Monday, 24 March 2008

"When We Get There..."

The way you look at me - 
I can sense it sometimes.
The way things might well be
No scramble for digital time.

The way you laugh at me
When I say something silly or feel awkward.
The way I feel so free
To look you in the eyes and not flinch.

The way your fingers curved
That first time when we reached out.
The way it must have seemed absurd
To all the other faces in the crowd.

The way we found ourselves
Paused and looked up and down nervously
Thinking "eyes" and "lips"
And not allowing "could this possibly be?"

The way you trust me implicitly
Like your hair and coat - natural and free.
The ghosts of horses pass
And I finally had the courage to be me.

The way we hint at tomorrows
And you approve it with a cautious smile.
The way you suggest new air
And I know I'll be whole when we get there...

(Written: 11.20pm, Tuesday 10/10/00.)


I seem to be revisiting old notebooks more than usual at the moment.  Revisiting, but not revising.  I believe that some things should remain as they fall.  Looking across from my desk, I was drawn to the old blue book that holds this particular memory.  

I hope you'll forgive my clumsy lines and thank you for obliging me by sharing them. If you stopped by to read them, you have my warm gratitude.

I'm afraid I can't give you much background on these particular untitled lines.  I think I recall who it was written to, for or about.

But I can tell you when it was written.  Because I have a habit of noting these things whenever I write.  I'm a little disappointed that I didn't record where I'd written it; I usually make a note of the postcode or country I'm writing in.  To me, when & where I write something is almost more important than what I write. 

I'm not sure why, but it works for me.

Maybe it's because I don't keep a diary. My attempts at songs and poems are my journal, it seems.  My default way of recording whatever matters to me enough to move my hand and heart.

Thanks for stopping by.  Be happy....


Sunday, 23 March 2008

"I'm nobody, who are you?"

Today was a wet, windy, sunny, changing bank holiday Saturday.  Not much to do, you might think. 

A day spent pottering indoors, throwing the occasional glance out the window, checking on the ever changing weather. (If ever there were four seasons in one day, it was today in London.)

Not much to do, you might think. 

Unless you'd caught wind of the flashmob pillow-fight planned for 15:03 in Leicester Square.  (Actually, it turns out today was ). I decided to potter along with my camera at the ready, expecting a 5-10min crazed feathery battle waged - and contained within - a modest sized mob of pillow-wielding madmen.


I got there with moments to spare, entering from the southwesterly corner or the Square. I soon spotted 3s & 4s of giggling, excited people. Then more. Then a whole family, little kids laughing, jumping up and down.  Parents smiling, nervously.  But still clutching their own pillows.

Some had strangely bulging bags. Some simply had a pillow (or 2) stuffed under their arm as they kicked their heels and stared at their watches.  Waiting...  I walked past one group of 4 teenage boys, laughing and texting furiously in the final few minutes of peace.  Suddenly, one cried "We're getting ready for war!", and like pre-programmed pigeons, tens of people who had seemed to be strolling through the square, turned and headed for the northside. 

Charging. Running. Crying their war cries of "Sparta!" Laughing. Oh, and wielding pilllows...

Within seconds, a crazed mob of 150-200 people were swinging pillowcases around their heads, laughing in the bitterly cold sunshine; finally bringing their pillow down with a thump on their nearest unsuspecting fellow fighter.

The air filled with laughter, screams, sunlight, rain...

Teenage boys, teenage girls, old men, little children, mothers, fathers, drunks, tourists, all pummeled each other with their pillows. And abandoned pillows. Passersby stopped for 30 minutes at a time, watching bemused, confused and amused. Some picked up abandoned, burst, half-full pillows and joined in. Some ran away...

(The one-on-one fight between an old drunk and a little boy was particularly endearing. There seemed to be so many levels of understand - of trust - at play there in that moment. between the boy and the man, the man and the crowd, circled, watching, laughing, the boy and his parents - permission given, silent promise to be careful undertaken...)

I expected the fight to disband as quickly as it materialized, but i was wrong.  I thought the rain might break things up. It did seem to slow the fight for a few seconds, but the mob roared and fought harder. And laughed harder.

"We are Legion!" one tall, young man screamed, pillow held as far back as he could reach, for maximum swing; chest out, chin high.... charging. Laughing.

Hail came. Only to be greeted by cheers and renewed, red-faced laughing warriors of the feather.  Snow came. Faces only paused to turn upwards, cool and smile briefly, then fought on...

Every time a pillow burst, the hundreds roared, in unison, like a wild, miss-feathered, homeless beast. (But nothing like the first time.)

Little children laughed hysterically; so hard, in fact, that they couldn't swing their pillows with any great effect.
The 'fight' (really does seem the least appropriate word for it now), lasted for well over an hour.  

I carefully wandered in and out, through, around and under the mass.  I laughter harder with every (intentional and unintentional) swipe and thump I received in the snow, sun and hail. I walked away, feathered, battered and laughing, when the bewildered emergency street-sweepers moved in.  The fight was slowly disintegrating by then and the ground was warmed - inches deep - in abandoned down.  

A poignant thought hit me, as I walked away.  Some of those pillows probably went out in more style and with more excitement and laughter than they'd experienced in their whole 'lives'.

Pillows should be places for laughter.

I shot literally hundred of photos of the fight, from outside, from the skirts, from the fallen-back ranks of red-faced warriors regaining their breath, from the edges of mini-battles and sub-plots, and lots more from deep inside the feathery fury. 

It was so much fun.  I hope to upload a choice 10-15 shots to flickr over the next day or so.   It's all too easy to take wide crowd shots, i think.  So, I'll probably post this kind of shot.  Personal, brief, fleeting, hysterically heart-warming shots...  Portraits, not shots. Pictures that say "Hello! This is me. I was there. Happy Easter!"

But in the meantime, here's one I fell immediately in love with, once i saw it up on a bigger screen.  I seem to have taken (some intentional, some not) gorgeous shots of beautiful people, beaming with bank holiday joy and stranger-loving lunacy.  

It still blows me away.  I have no idea who the laughing lady is, but if you see this and recognise yourself, I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you for such a glorious heartwarming, life-affirming gift that is this shot.  

To all at , huge thanks, much love and thank you for making my Easter Weekend.

Long may you run.


Friday, 21 March 2008

Are You Happy?

I realise I'm quite an excitable person; but then, to me, seem to live in a sea of stimulus.  

I used to swing between wishing could stop being so deeply moved or affected by things I witnessed or experienced and thanking God I was 'awake' enough to savour the pain and joy all around us.

Now I know that's just the way it is.

And I'm grateful for that. I think.

Anyway.  This cutting is just one of those things.  A small regular column in the Guardian's Weekend magazine.  I think this interview was published sometime in the summer of 2007.  It blew me away immediately.  This young lady's spirit - her attitude, her matter-of-factness - struck me as truly inspirational.  I always worry about saying things like that about people who have experienced extraordinary events in their lives.  I think it's important to remember that they probably weren't born as 'extraordinary' people.  They may have been, but I imagine it's more likely that they are ordinary people who have lived through previously unimaginable events in their lives. And emerged as victors, survivors, and therefore appear as winners and heros to the rest of us.

Also, the fact that she has a pair of 'swimming legs' (and by allusion, almost certainly swims more often than I) puts me to sorry, dry a*sed, land-lubbing shame.

On reading this article the first time round, I immediately reached for the scissors, cut it out and stuck it on the back of a door. It's not something I do very often.  But I did that Saturday, last summer.  To remind me of the feeling that was already slipping - too fast - from emotional memory. I stuck it somewhere where I'd see it every single day.  To remind me that there are people who have survived incredible things. 

People who have rebuilt or reclaimed their stake in this crazy world. 

People who are taller and stronger than I could ever hope to be.  

People who are making more of their time on this rock than I am.  

So. Every day, Sophia Mason makes me smile. She makes me stop and think. She makes me promise myself that I'll try and stay 'awake' a little more each day that i pass by her gorgeous portrait on the way out the door.

She reminds me that I really should go swimming more often.

Sticking her back up on the door now, I'm struck by her beauty and strength.  Again.  If I ever had the good fortune to meet her, I'd like to think I'd pass this ordinary woman's "men from the boys" test.

Thanks for the inspiration and the reality check, Sophia.

Thursday, 20 March 2008


i remember you
i remember your room
your four poster bed
and that look that said...

i remember you
you introduced me to Neil
reclined in a tee-shirt
and watched us shake hands...

you tried to set me free
but that chain was a part of me

(a pretty heavily edited extract from an old song written back in 1997.  incidentally, the accompanying photo was shot two or three months shy of a full decade after these words were written, but they seemed to fit.)

Sunday, 16 March 2008


Weatherwise, it's been a typical March day today (if there still is such a thing in these changing times) and so, while it's been raining & blowing outside, I've found myself spending most of the day pottering, planning and invariably, reflecting.  

Out came stacks of old photo albums, soon followed by old writing books.  This is the inside cover of one of them.  The "Green Book". 

If i happen to see friends when i've got a new writing book with me (and if the mood takes me), i'll ask them to write something in the front if it.  Something to remind me of who and where i was, who i was with, how i was feeling, how far i'd come at the moment, on the day i started the next lap of songwriting.  Where it stood in my life. Something to tie it to the moment.

Well, on 5th February 1997, i was with two of my dearest friends (who happened to be going out together at the time); Sam & Simon.  (Incidentally, if I ever happen to catch the credits on The Simpsons' tv show, I always smile when i see Sam Simon's name come up, because it reminds me of Sam & Simon.)

Back in 1997, we all worked in the same small company.  Simon was a couple of years older than me, wise to the ways of the world; i looked up to him and we shared the same wicked sense of humour.  Sam was a blast of fresh air to us both; she was a gorgeous 19 year old, fresh from Devon and absolutely bursting with love, life and laughter.  I loved them both dearly.  Still do.

The three of us used to hang out reguarly (with the lovely Bex), whether over a few beers and a game of pool after work, or at each other's houses, at gigs, etc...

I had split up with my girlfriend of 5+ years at this time, and frankly, was a mess.  It was only thanks to wonderful, 'true' friends like Sam, Simon (amongst others - if you come by this way - you'll know who you are, and you know you have my eternal love & gratitude), that i made it through a truly nightmarish year or so.  

There is a point to all this...

It was in my darkest times that I seemed to be at my most creative.  I will always remember 1997 as one of my worst, most painful years, but also - and maybe more - as one of the most exciting, groundbreaking, rewarding and fun years of my life.  I wrote more songs that ever before.  I wrote better songs than ever before.  I was writing every day.  I started gigging properly in 1997.  It was the most terrifying and exciting thing that had happened to me since falling in love years before.  I soon learned that if i wasn't almost sick with nerves before going on stage, something was wrong and i'd have a lousy gig.  I was building up a following.  I was making a name for myself...  I came ridiculously close to selling one particular song to one particular chart-bothering girl-group of the time.  It got to the point where i was coming home to updates from the group's manager and record label A&R guy on how things stood with the band.  They were trying to 'break the States' and the tour had gone horribly wrong.  None of them were talking to each other and they were all flying in separate jets. I was told that if - 'if' - the band pulled themselves together and got back on track, then they'd take the song into the studio and think about buying it...

To clarify, I'm not giving you this level of info in order to massage my own ego - i know how (essentially) unimportant and transitory these things really are - but simply to illustrate just how ridiculously surreal my live had become.

In 1997.

It felt like anyday I could have got home to a message on the answer machine saying "...yep, we want the tune. you can quit the day job...".

As it goes, they split up and i didn't quit the day job. Thanks girls. No, really.

That summer, I also met "the one that got away".  Funny. I wasn't looking for love, intimacy, or a connection of any kind. But, she came along anyway.  We only knew each other for a few months; drifting as easily out of each other's lives as we did into them.  No big hellos or goodbyes.  But in some strange way, she moved me more deeply than anyone else I'd ever known.  (Incidentally, and this is strange, for someone so keen on photography; I never took a single photo of her.  All I have are memories of the moments we shared.  Still, peaceful moments when everything else simply melted away.) 

Her memory, kindness and smile will stay with me.  Always.  I've a very strange feeling/theory that she was somehow 'sent' to help me heal and set me gently back on track... and i will remain forever grateful to her and whoever - whatever - sent her to my aid.

But that's another story.

Like i said, it was a strange, harrowing and wonderful year.