Tag Archives: writing

My Little Bulldozer

There’s a bulldozer that follows me around. The eras of my life in pieces at his feet. The smash and crash and vibrations through the earth as memories fall, crumble, disintegrate. Are trodden down into the soil ready for new foundations. For someone else’s memories to smother the land and chase through freshly made corridors.

The long corridors of my youth stretch out before me with bleached histories fading with the echo of laughter. The rooms where I made friends are all gone. Good friends and bad friends. Those I still exchange birthday cards with and gossip over coffee once in a while. We know each other like two backwards hands that can nonetheless find each other in the dark. But our memories have been smashed into the soil. The benches we sat on in the schoolyard, sharing music through earphones on old walkmans. The tuck shop snacks of iced buns and chip cobs. The places where we witnessed fights and fires, young energy and destruction in minute forms. Spreading through the concrete yard and squeaky classrooms with a furious futility that would soon dissipate to nothing. Another identikit housing estate and my memories bulldozed.

My 6th form college. More concrete yards and playing fields with hidden smokers’ corners. Stone age teens talk of blazing and we laugh afterwards, mimicking demented enthusiasm. More classrooms with new friends made. Bonding over hatred of Tony Fennec. Watching horror films at 9am for Media Studies. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre burned onto my early morning retinas, while other memories fade. Trampled down by the bulldozers which eventually demolished it all. Another identikit housing estate and my memories bulldozed.

My university campus out in the leafy suburbs. Light passing dreamlike through foliage and Victorian houses with curved glass windows. And the building which housed us a Brutalist shadow against blue-grey skies. More long corridors and endless stairwells splattered with paint, the legacy of careless art students. Climbing to better views and brighter rooms, cold with single glazing and the pinch of morning frost. More friendships formed and funny stories exchanged. Bonding over hatred of pretentious classmates who would no doubt succeed in the art word while we were still shopkeeping and bartending. The echo of those high, bright rooms towering above a northern city remind me of a special time. Maybe the best of times in my rose-tinted nostalgia. An age where the possibilities were endless and friendships would last beyond the final bell. Before the endless possibilities became mounds of impossibilities. Before the hills became too steep and slippery in the pinch of the morning frost. Before the bulldozers came and knocked down my Brutalist dreamscape. Another memory smudged into the soil ready for someone else’s foundations. No identikit housing estate to replace my bulldozed memories, just luxury apartments adding insult to injury. The paint splattered stairwells with ascending views fall away. It’s someone else’s view now. Smug above the city in fancy boxes.

And there’s a bulldozer that follows me around.

© Kirsty Fox 2017

 

Note: This particular prose poem is memoirish. The true weird fact about me is that my comprehensive school, my 6th form college and the university campus where I studied art have all been knocked down. I may be jinxed.

It’s too early for it to not be dystopian

I was born in the back end of paradise at the foot of a wall. Now I’m old enough and ugly enough to fend for myself. But I don’t. This morning I’m attending a conference on survival. Not survival in the wild, but survival in the arts. It’s much the same. It’s the end of the world as we know it right in this moment here and also the one you’re in now. So in the post-apocalyptic landscape, all forms of survivalism are valid. Dystopia is handed to you in the pages of the morning Metro as you hurry for your first coffee of the day. A man in a woolly hat stands still amid the human traffic of morning commuters. He studies the ground in a hazed oblivion searching for stray cigarette butts. He looks pleased and surprised when he spots one. As though just realising the answer to a puzzle. Automated voices announce train times and reality fades to a veil of early morning hysteria. Crisp packets rustle and work acquaintances make polite conversation. Struggling with weak smiles that seem heavy and irrelevant given the state of things. We have become like coral or a yeast. A living thing en masse teeming with anxiety unable to separate our consciousness from one another. The survivalists try to predict which apocalyptic scenario will get us first. Stocking their bunkers with tinned food but also learning to hunt and forage. But the apocalypse is here. It is this slow death. A slow death of knowing that it is all so subtly wrong but being powerless to change a thing. In the distance, a boat with a broken sail floats idly on flood lake in the midst of chaos. The scene fades out.

Books versus Vignettes

I wonder how long I drag out the self-referential fox jokes for. Until they’re as frayed and meatless as scraps of dried up kebab dragged from a 6am takeaway by hungry urban vermin. I light a fire which consumes discarded snot rags and street wood. My housemate pours me a glug of Laphroaig whisky and puts a Tom Waits record on. It is raining outside but also not raining. Water cascades off the roof and dries mid-air as though it had never been. Never reaching the ground which is dry cold and aches with a sadness belonging to more troubled souls than you and I. The lights inside flicker but don’t quite go out. The bulbs uncertain as to whether their time is up and they should take a long walk into the darkness. I read a book because it seems like the right thing to do with the music and the fire and the whisky. There was a TV scene I watched the night before in which a teenager explores his estranged father’s house for the first time. The first few rooms are typical Californian beach bum novelty, but when he enters the final room there is an entire floor to ceiling wall of vinyl records and on the opposite wall facing it a floor to ceiling wall of beautiful books. Life goals, I think. We gradually build up a pattern, one healthy glug of whisky per side of a record. Chapters of books fall out of sync with this, however. Disappearing into a broth of eloquent prose and non-existent plot. Time passes and pages turn. Tom Waits becomes Neil Young and books become cigarettes rolled up and smoked beneath the spotlight of a winter moon. Wild flames turn to hot coals emitting white heat and heavy thoughts. Cigarettes become books once more. Unraveled, unsmoked. Words return faithfully  to the page, climbing inside eyes which transmit them into language for a wet warm brain of pink. The fire and the vinyl crackle briefly and fade as one. We fall seamlessly into the sleep of winter, born away on soft dreams with the promise of spring.

© Kirsty Fox 2016

Auburn Against the Green

In the park I am a nobody. A nothing. A part of the foliage, the cut grass, the dirt and twigs. Invisible to the human eye as they pass by with pushchairs and dogleads or sit on the bench midway round hunting Pokemon on their pocket computers. My attention rarely lingers on these hopeless creatures unless a particularly special moment catches my eye. The woman blowing bubbles for her German Shepherd to catch while a small girl watches. Or the elderly lady I saw in the spring sat so quietly and contemplatively on the bench beneath the cherry blossom tree, a confetti of pink showering her delicately with each small push of the breeze.

But no, the people are to be casually avoided with their nuisance and noise and peculiar ways.  It’s the canine and tree population I wish to capture in memory. I watch the dogs play and interact with one another, baffled by the wonder in the face of an animal enamoured with a smelly coloured ball hurled down the hill. The hurtling energy of beast in pursuit of rubber prey. Or up on the path the small dog greeting the big dog with a wiggle and a nuzzle, then waiting so patiently and politely while the big dog sniffs his bum with unrestrained attention to detail. He is collecting your stories – what you ate for breakfast, what the neighbours cat smells like when it sits on the fence with a haughty stare, what illicit salt n vinegar treats the toddler lets you slobber on before eating herself.

But I am most happiest when amongst the trees. They overwhelm me with their calm, measured presence. The play of light through foliage. The creeping signs of autumn told to me by the auburn against the green. I listen to the wind rise through the leaves like  distant applause. I enjoy the crack and thunk as the horse chestnuts throw their seeds to the ground. Shiny brown conkers encased in spiky green shells. The trees throw this perfect ammunition at us for fun and we laugh obliviously, collecting them for our children, so that they can join us in playing a game as old as time.

Love & the Sea

It’s a funny thing. Nature, the sea, makes other things seem small. Diminutive. The waves smashing on a windy day, stealth creeping up the beach and catching you out. Water over the rims of wellies. And then rushing back out leaving behind just the dusk light. The beach shines and gleams, vivid pink & orange & blue & indigo in mackerel patterns on the dowdy sand.

If you look down and walk forward through the shallows as they rush in and then back out you feel drunk and disorientated. Like the world is travelling in a different direction to you. It is.

There’s a certain enjoyment in this anxiety. In this chaos of being. In this turbulent crisscrossing of moving things. Because you can stop any time. You can look up at a stable horizon which moves only imperceptibly. The handrail in a Fun House which steadies you when the fun gets too much.

You are the steady thing I crave in my life. An even constant that will tell the same self-deprecating jokes. And hold things up. And make things function – a wood-burner, a roasting chicken, or the part of me that can change from grumpy to cheerful at the drop of a hat.

The sand sinks beneath my feet as the waters rush in. The gulls spill across the air above the shallows, twirling and intertwining their flights with one another. Calling out stories of good fish and hidden roosts. The north-east wind is cold on my legs, defeating damp jeans or woollen tights. Large raindrops splish unexpectedly in my face despite sparse clouds. Moments later they are gone.

The sea has its own rain. Its own pace of life that is peaceful and enraged all at once. It has the raw passion of brush on canvas, of teeth on bones, of a lover calling late at night in desperation to just hear that voice before they resign themselves to sleep. I want love to make me feel how nature does.

The sound of flames licking the roof of a wood burner merge with the coastal wind outside and the occasional rumble of passing traffic on a narrow street. Everything inside is driftwood and leather and old suitcases with rusted clasps. Nautical stripes draw cotton fabrics and wool. Minimal sketches of warm clothes and layers of bedding that surround us. Swallowing us as we sink and disappear into afternoon sleeps induced by the sea air. Soggy socks and gloves dry near the fire, despondent. Every source of heat is special and loved in a climate of icy winds and persistent wet.

Here we are beyond the clouds. We have left all things behind and run entirely on adrenaline. Our bones aching from ageless woes. The cold. The storm. The storm is internal.

Love & loneliness wreak havoc on the people we forgot we were trying to be. We lose ourselves in books and movies because they say things we’re unable to articulate. If we stare at enough of them we will learn to string a sentence together. To really speak to one another. To communicate emotions and feelings that lie dormant or latent in our beings.

The truth is a dribble of cold tea on the side of a mug as it’s placed back on the coffee table. It’s a small reality that nonetheless matters for a little while to someone. But the moment passes. The pot must be stirred and the potatoes tossed in hot fat. The practical busies our hands so that they don’t idle in existential doubts indefinitely.

© Kirsty Fox 2016

Eyes Open to the Elements

Snatches of conversation as we fade in and out of conciousness, echoes of San Soleil. The cinematic touches the everyday. Fiction and fact are just library tags, they don’t separate the fake from the real. The sleepy heat draws slumber compared to the wide awake cold outside. Eyes open to the elements – the sleet, the fog, the sheet rain quivering like flying arrows in the light of a solitary street lamp. We are and we aren’t there now. A whisper in the shadows, slipping effortlessly away from outstretched fingers tips. The footfall of a fox at dawn. The intangible belongs to the dreamer snoozing against a black window pane. The pages of a book are audibly turned and we know from the pause a new chapter has begun. A new era is about to write itself. If we pause too long to dwell on what we leave behind, we’ll lose confidence to make the leap into the unknown. Every story starts with transition, an equilibrium unbalanced, scrambling off the cliff into chaos. The train pauses at the station. Someone steps off and checks the sky. We wait. The engine rumbles back into action and we set off again. Onward.

© Kirsty Fox 2015

Nocturnal Ponderings

Photo by Phil Formby

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a writer and publisher over the last few years it’s that selling books is hard. Really hard.

Both from the side of pitching to agents and publishers and the other side – getting people to part with money in exchange for a bunch of pages into which you poured hours of grueling-exciting-wondrous work. And once they’ve bought that book it may well sit on their shelf for months, nay years, before they tuck into it. I say that as a person who owns more books they haven’t read, than books they have read.

It’s understandable. A book isn’t a throwaway thing. A book is a commitment. A good book that you take your time over is a relationship all in itself. It’s a personal thing and an act of solitude in a world that bombards you with bright shiny distractions every five minutes.

I’m currently trying to sell a book to people. A book that I feel deeply passionate about, in a very personal way. It’s strange to be in the position of editor and and publisher when you’re used to being the writer. It’s a whole different relationship because you’re a reader, but more than a reader, because you were there. You’re the damn midwife helping that beautiful babe get born. You can’t take credit for the genes, but you can still be super proud.

I’m proud of Darren Simpson. He’s a great writer and it’s fascinating the way he pours his personality into it. As I said in this recent interview about the project

“I like Darren’s writing because he’s not afraid to take risks and have fun. There’s a rawness which traditionally published books tend to lack because they’re edited differently and are too self-conscious of their market. It’s like when you get a really good piece of music that’s overproduced. The Dust on the Moth takes an idea and runs away with it in ways that are both incredibly silly yet also still profound. It makes you laugh while also potentially giving you an existential crisis. I think that might be my favourite kind of art when it’s done well.”

I published my novel Dogtooth Chronicals a few years ago now. Someone came into the shop where I work today and bought a copy, not knowing I was the writer until I awkwardly told him. It feels strange and alien to talk about it now, the questions people ask are still the same – ‘Wow, it’s a big book, how long did that take you?’ It made me feel a little strange.

After he left I kicked myself for not mentioning The Dust on the Moth. After all, he was clearly a man of fine taste. And therein lies my issue. I’ve never been a good salesperson. I am zero-sales-patter-fox. From days of bartending, to these new days of funding applications and crowdfunding experiments. I don’t have the elevator pitch down, I can’t sell you a book or a really great social enterprise in one snappy sentence. I don’t lack passion or bloody-minded self-determination. I just lack swagger and effective punchlines that make you feel like the product I’m pushing will make you’re life better.

I do have some sales patter, sure. It just takes seven or eight paragraphs of your time to emerge. I’m all about the super soft sell. I want to empower people to spend their money on products made or designed locally. On stuff that is meaningful, rather than meaningless. On things they feel like they’ve ‘found’ all by themselves. Like wandering up some weird little alleyway into Cobden Chambers and finding a book in a shop you’d never been in before by a writer you’d never heard of. And then you meet the writer and she’s socially awkward, which is how all writers should be.

It’s a nice story. But it happens so rarely. And when you have a book to sell, time is never on your side. Especially when you’re running a crowdfunding campaign with only four days left. But to hell with it. If I was afraid of failure I would never have quit a wage slave job to become a social entrepreneur. As Vin Diesel once said as he pretended to roll out of the back of a plane “I live for this shit!”

So, I watched this video again tonight, despite it containing both my face and my voice. And I felt that even though we might not quite make it. I’m still pretty flippin proud of what we’ve achieved.

Someday I hope that man who bought Dogtooth Chronicals today will accidentally happen upon The Dust on the Moth, and get that nice feeling you get when you find hidden treasure.

#KickStartMoth