Sunday, 31 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 31

 



Bird’s eye


Who knew this river city space 

would be our long-term lockdown home,

with all these hours to sit and stare

whilst still aware that others don’t 

have time to wipe a sweaty brow, 

or tears that won’t stop falling.


We hunker down, adapt our skills,

and look for news that doesn’t come,

as pigeons swoop their grey through town,

so odd with all the people gone;

they miss the pies and chips and things,

the seagulls just keep calling. 


We climb the Law to see our strength,

the ceiling’s high, the jackdaws too,

the view has questions, hear it sing, 

like ‘what would Michael Marra do?’

We stumble on towards the wise,

the fort is burning, falling.



RF 2021

Video/audio for this one here.


We moved from our Montrose home in 2018. In some ways we hadn’t meant to stay there such a long time (14 years – a long time for me to be in one place) but our daughter was in school and doing well and we didn’t have a better idea so we stayed put. She was due to finish school in summer 2018 so a few months before that we finally put suburbia up for sale. It took a little while but eventually someone wanted it and we moved into a city again (Dundee, in September 2018). We knew this city pretty well (Mark had been working here since 2002) and we had always fancied having a go at living here. As cities go it is really striking – the river, the hills, the coast – and it’s a good size (not too huge, not too small). So far, even with all the lockdown business, we really love it. As Leeds was when I moved there in 1989, Dundee is at one of those points in its history when people are trying to make it a more stimulating, attractive, interesting place to live. Of course, opinions will differ on how that should be done, how much should be spent and on what exactly, but this isn’t the place for that discussion (and we’re new here…). I do know that Dundee is one of those places that many people feel passionate about – it has a special history, a special outlook, a dryness to the humour (all of these things encapsulated, I think, in the work and talent of one of its most significant musical sons, Michael Marra). I saw him perform a few times in Montrose and once in Dundee in 2009. He was brilliant and, like many others in his class (Nina Simone, Gil Scott-Heron...), what you might call painfully wise. 

In Dundee we’re back in a flat again (for the first time in a while) and it’s even a ground floor one (part of of the building in the google photo above). I’m sure I once swore I’d never do this again (feet above your head and all that) but somehow it’s OK. We’re up on the hill, we have some views and I’m old enough (and, miraculously, mostly chilled enough) to be not too bothered by others’ noise (in fact I even sometimes like hearing the noise of others’ children and generations above us and next door). And do I ever, upon hearing all the little footsteps and other chaos, just put in my headphones or pick up a book or a coffee and smile to myself? Why yes, I believe I do.  

We didn’t intend to move house on exactly the same day in 2018 that the new V & A museum opened in Dundee but we did. Luckily we didn’t get caught up in the traffic jams that accompanied the grand opening/concerts etc. and neither did our furniture. At the end of a long day’s moving we fell into bed but then suddenly heard a lot (and I mean A LOT) of banging. At first I thought ‘man, that neighbour at the back really knows how to bang their garage door shut, over and over’ but eventually we realised that it had to be more than that. We got up and went to the front of the house … just in time to see the very last lights of the huge, the-like-of-which-has-never-been-seen-before firework display and lightshow that had been put on to celebrate the opening of the V & A. We heard it was fantastic.

And then we had a year and a half of doing everything we could to enjoy the benefits of city life before the Covid days began. It’s a strange time to be in a city just now – so much of what makes cities tick can’t even be wound up. I walk through the city centre and seeing almost everything closed is such a strange sensation (like a really long Xmas Day – and I’m not the biggest fan of Xmas). For someone who’s spent so much of her adult life worrying about crowds and crowded spaces it’s a gift in some ways (to not have them) but it’s one I really didn’t want. Usually if I have to get a train anywhere, for example, I spend far too much time worrying beforehand about whether the train will be packed or not and what I will do if it is. At the moment I watch the almost empty trains sail by the city and long to be in one (an empty train is my idea of heaven!). I love travelling – I just (still) really struggle to do it in crowds or packed spaces so all this empty transport is like the biggest tease. I also wonder if, post-pandemic (whenever that is), I will be so desperate for change that I will move on from some of that old crap in my head and not be so weird about crowds (it’s pretty tiring and tiresome…) but it’s only a fleeting thought. Again, I’m old enough and chilled enough to not worry about it too much. Most of us have something that bugs us about ourselves. It could be worse.

More than ever, none of us know what will happen next. This is not a time for making plans so whether we will stay at this postcode for anything more than a few years is hard, or even impossible, to say. We like it here. We may stay, we may not. I don’t find moving generally upsetting or difficult (as I know some do). I find it exciting to be honest – there are so many places in the world to explore (and that doesn’t just mean obviously ‘exotic’ locations – the village next door can be exciting too, just because it’s different, and people have had to acknowledge this more because of lockdowns, I think). I also know that my feelings (about homes and moving) are a privilege because they come from a place of safety and being loved and cared for. A lot of this project for me has been trying to take a look back at my particular journey so far (the ordinary and the extraordinary – most of us experience both somewhere along the way) and a lot of it has reminded me how much of mine has been enjoyable (even if I didn’t necessarily realise that at the time). I’ve also read enough accounts, listened and watched enough documentaries about refugees and what seem like some people’s impossible journeys to know that difficult times means different things to different people. Some images from TV of the past few years live long in my mind – people stuck in terrible conditions in Calais, people risking their lives at sea, and one picture that’s stayed with me from something I watched years ago is that of a group of young men, mostly from Afghanistan, just sitting in a railway hut in Serbia. They had been there a long time and they were cold, abandoned and forgotten and with nothing to do but just sit there. They were waiting for countries to let them in, waiting for borders and minds to open instead of close (and some of them were still there in 2020 according to this article). And, even if many of us haven’t experienced anything like this so far, we could all be in that position one day and we should do what we can to support those, here and elsewhere, who don’t have the security of any kind of healthy home (never mind holidays). It’s hard to do much without a safe home: it’s essential, fundamental, basic.

And here I am now at the odd stopping point that is the end of this project. It’s the last day in January 2021 and this is the end of my Fun A Day Dundee project for this year. I know this one hasn’t exactly been anyone’s idea of ‘fun’ (I did ‘fun’ last year) but it has been a great exercise for me in terms of writing and doing something a bit creative. Mostly my work these days is aiding others’ creativity and it’s been good to see if I still have anything to offer up from my own well, as it were. I appreciate all the lovely responses on here and on evil Facebook, evil Instagram and the merry madness that is Twitter (I really only put these posts on the latter because poet and former blog friend poet JoAnne McKay isn’t on any other platform and her comments are total quality). Creativity is such a simple thing, in itself, and this felt good to do. I’ve learned I still have a memory (bit of a shocker), and that I still have friends and love (likewise) and a roof over my head (even if that roof is a couple of floors up with another family in between). Most of all, I’m still alive, still breathing, and still looking around me now and then and wondering ‘what the hell is that?’ and sometimes ‘can I eat it?’ It’s OK. It’s more than OK.
Here’s a pic of me in 1970 (aged 3) outside my first home (left) and then just yesterday outside our current home. As you can see I am now, and have always been, a fashion icon:






If you’ve enjoyed following me on this project please feel free to pass the blog link on to friends and family or anyone else you think might like it. They might want to start at number one (it’s back here, 1967, just outside Darlington in Co. Durham, England). Thanks for reading everyone and here’s to Fun A Day Dundee 2022!

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). In January 2020 I wrote a 31-word poem and posted a drawing to illustrate a word of it every day for a month (more info here). 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 of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were 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, 30 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 30

 



A long stay


In 1970 this house was IT,

then it got stuck and left behind;

it’s a bit light on bathrooms.


We fill it up with generations, 

change a few of the tired features,

turn up the volume on the walls.


I walk the little one to nursery,

and then to school and what comes next.

We make our stories long and funny.


The singing here is sound as folk,

all squeezed around that hefty table

for cakes and parties, ups and downs.


Fourteen years is a long time – 

life and death and friends to see it – 

too much for one poem.


RF 2021

Video/audio for this one here.


In September 2004 we moved into a house in Hillside, on the edge of Montrose (I was 37). This would be the longest I ever lived in one building because Mark, Heather and I stayed here till 2018 (14 whole years*). Looking for this home we had another family member to consider (my Mum, she was 80 and moved up from England to be with us) so we needed somewhere that could work for two households in one. Some of things we had to keep in mind were – my Mum absolutely did not want any kind of ‘granny flat’, also she really wanted a garden, Mark wanted a train connection for work and I wanted to be able to walk Heather to school. In the end it was Mum who found the house that met all these criteria – it wasn’t much to look at in the listings, and indeed no-one else was interested in it, but she was totally right as, after a few tweaks, it had everything we wanted and it worked out just fine (she had some experience of moving house if you see the early poem/posts in this series). Plus it was just a few minutes (in the car) from miles of lovely beaches (St Cyrus, Kinnaber, Montrose) – after living most of my life so far from the sea we were now spoilt for choice.

The house was in a village-suburb hybrid (with a psychiatric hospital at the top of the street – I always found that more reassuring than anything else – it’s closed now). Built in about 1970, the house was a bit old-fashioned (not old enough to be interesting, not new enough to be fancy or luxurious) but it had space (inside and out) and that was what we needed this time, especially as we all got used to the new living arrangement. We three were used to our way of doing things and Mum was very used to hers (after years of living alone) but we did make it work. Mum was great – she did loads in the garden, played and watched TV with Heather, got on well with Mark. As with many mother/daughter relationships there were times when the close quarters was too much of a good thing for me (and her) and we wound each other up (she could be a bit of a snob, I could be a bit of a slob, she could do disappointed really well...) but luckily, because of the space, we could just remove ourselves to a different room or go out to the garden and it would blow over soon enough. I learned pretty quickly that she was happier if I cooked meals she liked (who isn’t?) so we all ate like Grandmas for a few years (or that particular Grandma anyway – meat, puddings, chocolate, more puddings).

We lived here for all of Heather’s school years so she did a year of nursery and her primary years at the village school and then her secondary years at the local secondary school, Montrose Academy. She loved her schools and had some amazing teachers (and librarians and other staff). She enjoyed great extracurricular events too (mainly musicals-related and you can read about that on her own blog). My Mum lived with us for six, mostly fun-filled years and died, at home, after a short illness in 2010 (she was 86). She had once again found a group of quakers to hang out with and, as friends often are, they were a strong support to her throughout her time in Angus. We fostered for a while after Mum died so there were a couple of other young residents at this house too (one small boy in summer 2013, another from 2013-4). Mark continued to work in Dundee throughout our time here (so he did that train journey up and down the beautiful coast many, many, many times). In 2008 we added a pup, Zoe, to the pack (Mum’s dog Ailsa died in 2009 at a grand age). 

There were a lot of changes over these years, many visitors from all over the world, new friends, lots of parties, many lives in one place. Although I loved the area there were aspects of living at this address that I found tricky. The suburban nature of the village (and the large salaries some residents had thanks to the oil industry) manufactured quite an atmosphere of competition (whose child is most popular, who has the biggest car, who’s been on the most holidays..?) and that stuff is such a waste of everyone’s time and energy. Even though not everyone was involved in this, as often happens it was the most vocal who were and they could be hard to ignore. Likewise, even though you know why people do it (usually there’s a fairly big sign over their head saying ‘material things make me feel better about my lack of interesting achievements’ or ‘my husband’s a dickhead but look at our range rover’), it’s hard to shrug it off every time. 

I did feel I didn’t really fit in (certainly amongst many of the other parents of young children, though I found one or two I could relate to eventually). For a start I was still suffering from some of my earlier anxieties so I didn’t drive much and took the bus (very few people from the village took the bus here, whilst I, on the other hand, was quite excited at the number of buses on offer after our Auchmithie limited service). Also we only had one child (always a rebellious step in the suburbs) and then I made friends with oddballs too (one of my closest friends here for a while didn’t wear shoes...). I did try to fit in now and then (I even went to PTA events briefly when Heather was in primary) but in this kind of competitive environment it was pretty painful so I withdrew again fairly quickly. Generally I find that kids are fine but parents… I always say to anyone who’ll listen that the hardest thing about parenthood is other parents (the crap they talk and the things they do). And thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Anyway, one very happy place for us in Montrose during our time there was the fortnightly local folk club. I had been a devoted fan of lots of different kind of music over the years (pop, rock, soul, house…) but part of my post-rave recovery had been the gentler sounds of acoustic music so the folk club (or at least the singer/songwriter guests) were exactly what I was ready for in 2004. The Montrose club is run, not by committee as many are, but by one local man who shares his name with a Radio 2 DJ and quizmaster. The club usually takes place in one of the hotels in the centre of town and once we’d discovered it, Mark and I went to as many shows as we could during our time in this house (it helped that we had a built-in Grandma/babysitter for at least some of our years here – and she absolutely wasn’t the folk music type). 

Also I had been working more and more on poems since moving to Scotland in 2002 and the folk club gave me another important opportunity to develop this side of life in that I read poems aloud as part of the regular open mic slot at the club for a good few years. Scottish east coast folk have a reputation for, let’s say, keeping their cards close to their chest so it was daunting when I first read a poem or two to the folk club audience and they showed me their serious poker faces. I started off thinking they must hate me but almost everyone at the club, at some point or other over the years, made a friendly comment or gave me some encouraging word for a poem, or an image or a line. It really meant a lot to me and I never took it for granted. 

I did put on a couple of poetry and music events in Montrose too over the years (bringing in poets from all over Scotland and mostly local musicians). I had some plans to carry on with that but then Mum died and for that and other reasons my priorities changed and I didn’t organise another event of this kind after 2010. I put out a couple of books of my own poetry (one in 2008 and a smaller one in 2017) and did launch events for those, featuring friends and family on the bill with me for both (the second one was especially lovely in the glorious setting of the café/diner at Lunan Bay). I’m very much not part of any kind of poetry or writing scene (I’ve tried here and there, but the only time it ever felt anything other than forced or uncomfortable was some of the looser blog/online writing groups like The Poetry Bus/Monday Poem in 2009-2010). I’ve had very little outward success with poetry (and writing in general) and yet I do it still. It used to bother me (partly because I know my Mum really wanted me to succeed at something) but it’s less of an issue now. We can’t all be successful at everything all the time and, look, you’re reading this aren’t you? I’m pretty sure that one good reader, like one good parent, can be enough.

Speaking of ones, one more home (and pome) to go. See you for the last dance tomorrow.


*Apart from the time when we went away travelling in North America for 6 months in 2011. That journey has its own blog  You just can’t have enough blogs.


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.


Friday, 29 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 29


 


A wee dance


We rent two months in this Arbroath semi,

its owner moved on to care nearby,

a life left imprinted in dirt-brown carpets,

mid-century furniture, neat flowerbeds.


History hums, it’s warm to the touch.


We’re sleeping in someone else’s tent,

make do, dress up, keep up the dancing.

Grandma arrives with her house in a van.

Her dog’s unhappy, vomits too often.


The carpets really can’t take any more.


Then it’s time to move on quickly.

This house needs love, we’re promised elsewhere.

Hardly unpacked, we pack up again,

the books, the drawings, the oldest photos.

 

Here we’re a whisper, barely a sound.



RF 2021

Video/audio for this one here.


This is one of the shortest stays to make it into this project. Some readers have been amazed by the number of places I’ve lived but I don’t think it’s that many really. I’ve read books about people who’ve moved a lot more (some people who were in the care system, for example). I suppose it does give a very different life experience if you move less but I only know my own experience so it just seems (kind of) normal to me.

In summer 2004 (I was 37) we had to leave beautiful Auchmithie and move, quick as a flash, to a house on the other side of Arbroath, over towards Crombie Park. It was a faded semi in a quiet cul-de-sac on the edge of town and we were the first renters after its owner had moved to a care home. We were lucky to find a place so quickly and also that the helpful firm and family member of the owner letting it were flexible and didn’t hold us to the minimum 6 month rental (we were only in this house for a couple of months). Not long after we moved in my Mum arrived from England to join us and we started the serious hunt for a more permanent home for all 4 of us humans (Mum, Mark, Heather and me) and my Mum’s elderly and decidedly grumpy cairn terrier (Ailsa). Quite a lot of Mum’s stuff had to squash into the little Arbroath house with us all (though some went into storage too, I think) so it was quite a tight fit. Mum didn’t like her room in this house (it was in a little extension on the side downstairs and was small, dark and gloomy) so she was particularly keen for us to find the new place quickly. Her face could be very expressive …

But no matter how much we tried to hurry, the process still took a little time so we had a few late summer months in this house. It included some gardening time for Mum (and others), some nursery time for Heather at one of the primary schools, ongoing dance lessons (this was peak Angelina Ballerina era…) and lots of visits to Crombie Park because it was so nearby. Arbroath had been our nearest town since we had moved to Scotland in 2002 so we knew it pretty well but it was nice to see it from a different angle. It doesn’t always have the best reputation but we’ve had great times there (it has the sea, much history, many cafés, some great playparks, the college… and it’s flat so it’s good for pushchairs and wheelchairs). Also, being a seaside town and a military one, it has quite a turnover of new arrivals (and departures).

At some point we did find a house to buy that suited our now extended family but we just couldn’t find anything near to Arbroath so this one was slightly further north – on the edge of the next town up the coast (Montrose). So tomorrow (only 2 posts left now!), that’s where we’re heading…

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, 28 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 28

 



The birdie house


The sky has never been bluer.

You turn the corner and wham – 

the sea just bites you.


It’s your typical but and ben

but the attic’s done and dusted – 

no smoking fish.


It feels like a haven here,

that perfect port in a storm.

And it is.


The kingfisher flash on the door

may be a little misleading;

it’s still there.


RF 2021

Video/audio for this one here.


We moved to Scotland in 2002 (I was 35) and our first home was a little rented cottage in a small village called Auchmithie on the east coast. The village sits at the top of a cliff and our spot had the most amazing views (particularly when you were washing dishes). The roof leaked (literally inches of water in the sitting room at one point) but the view was worth it. After living in congested areas for years this was such a change – fresh air, space, sea! The fish reference in the poem is because Auchmithie is really the home of the famous Arbroath Smokie (so they’ll tell you in Auchmithie anyway). I couldn’t get a good street view photo for this house from google – this one is from Wikipedia. We lived in the house with the three skylight windows, just to the left of the big central building in this photo.

We didn’t know a soul when we arrived but we all had family connections with Scotland so it felt a little bit like home right from the start. After a two-week holiday to explore the beautiful (almost empty) beaches in both directions, Mark was straight off to work in Dundee (he’s still there…) and I did a part-time adult college course where I made at least one good friend and got to know local areas like the Angus Glens (all via the college minibus). The course was something completely different for me (ecology/geology/other ologies) and taught by some great teachers. My natural history knowledge was pretty thin (and it’s not exactly impressive now) but as the almost full-time mum of a toddler (Heather was two when we moved here, four when we left this house) I was just glad to be talking about something other than The Tweenies (or The Singing Kettle, to add a more Scottish reference). We threw ourselves into Scottish everything as new arrivals often do so our Singing Kettle knowledge is pretty impressive, even today (why is it my brain retains that information but not the natural history…?).

But back to the village. I was mostly dependent on public transport to get to things like playgroup for Heather in the nearest town of Arbroath (the peak-time service being a bus every 2 hours) but the bus was a good way to meet people. There were quite a few empty houses in the village (holiday homes, people working away, places just left empty after someone had died…) and so there weren’t that many folk about on your average day (or evening – the only pub had closed, to some outcry, and there is still a popular restaurant but you wouldn’t be going there every night). We were strongly encouraged to contribute to the village by joining local committees so I did that (and some of it was hilarious, it must be said, village committees are just something else, wherever in the world you find them and this one had its Dibley moments for sure). I hadn’t lived in a village full-time since I was about 12 so it was a big change but I made friends at one of the committees so it was worth every bizarre minute (and I had the job of taking the minutes for a while so they probably were a bit bizarre). One of the friends I made here has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for my writing and her artwork has featured on the covers of both of my two publications to date (you can read a little about her here). I was also on the playgroup committee (there was no bus home and back in time for the morning session so really it was just a place to wait…) and this one could be lively (someone ran off with ‘a bloke off the internet’, taking all the money we’d raised, and other stories…). The playgroup was held in one of Arbroath’s two secondary schools and the village bus got us there far too early so Heather and I just joined in with the friendly breakfast club they held in the same room (she’s never been a girl to turn down toast). 

I have some wonderful memories of living in the village, for example, clambering down the knackered steps to the pebbly beach with Heather to find the tiny bit of sand to play on and then carrying her back up the (steep) knackered steps and trying not to break myself (or her). We did quite a bit of cycling locally too (Heather in a seat on the back of Mark’s bike, she found it very soothing and often nodded off in there) and loads of friends and family came to stay (surprisingly a beautiful Scottish seaside village was more of a draw than previous homes…). The house was tiny so visitors had to squeeze in (particularly in the kitchen/dining room where we were in Baby Belling territory once again). Sometimes we would get visitors to stay in B & Bs in town or the local campsite or even the not-officially-open hotel next door. Auchmithie is so bonny it’s the kind of place that people will comment “that is my favourite place in the world” if you post a photo of it on Instagram. It is staggeringly beautiful. This was the view out one winter's day for example (this pic is one of ours, the bit behind the green fence was our garden):



Around this time it became apparent that my Mum (she was nearly 80) was not always managing on her own back in Nottinghamshire and I started talking to her about moving to Scotland to be near (or with) us. She had been born in Edinburgh (her parents had pretty much eloped, her Mum not the required match for her quite well-to-do Dad) and she had lived there till the age of about 21 but I don’t think she ever planned to return. Plus she was pretty settled in Nottinghamshire, knew a lot of people and had heaps of activities going on but eventually the draw of company (“I never planned to live alone you know, dear”) and care at home in her last years (she hated institutions) persuaded her to make the move. We were starting to plan how it would work, Mum packing up her house and so on when our Auchmithie landlords rang in late Spring 2004 to say that they were selling the house and we would have to move pretty much straightaway. Suddenly we had no time to plan… and my first reaction was to sit on the garden steps looking out at the sea and sob. I did that for about five minutes then it was off to (literally) run round Arbroath letting agents to find somewhere temporary that would take us three quickly (and my Mum… and her dog… and all her stuff…). So, next time – Arbroath!


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, 27 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 27

 


Springtime


We take the old place to pieces,

eras of carpet, one by one,

we finger the dial of the rotary phone,

then rip it out soon after.

Too much repetition.


We take down ancient curtains,

we’re not overlooked at the end of a lane. 

Only the patchwork garden sees us,

a wealth of colours and textures, 

so soft and sweet.


We get the nest fluffed up and ready

for the imminent arrival of flesh and blood.

In the bright sunny bathroom we feel her move,

joyful splashing and laughing

at the end of the day.



RF 2021

Video/audio for this one here.

Not long after the fire and one too many aggressive comments from neighbours Mark and I decided it was time to find a place together (in 1998 – I was 31). We moved out of the city and bought a little end terrace house in Batley, a smaller town further out (much cheaper than most of Leeds). Because it’s an end terrace you can’t see the house much from this google photo but it’s at the end of that little street, surrounded by gardens (its own and that of a big fancy house on the other side of the wall – my Mum's dog escaped into their massive garden once...). We had friends who lived nearby and they showed us around and helped us find the house. The elderly couple selling up were real Yorkshire characters – the woman particularly had some great stories (and had written her life story in Yorkshire dialect). They also had quite the carpet collection (at least 3 piled on top of each other in several rooms). The house was tucked away at the end of a dead end (a row of what had been railway cottages on the way to a mine – though in our time there was a bed factory nearby instead). The house had several gardens, one on almost every side (the husband had been a council gardener and they had obviously just collected patches of land, no doubt for pennies, when others weren’t interested over the years). It looks, from the new photos, like someone has made one bit of garden into a parking space (parking was a nightmare when we were there so it’s a good job Mark’s at least part robot). Also, despite his lack of art college background (see poem 25), he is pretty skilled at making homes look good so, in his spare time from work, he turned this dark, dusty house into a lovely bright home. He stripped floors, put in a shower, refitted a whole kitchen (for £500). 

And what was I doing all this time you may ask? Well, I tried working in a ‘proper job’ again (with some disastrous results, there was at least one office admin job where I just cried all the time and did not make it through my probationary period … the office environment is not my friend). I had a few part-time jobs too – one in a concessionary clothes store in an office block (through a friend), one in an FE college being a learning assistant to special needs students (loved that job!), one tutoring GCSE English – but mainly, after one year in the house, parenthood became a main focus. I got pregnant in 1999 and spent the huge months working a little but also eating too many Magnum ice-creams, falling asleep trying to read Middlemarch (I’ve never finished it...), and getting wedged into the tiny old kitchen (the refurb was some time later…). Our precious daughter Heather was born in April 2000 in Dewsbury hospital (though we were home 2 days later), so most of the memories of this home are baby/toddler related (and of course we took LOADS of photos so the memories have a lot more help from here on in). 

We were happy in that house in many ways but we did start to wonder if this was where we wanted to raise her long-term (she’s 20 now, has her own blog…). One issue was that I had become a big walker (partly because of all the travel-related anxiety) and whilst I can enjoy an urban walk (and have done many) we longed to have new places to explore on foot and some more green space. Yorkshire and the north of England has some lovely countryside but we were nearer to endless motorways and retail parks than fields in the main and we were miles from the sea (which had been another big part of my gradual mental rebuild – getting to the coast as often as possible, January birthdays in Whitby and such like). Another major factor was the ‘casual’ racism amongst a high proportion of white people in this area which was hateful and could feel all-pervading (one neighbour started on a racist rant the day we first brought Heather home from the hospital, like there was nothing nice she could say even on a day like that). We’d come across people like this before of course, but in this area, at this time, it was like a thick fog, and a far-too-settled one. We weren’t surprised when Jo Cox (the MP for this area a few years later) was murdered with racist motivation as a major driving force. It was all here, waiting for Farage and co to light the fuse.

With all this in mind we were half thinking about moving when one day in 2001 Mark, by then working at Leeds University in the IT department, saw a job ad for a post in Dundee, said “I could probably do that” and sent off an application. We both have Scottish mothers and we had had a lovely, and for me possibly a lifesaving holiday together in Scotland in 1997, so it seemed a good direction to head in. Finally, in 2002, we did move up (and we’re still here, if not in the same house). So, tomorrow – the road north…

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, 26 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 26

 


Endgame

 

I am back to my own devices,

and honestly, they are terrible.

 

Here there’s no heating to speak of.

The shower is in a cupboard.

 

I sleep in hats, dwell on the past.

You can’t eat vinyl, more's the pity.

 

I’ve no chairs, no fire escape;

this slot is dangerous - high and dry.

 

Neighbours compete downstairs,

a guitarist, a U2 fan,

 

and a sleepy young woman

who sets her place alight,

 

mine too, one afternoon.

Smoke signals to golfers down at the park,

 

doors smashed, rooms fully gutted.

It’s the end of a road, move on.


RF 2021

Video/audio for this one here.


It was time to live on my own again … so in 1996 (aged 29) it was goodbye to home comforts and stylish décor and back to woodchip walls and piles of records and very little else. This home was a small one bedroom ‘flat’ (barely) – the attic floor of a giant terraced house in a different (cheaper) part of town (Armley). In the google photo at the top of the post that blurry bit is the flat in question and, as you'll read, the image fits perfectly There were a lot of stairs up to the flat and, as usual for rented places like this, no form of fire escape (there weren’t even smoke alarms when I first moved in). Luckily by the time there was a fire in the flat below there were smoke alarms (thanks to Mark). And I wasn’t at home.

I was still DJing with D but in fewer and fewer clubs as other stuff happened that made it tricky and I guess I knew change was going to have to come in terms of work. My anxieties were now pretty dominant and at one point in this flat I was both agoraphobic and claustrophobic (fun times). The claustrophobic feelings meant anything busy was almost impossible now (clubs, shops, trains, buses) and my driving fell to pieces too (it started feeling like an out-of-body body experience – which is hard to coordinate with driving, especially at any speed). I had to walk pretty much everywhere (sometimes along the canal into the city centre and you didn’t, in those days, see many women on their own walking there...). I suppose I was in the middle of a nervous breakdown but it’s hard to know when it started (or finished) and it was really hard work (for me and those around me). I tried the breakdown theory out on my Mum (on the phone) to which she answered “well, most writers have at least one nervous breakdown, dear”. That made me laugh ... a bit (she was still waiting for me to do something brilliant – one of the problems with showing early promise). I should add that she was always very supportive of whatever nonsense I was up to (many reasons for this including her own life’s path, my Dad’s, her background in children’s social work...). When D and I made a dance track called Sit on my Bass and a pretty adult music video for it (breasts/primula cheese – mine, dildos/cucumbers – not mine…) I gave her a copy (on VHS) and as far as I know she showed it to friends and family without so much as a raised eyebrow (and she was in her 70s…). God knows what any of them thought (I wasn’t in touch with much family during this period). Someone put the video on youtube a while back (though excuse me if I don’t link to it here…).

I also had a 30th birthday whilst living in this flat and took a fairly bizarre cheap January holiday to Gran Canaria with two uni friends (too much drinking, some arguing… some of it definitely best left to the imagination). I was very confused, quite despairing, got great counselling from the Mind charity in Headingley, wrote a lot of poetry. I had written the odd poem when I was younger but it was in this flat that I started writing them regularly. I suppose I’ve always written about emotions (even with this project my intent was to concentrate on remembered details of the physical places but the emotions and relationships have been impossible, for me at least, to avoid). One of my Mum’s sayings was “I’m interested in people, dear” and I guess that applies to me too. I’m more interested in why someone chooses to paint the floor green than what paint they used, how they sanded the floor first, where they hired the sander from etc. This does mean I’m not very good at DIY (terrible in fact) but I suppose I do know a thing or two about people, what makes them tick, how to get them ticking again when they’re running low on ticks and… maybe this ticking idea is running out of legs, let’s move on.

It was towards the end of my first year in this flat that I somehow, once again with the miracles, got together with the person who is still my partner now in 2021 (he used to come the weekly quiz we ran in a Leeds city centre bar, see last entry). Other than the quiz (which was in a pub hence liquid courage), I was at a point living here when going out to work was very difficult (the phobias…) and one of my jobs (that somehow I’ve omitted to mention up to now) was in a second hand record shop run by friends. When I couldn’t manage this job anymore, Mark, for it is he, took over this job (like me he was in a transition period, careerwise). In return I learned to cook again so he didn’t have to do all the work everywhere (I had some basics from school). Cooking can be a challenge on a Baby Belling* but I guess it was something that gave me a focus and it started what you could call the housewife period (I didn’t really choose that path, and some of it’s been a squash and a squeeze to be honest, but I just wasn’t fit for the workplace for quite some years, if ever, so I did what I could at home…).

But back to the theme (postcodes, people, postcodes!). I had some happy times there but this flat was cold, dangerous, and some of the neighbours were just impossibly aggressive so soon enough (1998) Mark and I hunted down a place of our own. It was still in Yorkshire but not in Leeds so … time for a change!


*One of several of my acquaintance – I have quite a fondness for them really.


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, 25 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 25

 



Art house


Here I relax and learn, for example,

to sit out on the step when the sun shines,

to drink a glass of easy wine,

some other things.


Two cats in a back-to-back,

we sleep in the attic and mix in the cellar.

We set out the questions every week – 

life’s quite the quiz.


We make a lot of fun and war,

live loud on show, quiet in the gallery,

cry out loud (and pretty regularly),

laugh all the more.


The fax machine can’t help but date us,

a time of great changes, some out of our hands.

The sun is our friend but it just gets hotter.

Long shadows lie.


RF 2021

Video/audio for this one here.


This next Leeds home was my friend and DJ partner’s house and, as I mentioned last time, I think I even lived here twice (maybe overlapping with the last place) but I’m not completely sure of the dates. For simplicity, let’s just say I moved here in September 1995 (when I was 28). The club night we worked at most in this period was called Vague and that word is applicable to much of this time for a whole list of reasons. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, our DJ names were Daisy & Havoc, so I’ll call the owner of this house D for the purposes of this project (I’m not using anyone’s real name thus far, heck, Rachel isn’t even my real name, as many of you know). During this period people really did call me Havoc (certainly people who only knew me through clubs and stuff). I quite liked it – I never mind being called other things and have never felt very attached to my given first name.

D was a much better homemaker than I was (not difficult!) and this house was, for me, an unusually lovely living space (and I realise only now, doing this project, that this was possibly the first time I’d ever lived anywhere that you could describe in that way – my Mum’s furnishings taste tended to favour so-so velvet, brass and horse paintings and mine was just a lazy/disinterested ‘whatever was already there’ approach). As the years have passed I’ve had more and more friends who, like D, went to art school and I have found that they are generally better at making a home comfortable and beautiful than us mere mortals (others can do it too but my arty friends really excel at it). This house was another 2-bed back-to-back terrace (there are loads of these in Leeds, I’d lived in one back at poem 21) and it wasn’t far away, on the map, from the flat I wrote about last time. This new home was ideal in so many ways – it had clean floors, unpredictable art on the walls, soft bedding, sometimes even food in the cupboards and fridge. After years of minimal care, it was all a bit of a shock to me (and a joy). D and I were out a lot (still working in pubs and clubs and doing a lot of socialising out and about) but it was a lovely place to come back to. 

In this house we tried our best to earn our living as DJs and it worked out well a lot of the time. We had regular club work (we played lots of different kinds of music, started in ‘backrooms’, moved on to main rooms, but still kept a toe in the backrooms too). We got ‘guest spots’ DJing all over the country and sometimes even abroad (we played New Year’s Eve in Rimini one year in the mid ’90s and got paid in piles of lire, in a backroom, out of a briefcase). We also had a weekly Wednesday evening slot at a bar in the centre of Leeds and, because we fancied doing something other than just playing records mid-week, we ran a quiz there (‘with a twist’ – in that there were no usual pub quiz questions and instead just questions about music, art, fashion, adverts, TV, film and so on). It was a lot of fun and became very popular (great prizes donated by local businesses on the whole). The club we worked at was fashionable and this is certainly the closest I’ve ever been to being fashionable myself (someone else often told me what to wear around this time, or made suggestions anyway, and there is the odd bit of photographic evidence, some of it totally bizarre). It was an interesting experience and generally speaking a time of full-on hedonism and some pretty extreme highs.

This period was extreme in other ways too. As often happens when you’re working really closely with someone you get on really well with (and we had a GREAT time, top-of-the-world stuff) our relationship stretched to be something much bigger than just friendship. One problem though was this was my first (and only) experience that wasn’t heterosexual and I can’t say I managed it well in many ways (though we are still friends, great friends – another miracle). As in many relationships of my teens and twenties, I made a lot of classic mistakes (whilst, of course, not realising how ‘classic’ they were). Also, for me personally, the anxieties that had started to show themselves in 1991 were just growing and growing (and I had not, as a sensible person might have done, slowed down on the all-night party, drug-addled front) so time in this house was a mixture of ‘best night ever’ and ‘rivers of endless tears’. Was it a time of high drama? A bit. Is a full-on club lifestyle conducive for healthy relationships and good, kind, considerate choices generally speaking? No. Do we all make the best decisions when we are young? Well, absolutely not. Does any of this excuse hurting people and take away all the pain you both feel at the time? No. Not at all.

I haven’t written about this particular aspect of my story before (in poems or prose) but that’s not so much because it’s been a secret, more just that it’s so much someone else’s story too and whilst I don’t mind baring myself here, there and everywhere, not everybody feels that way all the time so I have been more guarded with that in mind. Most people in my life know about this relationship and certainly I was open with my Mum about it, my subsequent partner and my daughter too (right from her early days – at times such decisions seemed unusual to others but they always seemed right to me). I feel pretty strongly (for myself anyway) that hiding things rarely helps but I know that it’s not always easy nor my decision (plus where would soap operas, and indeed most drama, be without an unsaid story?). This chapter does mean I still have mixed feelings about things like the ‘tick your sexuality’ box (just ticking ‘heterosexual’ seems not quite right, like denying a chunk of my life and experience and putting me in a box that isn’t quite mine, ‘bisexual’ doesn’t seem quite it either). I often tick ‘prefer not to say’ and if there was ever a comment box for these things I’d probably ramble on in that too. The box (for this and other things) should probably be ‘how long have you got?’

As you might imagine, at some point this living arrangement got too complicated and I moved to a place of my own in a different (cheaper) part of town in September 1996. The DJing (and working together) continued for a while but my days in the palace of comfort and taste were over and it was back to an ugly flat and another Baby Belling (a fate I deserved perhaps). I even started cooking on the damn thing. New chapters awaited both of us (babies, breakdowns, other jobs, new homes) but next time (in terms of this project), will be my last Leeds stop.

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, 24 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 24


 


Closing in


This is a friend’s flat.

No, really her brother’s.

One part of a hall.

Fragment of a past.


The vast wooden shutters

can make it a tomb

in the wrong hands,

body clock switched off.


I fall off the world

for days at a time;

a windowless bath,

post lies on the mat.


Loud shoes above

are never welcome.

The soft phone rings

to wake me up.


RF 2021

Video/audio for this one here.


I moved again in autumn 1993 (I was 26). This was another ending-relationship move and, if I remember rightly, quite a quick one. We parted company for lots of reasons but we are on good messaging terms these days (and he’s reading this series, even helping me out with details here and there). As with everyone who lived at any of these places with me, we remember such different details (and frankly in some cases it’s miraculous that we remember as much as we do, all things considered).
 
This time it was a friend I knew from the magazine who had somewhere (a family flat) that I could move to. This place was not far from the last house, just up the road in Chapel Allerton, and it was part of a pretty grand building (a ‘hall’) that had been divided into umpteen flats. You can see the side of the building in the google photo but I was in a ground floor flat that you entered via a door at the back. It was a one-bedroom cavern – big wooden shutters for the windows, high ceilings – and it still had all my friend’s furnishings (many rugs, futon bed...) and quite a few of her possessions (many, many books – I think she was living in London at this point). All I really moved in with was a few clothes (I’ve never been big on clothes) and a lot of vinyl dance records. I kept the shutters closed far too often but I was working more and more in nightclubs (DJing – see last post) so my working hours were night and my sleep was day.

I wasn’t home a lot when I lived here but I was based here for a couple of years (I think). I spent one Xmas here on my own (the one year I thought “no, I don’t want to go to family, and I’m fine, Xmas means nothing to me, I’ll just watch TV”). It was grim and I’m not sure I even lasted till teatime (as in ‘did I go and call on someone?’ Possibly). These were still the days when your landline phone (and post) were your main means of communication (how ancient does that seem now that we are positively swimming, or drowning, in apps and platforms and streaming?).

These are the years that get really confusing in terms of timeline (I blame the nightlife, lots of places to be, lots of people coming and going) but I know that at some point I moved into my DJ partner’s house which was fairly nearby (I think I lived there more than once but I will write about life at that postcode tomorrow). I have a date written down somewhere that says I left this big beshuttered flat after two years (in 1995) so that’s where we will say goodbye to it. Till next 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.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 23

 



Banging


The semi-detached

is a shock to the system.

We check off the items,

mouths open too wide.


Our own front door.

Sitting room (with chairs).

A garage (no way!).

Garden and greenhouse.


There’s a mystery neighbour.

We hold no parties. 

It’s a hideaway home,

complete change of scene.


He bakes veggie loaves;

burns, rolls, and smokes.

On a manual typewriter,

I tensely tap tap.


Out back they are banging,

building a hospital.

Decks in our bedroom

bash out Funk and Drive.


RF 2021

Video/audio for this one here.


I can’t remember why we left the previous flat to be honest but we did, in July 1992 (I was 25). Maybe there were complaints about the noise after all. Or maybe we just wanted our own front door. It gets a bit hazy in the memories at this point and the diaries (sometimes reliable) either have big gaps in them or are nowhere to be seen (maybe they never existed, days were disappearing, melding together). This house was in another hidden away street but it was in between two areas of Leeds that I hadn’t lived in up till then – Chapeltown and Chapel Allerton (on the map it calls this area between the other two Potternewton but I don’t remember anyone ever saying ‘I live in Potternewton’ – Leeds people feel free to put me right on this). I think originally I moved into this place with my previous Leeds flatmate but I hardly remember her being in this house so I’m guessing she was more at the new boyfriend’s and this ended up being a house I shared, officially this time, with the boyfriend mentioned in the last couple of posts. 

Looking at the picture above (from google), the house has changed a bit since we lived there (the garage has gone, and the greenhouse – it was a bit wobbly and that was about 30 years ago so no big surprise there). I did have a car (an old Volvo 340, a sofa on wheels) but I can’t remember if I ever actually put it in the garage. The house was a little post-war end terrace with very thin walls and no insulation or central heating (cold!). We did have a garden but no inclination to care for it (I cut the grass once… got sunburnt). I have memories of the boyfriend cooking here a bit more (he was a vegetarian and very little ready-made veggie food was available at this point, plus we were pretty skint as neither of us had anything like a wage). Mostly I remember sitting up late writing and typing articles and interviews for the alternative magazine where I was working via a government scheme of some sort.

Also it was here (in Sept 1992) that I started DJing – at first playing a show with a friend on one of the Leeds pirate radio stations (Dream FM). The boyfriend had a show on the station and it had very few women DJs at that point (if any) so we had a go … and loved it … and ended up doing two shows a week and then getting club work too (from Spring ’93). Before long there were quite a few other women DJs on the station, so many we organised a day to celebrate us all which got quite a bit of press attention. Few people used their real names on pirate radio so the friend and I called ourselves Daisy & Havoc after dolls I had as a kid (bought in a DIY/toy shop in Darlington, I'd forgotten the name but my Darlington expert tells me it was called Woodworkers). I wasn’t particularly aware as a child but the dolls were both Mary Quant products – Daisy wore the fashionable frocks and platforms, Havoc was a secret agent with guns, harpoons, underwater cameras, a machete (I still have my Havoc and all her accessories, photo here). The big surprise was that as DJs (she was Daisy, I was Havoc) we even made some money, got work, had accounts, kept at it for a good few years. We got our first club work at the Leeds club Vague that started in early 1993 (first in Hi-Flyers then it moved to the Warehouse). Before long this club got very trendy (something I’d not really encountered before – being fashionable) so then we were, briefly, trendy too and this caused some issues of its own. The track mentioned in the poem (Funk and Drive) was a particular favourite of the boyfriend, I think, and is here

I left this house (on my own...) in September 1993 (I think that’s when it was, though I’m not sure how I know that date, it’s just in a notebook). I didn’t go 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.

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

Video/audio for this one here.


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 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

Video/audio for this one here.


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

Video/audio for this one here.


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 things other 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 he 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

Video/audio for this one here.


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

Video/audio for this one here.


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 guy 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.