Round Up: All of April, Much of May (Down and Out in Two Sides of London)

This was a post I began in late April, and yet here it is, the middle of May, the world softly spiralling past spring and into summer and I have felt somewhat dragged down, distracted lately, hence nothing truly coming together. It has been an incredibly busy couple of months, and I have been weighed down by illness as usual. In fact, I have a second post planned, perhaps for tomorrow, about my health and my body as I'm firing this post out on the tail end of mental health awareness week, which is themed this year around body image. Of course, having worn a broken body throughout my life but most especially through my delicate teenage years, I have some things to say on the subject.


But right now, I am on a train, barrelling through central London to buy one thing from a specific shop, somehow already having wasted the best part of a Saturday afternoon. The train has become my unlikely writing desk of late, and I'm not alone. A writer and musician friend of mine recently shared that he writes more poems than ever now he has a consistent commute, but on the other hand, his music has taken a back seat. It's much easier to compose a poem than a symphony on the underground, you see.


I think I work better in motion. I think it's easier if I don't have time to really hear the intricacies of my thoughts, just the tone, since there is less viciousness to the surface. I have written a lot of poems in the last few weeks, some I think are more urgent and beautiful than anything else I've done in quite some time. I'm finding space for them in the book. No, I haven't started to submit yet. These are the last ones, I promise. I promise. Hold me to it.


I'm sorry everything I do is in this lapsing stream of consciousness. It's the bohemianism. it's rebelling against the tight order I have to do to keep myself from falling into complete disarray in the everyday. Still, clearly, I have mastered the art of the schedule slip and that makes me think I probably have to change. Change is something I've gotten so good at, but that doesn't mean it every grows comfortable.


* *


In may so wrote far more poems than I have in a long time. It was, in the US at least, National Poem Writing Month, and because it feels sometimes like on the internet we all belong to the same country in a way, I tried to write a poem a day.


I managed 18, and that was a big feat for me. To churn out 18 whole pieces that I wasn't ashamed to put my name to or show around like a tour guide in the museum of my brain, or at least, on tumblr, was something I hadn't tried before. But it worked to kick start my muse and to coalesce some thoughts that had been fluttering around inside me for rather some time.


You can find them all here if you are curious:

11. Ivory
13. Ochre
18. Epistle


**


I had another post planned before I got to this round up, about some places I've been in the last month that left me feeling in one case out of place, and in another case utterly at home, feeling almost like a teenager again and red-cheeked with freedom. But life got in the way, and the time slipped me by. I still remember both feelings quite clearly, discomfort and euphoria, especially since the latter was reignited by a reunion I had in Thursday, the difference can be noticed more keenly than ever.


In mid-April, my best friend and I were invited to the opening of a very exclusive members bar thanks to someone we both know working for the company who owned it. Of course, I recognise the privilege of this: people work themselves ragged to be in these kinds of circles, to brush with fame or have that kind of easy money. I felt deeply uncomfortable in that room.


If you look past the poetic word choice, and in person, the oddly blank accent, you will discover that I am in fact firmly working class. My father is a labourer, and I work part-time for a charity. We're all bottom rung Irish Catholic, and as such, I always feel somewhat out of place in these events full of upper-middle-class people in tailored suits and Dior dresses sipping at champagne and talking brazenly about their cocaine habits.


My friend clung on to an acquaintance from her previous life as a club promoter, since we were not only out of place but also late and had missed the bulk of the evening and he and a friend took us to another, equally exclusive bar to have a drink and talk. We've done this before, I know the landscape of these encounters, the chaste-ish flirting and mundane conversation - what's your job, which clubs do you frequent, blah blah bloody blah - and yet something about this one felt more uncomfortable than usual.


I was wearing a very classy-looking, but really less than £20 black dress, my hair now long enough to tumble down my back and I felt like a deeply cliche still from a French indie film. Black and white, miserable as anything. Maybe it was just the company, and admittedly, it wasn't the best. One of them was a particularly boorish man trying to relive his early twenties through the girls he wined and dined despite edging closer to 40. He clearly had an idea of what my friend and I would be like, and we so spectacularly failed to live up to his expectations that he wandered off to chat up two girls at the bar right in front of us when we made it clear we weren't going home with him, charming as anything. But more than that, I couldn't shake the feeling of out-of-place-ness. There was an overly formal air to the place, artificially decadent. Ornately nouveau riche.


As if to put the discomfort into perspective, a  few days later it was record store day, and I dragged another friend to Portobello road to see if I could find anything special in Rough Trade. I didn't get any of the exclusives but I did manage to pick up some things on sale and, unexpectedly, I caught a free show. KT Tunstall was performing outside, as was Pete Doherty, and I got a hug and a signature from the former. There was a real joyful ease, standing next to the shockingly loud speaker, being rained on and soaked in overwarm sun almost simultaneously. I never feel as at home as I do in the crush of a crowd, swathed by music that binds us in the same breath. She is an absolute sweetheart, her energy so infectious. She got the violent femmes stuck in my head all day (compounded by me watching two guys a girl and a pizza place not long after...)



There's a real difference in the two feelings the day's aroused, the artificial and the authentic. I just. It's hard to articulate, but I had to try.


**


That aching authenticity brings me back to Thursday night, which I spent in the company of my beloved Poetry Society family. The night was beautiful but arranged under unfortunate circumstances. See, my incredible ex-boss and one of the gorgeous waitresses have both decided to move on, and so they asked me to come to their leaving party. We curled at first in the poetry cafe and then in a spit and sawdust pub across the street before eventually coming back to the cafe, our spiritual home. I hadn't realised how much I missed the company of weird creative women! There's no energy quite like that one, girls drunk on cheap wine, gushing about our passions and writhing to weird music, talking about alternative therapies and protection charms and voodoo, reiki and music and unfathomable love.


I adore my current job so much that I hadn't stopped to notice that I missed that. But I do, of course I do. And with two of its brightest lights gone, I don't know if the cafe will still feel like my second home. But it did that night. It was undeniably a homecoming of a kind.


Olissa, who is leaving, has one of the brightest auras of anyone I know. She has a sharp mind, the heart of a dancer and the soul of an empath. She's so deeply special to me and I'm so thankful for the opportunity she gave me to join their little family for those nine months last year, because without her I doubt I would be who I am now - she came into my life in a period of deeply profound change and growth, a testament to the thought that people come into your life when you need them most. I needed her then, and I love her now.


I'm typing this at midnight, though I doubt it will be posted until the morning. Still, if I get through anymore I really might start to cry.


**


As if it wasn't clear from this ridiculously long blog, there has been a lot going on in the last month. Work is frantic and pressure is climbing steadily (I love my job, I love my job.) On Friday, I must submit my final essay for my first university module which is a terror in itself - a terror in that I haven't even had time to finish the reading, let alone begin the essay; a terror in that I have come this far without truly faltering after years of crumbling under academic pressure. It's so much more than it seems on paper.

Why do we sink fingers into so many pies? Why do I spend my commutes frantically composing poetry, listening to trivia podcasts to prepare for my pub quiz, on my way to the job that is so fulfilling and yet takes quite a lot of me to do, all the while worrying about my next exam?


(Of course, I do it because I love it. Because I thrive on challenge and stress and adrenaline. Because I always want the next thing. Because maybe I'm due another mental breakdown, since it's been so long since the last.)


This was a long post. I had quite a lot to get through. Schedule slip is a real bitch. And I can't pretend to have read this back for seamlessness, I think the rambling nature speaks for itself. But I wanted these thoughts outside of me, even if this wasn't the order I planned them in. When is life every symmetrical? It's late, so I'll pause until I can get this posted and talk all about my body again, since it's one of my favourite topics, apparently.


If you got this far: thanks for reading and caring enough to reach the end. It's been a helluva month. Or two.

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