on the premises,

unpredictable, over-sexual.

One drinks Thunderbird for show,

tries to scare me with bare pubs

on the other side of town.

He’s quite the arsehole.


A’s a long-term attic dweller,

glam rook in thick plaster,

rattling in the rafters,

like a lone goth memory. 

She exists on instant coffee, 

adoration, Marlboro Lights.


Her neighbours - two grads,

suits to work, healthy types.

This is not the place for them

so their stays are short-term.

They pack up their futures,

jog off while they can.


A young Sicilian turns up,

dropped here by his family.

The landlords mash his head, 

leave him looped and alone

with the only video in the house:

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.


In the middle of all this

I am in a wrong job

and a small plain room.

I buy a green venetian blind,

make pirate radio my friend.

And I descend.


RF 2021


My first full-time job post-uni was a trainee post at an advertising agency in Leeds and once I got the job in summer of 1989 I had to find somewhere to live pretty quickly (I was 22). I looked at two rooms in shared houses in the city and one had lots of Garfield/cuddly toy stickers on the fridge so, reader, I picked the other one. The other one was a big end-terraced house (2 landlords living in and about 5 tenants) in an area called Hyde Park (lots of students, lots of hippies, lots of noise). I had a small room, a shared bathroom with the people on my floor, some use of the small downstairs kitchen (though I don’t think I ever cooked there…). It could be a sociable house but it wasn’t exactly a healthy environment, in many ways. Garfield and friends might have been the safer choice for my lifelong mental health but at this point I’ll never know. 

I lived in this shared house for about 6 months and during this time I learned to really devote myself to nightclubbing. I’d always been a fan, since I was about 14, but for the first time (a) I had a fairly decent disposable income, (b) I was living in a place where there was loads of different places to go and (c) Leeds was great for raving and all that went with it (the much repeated ‘joke’ about LSD and 2 Es, in fact it was just accurate, though it missed out the speed – as a former goth capital amphetamines were a local delicacy very much still on a lot of menus). Leeds and the rest of Yorkshire was producing some great music too (Nightmares on Wax, Ital Rockers, LFO) so the clubs had a feel of their own (I went out in London a lot too around this time and did enjoy it but the local West Yorkshire scene was quite unique ... 3)**. Very early on I bumped into someone from uni who was in a similar boat to me (living in a new place, not knowing a soul, having a little money to spend) and the two of us took advantage of cheap weekday meal offers, cheap weekday drinks offers, cheap drugs, cheap clubs (this was long before designer clubbing..). I had a pair of bounce-til-you-drop Nike Airs and an assortment of cheap and cheerful raving clothing (flowery knee-length dungarees, cheap t shirts, jeans). I had not been a fan of the general horsiness of university balls in Cambridge (I only went to one as staff, drank more than I served, deserted my post and took the first pumpkin home) but here the music was brilliant and no one was trying to get you to eat ‘hog roast’ or wear a frou-frou gown. Finally, I had a ball.

The job was what we would now call meh. Graduate trainees were expected to go into the business side of advertising (think Peter Campbell in Mad Men and about as charming) when I had been hoping for the creative (and an eventual transition into successful novel writing – after all that had worked for Salman Rushdie and Fay Weldon*, hadn’t it?). However, the creative department was the preserve of art college graduates, certainly at our place, so I didn’t get much of a look in (I could have tried harder, I suppose, I soon learned that I deeply disliked quite a lot about the world of advertising so trying at work was low on my list of activities). I was very ill-suited (in every sense) for business dealings (and still am) but the agency, quite a pretentious place run by more than a couple of A Team tossers, didn’t want to lose their ‘Oxbridge’ graduate, so I ended up in Research and Planning. I got a company car, spent some Saturdays organising market research days in city centres, spent a fair amount of time on data input and reports. But I didn’t care because house music was my life, I had the key to the wiggly worm, and at this point work was just a means to the weekend (and the rest).

After a few months I got sick of some of the men in this house and as two of them literally owned the place it was a power balance I didn’t like. I guess the only other female inhabitant (A in the poem) felt much the same because we decided to get our own place. And that will be tomorrow’s venue so see you there…

*All the rage in the 1980s, I assure you.

**Sorry, there was also a West Yorshire band called Unique 3.


This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 16


 

Once a barn


My mum has a maypole.

It’s not her own property

but she looks out on it fondly.

The village has a green.


There are pubs either side,

a lion, an ox,

the smallest post office,

a hidden ‘prep’ school.


She puts down firm roots,

clematis, wisteria,

and works an allotment,

hands deep in the dirt.


She invites all the neighbours

for sherry and chit chat,

has quakers at New Year,

boils up a huge soup.


The house was a barn,

note its ‘farmhouse’ doors.

It’s rustic and rattly,

awkward and cold.


RF 2021


When I finished university in 1989 (I was 22) I went to live with my Mum for a short time while I signed on and applied for jobs. She had moved to a more permanent home in another Nottinghamshire village. The house was a converted barn and she was the first resident of this stage in the building’s life. She stayed there right up till 2004 when she (spoiler alert) came to live with us in Scotland. It was a big place for a single person (3 bedrooms, a great big sunless sitting room so hard to heat that she didn't use it much in winter unless she had company) but she hoped it would be full of visitors and family (close and extended) and that did happen on and off. We’re not a family that comes together in giant gatherings very often as we’re pretty spread out geographically (several offshoots in New Zealand) and then there's the fact that some of us can’t stand each other (that would need another writing project...) but we did celebrate her 70th birthday in 1994 in this house and there were quite a few of us there for that.

This summer of ’89 was the longest time that I stayed in this particular ‘home’ (it was really more her home than mine). My brothers were both still in the south of England but Mum had a family connection a few miles away (one of my sisters) and she did what she had always done – put in a lot of effort to make new friends and find new things to do (she was 65 in 1989). She was a very capable person and turned her hand to all kinds of tasks (physical and mental). I remember when she was living with us, and was in her 80s, she did some tiling round the sink in her room that had my practically perfect partner applauding her in admiration (ok, he said ‘she's done a brilliant job’). I was always aware that she had to work harder at most things than people who still had partners (she’d been widowed the second time in 1973 remember) but also that she could pick exactly what she wanted to do and didn’t have to compromise or put up with someone else’s tastes. Every now and then an old (widowed) boyfriend of hers would emerge and suggest she couple up with them. Her response (to me) was ‘I am not going to wash someone else’s socks at this time of life’. She stayed single (but always had a dog).

She was involved with a local theatre (making trifles for buffets, as far as I could tell), an adult education literature class, and did a lot of gardening, as well as helping out with both the children and the aged of local family. She had as many visitors as she could and I stayed there over the years with various friends and boyfriends. I even spent Millennium Eve there in 1999 (pregnant) but I am getting ahead of myself. Next stop – Leeds and a kind of very low rent Mad Men.


This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.