Review: Angel Haze, Back To The Woods @ the Laundry

I don’t normally write reviews. But not writing something is impossible, so. If you’re new to the blog, welcome, here is where I write stuff that I want to write. This probably isn’t a normal review. I don’t mention every single song, and it’s probably way too long, because when I’m excited I’m either gibbering or overly loquacious. I don’t even hand out any stars at the end of it. If I had to hand out stars, I’d give this gig all the stars that no-one ever sees in the night sky because the light’s too bright, all those galaxies pinwheeling and supernovas exploding and nebulae dazzling, all those unseen stars out there in the darkness.


So, my sister and I had a conversation last October, in which I yelped a lot and she said ‘yeah cool’ a bunch of times. My interpretation of this conversation was that I would get us both Angel Haze tickets, and that I would come stay with Sister (a mere 15 minute stroll from the venue) for the weekend. Yay! Plan! However, it transpired later that Sister must have been high as fuck at the time because she had no memory of any of this, so I put the ticket in her Christmas present and smugly accepted the title of Best Sister (we swap out the title depending on who needs a favour). Skip to early morning on the 16th January. And when I say early, I mean 5 bastard fucking 30 AM. The ten hour ferry journey (in storms! I love living on an island!) was just coming to an end and the loudspeaker announcing this woke me up from my floor-slumber. Yes, I took a ten hour ferry journey in stormy weather and slept on the floor just to see a gig. Don’t fucking judge me. I’m including this information because OF COURSE I DID. That’s the kind of loyalty that Angel Haze inspires in their fans. Do you know what it’s like to feel like the odd one out? To feel totally isolated? To go to the woods just to feel like there’s somewhere you fit? Angel Haze does. And they know how important it is to know that somewhere there’s a place, or a person, or a time, that you don’t have to do that for. And their magic is that they create that space for their fans, for them, for all of us.

So that night Sister and her friend G and I set out across the park with tickets, a spliff and a sense of purpose. And when we get there the queue is MASSIVE. I get chatting to the women behind me – everyone is juuuust about managing to keep their cool whilst secretly dying of anticipation. Just. Sister and G head off to get some beers for the wait, but the queue moves quickly, and by the time they get back with the cans, G has to run off and hide them somewhere under the railway bridge. Security are friendly, polite and efficient, but they’re still not going to let us bring our own cans in, obviously.

Downstairs… ah, downstairs. Already sweaty, warm, dark, crowded, your standard concrete box with low ceilings that makes everything feel intimate. I love places like this. Dunno why, normally I can’t bear being crowded, but tonight is special. I’m not being crowded by people. We’re part of the same living, breathing organism. I don’t bother checking my jacket, just want to get to a good spot to see the stage. Near the front, behind a couple of young studs, a hijabi, and a gorgeous bouncy bubbly femme with natural hair and a clingy grey top skimming curves like a Porsche on a Devonshire B-road. Everyone here is gorgeous. Everyone here is tingling with excitement and anticipation and goodwill. This is what I missed. I missed being with queers, I missed being with my people. I can let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding all that time. There’s a knock on the back of my ankles and I turn round – a woman in a wheelchair is standing behind me. I move aside, nudge the people in front of me out of the way, and say rather stupidly ‘Hey, you want to get to the front?’ (Of course she does, we all fucking do, but for this woman it’s the only way she’ll see anything at all.) What can I say, I have a knack for stating the obvious. She looks at me very evenly and says “I intend to”. FUCK YEAH. I love this crowd already.

Something’s happening onstage! Or maybe it isn’t. A few people whoop or whistle – we’re all so hyped that anything and everything gets us going. It’s the stage manager. Oooh, they’re buff actually. Crisp white t-shirt and locs, careful hands arranging and rearranging bottles of water on a table. Getting everything just right.

TK Kayembe, producer and DJ comes onstage, whoop whoop! Lights dimming, smoke pouring into the room, turning it hazy (I see what they did there). And. There they are, exploding onstage like a tiger bursting out of long grass. The crowd loses its collective shit. We whistle, stamp, yell, and our packleader yells right back. “Make some noise!” The volume in the room doubles. Then they get right to it.

Fuck. This album! This performance! Here is probably where I get a little incoherent, because that performance made my brain fall away like wet cake. In a good way. Such a good way. So this is going to be disjointed and it’s definitely out of order, but fuckit, who’s counting.

So first, Tk Kayembe – absolutely crackling. I want to take a few lines here just to say that as producer of the album – and of course of Werkin Girls –  he’s done an amazing job, and as DJ on stage, there’s an incredible energy flow between him and the rapper bouncing around him. It’d be easy to overlook him (or anyone and everyone) when Angel Haze is flying around the stage like they’ve got fucking wings and springs on their feet, but he deserves props too before I get carried away and forget. THANKS MAN. Going to look out for his stuff in future and I really really hope to see the two of them collaborate further.

Haze’s delivery is crisp and sharp and completely throbbing with power. No holding back, they throw themselves into performance wholly and passionately. These are tracks that go straight from Haze’s heart to ours, utterly sincere and brutally uncompromising. And I’m utterly loving all the wolf and woods imagery. It’s beautiful and bleak like a bare tree in winter, stark against the skyline.

Bloody love ‘Impossible’, with its ‘middle finger up to white America’. Haze makes no apologies and pulls no punches, and when they matter-of-factly say that they ‘considered suicide, I do that these days’, it’s not to evoke sympathy, it just is, and that means that the power and the victory that follows has its truth emphasised, because nothing here is sugar-coated, and growth is created from pain. Actually, that’s true of pretty much the whole album – it’s more complex, it’s deeper. It’s amazing is what I’m saying, go buy five copies and give them to all your friends.

‘The Wolves’ is triumphant with anger and loyalty to Haze’s squad, and yes, this is the part where the wolves howl (first time round, the audience miss our cue because whilst yes we are wolves we are mostly British wolves with a certain amount of public shyness but NO ROOM for that here, get your howl on). “Every time I howl, wolves come, and you get bit”. Yesssss. I’m pressed up against at least five people and we’re all moving in unison – Haze has the audience in the palm of their hand and they’re bouncing us up and down.

So a couple of songs in, Angel Haze calls up a volunteer from the audience. Sadly I am way too short for my hand to be distinguishable from the million other hands that shoot up, but, ooh, they’ve found someone already. A gorgeous femme, tall and slender, short natural hair, and some really fucking cool trousers. From somewhere very close to me, someone yells ‘That’s my bitch’ and then the femme I saw right at the beginning, Ms Grey Curves, shimmies over the barrier straight onto the stage. Two femmes onstage! At this point I’m shrieking my glittery little heart out. FUCK YEAH FEMMES! Haze looks momentarily surprised to see another one appear, but still pays both of them singular attention throughout the song, singing to each, dancing with them, all of that whilst never missing a single beat or leaving anyone standing aside like a lemon. Fuuuuuck. Just when I thought I’d fallen as hard as is possible to fall for someone I’ve never spoken to, they’re showing love for queer black femmes. I wish this wasn’t such a big fucking deal but it IS a big fucking deal. Femmes get the shitty end of the stick way too often (not queer enough/doing it for the cis men/benefitting from heterosexism and all of those little fuck-yous that mean we don’t even get seen in our own communities), and showing love for the femmes, showing love for black women, fucking MATTERS (“There’s so many pretty curly-haired girls I can’t help but keep picking them!”).

And it’s not just the femmes! When it’s just Haze and Kayembe onstage again (and kudos to the two femmes for getting back offstage, I’m pretty sure I would have had to be dragged off), they come right up to the baby studs in front of me, and there is some hand-touching, and I see that look. It’s a really small look, and if you’ve never needed to see it, you’ve never seen it, and if you have needed to see it, you’ll never forget it. It says “I see you”. I see you. Doesn’t sound a lot, right? Wrong. It’s everything. When your choice is visibility or acceptance, to be seen or be safe – to be given both at the same time is fucking transformative. I see you, and I see what you have to deal with and you’re not alone now, you’re part of a pack, a pack of fucking wolves. I see you. That is the overwhelming vibe of the room. This is our space now.

Ohhh and we’re BACK because Haze has just jumped the barrier and is in the middle of their pack, belting out Babe Ruthless. Too short to see what the hell is happening, but I don’t need to see exactly, because there’s a current of electricity pulsing through the crowd and we’re all feeling what’s happening. Don’t know what it is, but it feels special. Haze shouts at one point “The more energy you give me, the more I can give you.” They must be buzzing right now in that case – every other fucker in the room is, we are off our collective tits on pure adrenalin and passion.

‘The Woods’ is heart-breakingly gorgeous. Partly because, ugh, so much of it sounded so familiar. Up above, where I mention about the woods being the only place that feels like home? Yeah that’s from this song. Whatever, I’m not even going to try and describe this one, just go listen to it. If you’re reading this, you’re on the internet. Here, I’ll make it easy for you:

Haze heads offstage, buoyed up on a cloud of adoration from the room, and we instantly start chanting ‘one more song’. They don’t even milk it, they come back, beaming at us all and burst straight into Battle Cry. I don’t care if the critics were snotty about it on the last album (so fucking what if there’s a popular guest star? Sia’s great), the critics were just flat-out wrong. It’s amazing. And everyone sings, everyone howls to the moon about what money cannot buy. We know what that is, what’s here tonight.

Ohhhhh and it’s not even over now! They very sweetly give us some new stuff (it’s great, obviously). And then they hang out for hours and hours at the merch table. Sadly I didn’t make it to the front of that particular queue (no money). But that’s ok, because (sing it with me now) money cannot buy….

So showing your heart, means ripping open your rib cage. Very few people will actually do that because it’s painful and raw and bloody. Very few people will embrace the strength that comes from holding up your vulnerabilities like a flag of victory. Angel Haze does it time and again. Angel Haze is changing the world. This gig changed mine.

Special thank to my genius sister who managed to get a picture of me and the pack leader in the same frame despite the venue being STACKED WITH WOLFPACK. I suspect her of wanting to reclaim Best Sister status.


Local Pride

I have moved back in with my parents, and am trying to make new friends (my old ones are wonderful but mostly across an ocean or two). To this end, I have joined the local Pride group, which is how I find myself trying to persuade strangers to accept flyers whilst standing on a rainbow road crossing. The crossing is on loan from TFL, and has the slogan #ridewithpride emblazoned on each end. It’s been reasonably successful – we’ve managed to persuade several people to have their picture taken on the crossing (it’s been rolled out across a pedestrian road so no-one is in any danger). Many people are confused about the concept of Pride – this will be the Island’s first ever. The crossing is only out for 2 hours, and someone has gone to get the van to roll it up and put it away until tomorrow. I have two flyers left, and I want to get rid of them, so I brightly proffer them to two elderly women passing. Between them, they have approximately 160 years and maybe one set of teeth. They both have heavy local accents, one is in a heavy winter coat despite the midsummer heat, and the other in a very bright pink skirt suit, and I think they look like fun. To my delight, they not only take the flyer, but stop to chat. The conversation goes as follows.

Woman 1: What’s this then mah luv?

Me: This Saturday is our Island’s first LGBT Pride! We’re having a parade starting at the cows then we’ll end up at the Weighbridge and basically party all day and all night.

Woman 1: Ah that’s good, because you see, I saw that Ride With Pride and I thought it was about bicycles.

Woman 2: Can’t stand them bicycles, they’re always on the pavements.

Woman 1: And going down one way streets.

Woman 2: I was coming out of my gate and a bicyclist was coming at me on the pathway, so I got my zimmerframe and I set it down in the middle of the path and I stayed there. Oooh he was cross. I’ve heard a lot of foul language, you know. And I gave it right back to him. And I said, I said, listen young man, I can swear too. And I can stay here all day. I’m not moving. I’ve got nowhere else to be. And I stayed there…

[note to reader – never, ever enter a time-wasting competition with a pensioner.]

Woman 1, interrupting: I made a placemat for Queen Elizabeth, you know.

Me: Oh that’s lovely. Yes, because yesterday she became the longest serving monarch, didn’t she?

Woman 1: She’ll be 90.

Me: Wow, that’s a decent age.

Woman 1: Here, look. [she takes it out of her bag to show to me. It has a message wishing the Queen a happy 90th birthday for April 21 2016].

Me: Oh, that’s nice. Is it cross stitch?

Woman 1: No! It’s embroidery. Do you have a camera?

Me: Umm… I have a mobile phone, that takes pictures.

Woman one stands back a bit (by this time the crossing has been rolled up and taken away and all my fellow flyer-handers have vanished), holding it up to her chest for the camera, and resolutely refusing to smile. I dutifully take a picture, which she doesn’t want to see.

Woman 1: Now don’t go showing that picture to too many people now, I want to enter this into the Eisteddfod next year.

Me: I won’t put it on Facebo… socia…. The internet. Don’t worry, I won’t put it on the internet.

Woman 1: Good. Don’t show it to too many people. Otherwise they won’t let me enter it in the Eisteddfod.

Woman 2, obviously feeling a little left out of the conversation: So what does LGBT stand for them?

Me: Uhhh…. It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.

Woman 2, fondly: Oh that’s nice love. My mum, she always used to say, this world is big enough for all sorts of people.

Me: Yes, I completely agree – the world would be very boring if we were all the same.

Woman 1, pursing her lips slightly, starts rummaging through her bag again, and I wonder if I’ve offended her. Nope. She brings out a leaflet for a Harvest festival and shows it to me. I start to take it, but she clings on.

Woman 1: Now when’s your festival?

Me: Uhhh…. The 12th. This Saturday.

Woman 1: Right. Well, this is on the 19th. It’s a harvest festival.

I look at the leaflet – it has no sign as to where it’s being held, only a rather mysterious mobile number to ring for directions. She tears this off and hands it to me, still holding on to the top part of the leaflet which now has no useful information on it.

Woman 1: We’ve got a stall there. You have a mobile phone, don’t you love?

Me: Um, yes, yes I do.

Woman 1: Well you can buy things with your mobile phone.

Me: Can I?

Woman 1, firmly: Yes. We’ve got a stall there, you can buy things with your phone. Ring this number, she’ll tell you where it is, it’s on their farm.

Woman 2: Right my love, we’ll be off.

Me, sincerely: It was lovely to meet you both, I’ll try and make it to your harvest festival.

They nod and start trudging off. Woman 2 turns round and shouts after me.


Between the Gods

So a friend and I have started a new online filth zine, (mostly text but I would not call it SFW according to most office ‘Acceptable Internet Usage Policy’. We figured out from multiple conversations in pubs with multiple people, is that sex is hot when everyone involved is really into it – after that, there are infinite ways to have an amazing shag. Also there are fairly frequent pirate references.


Here is the Admiral’s most recent Wicked Wednesday offering (although we had some trouble adding the button, and failed to submit in time). It involves anti-austerity marches, an usherette costume, and an excellent amount of chub – and of course, everyone’s really into it…

Between the Gods.


“Those shitheads have painted a swastika on Claudette’s door.” Oskar burst in to the drawing room vibrating with rage, or something else.

Reinhardt sighed. It wasn’t the first case of this kind of vandalism that he’d seen on the Island, but he knew why this one had Oskar in such a state.


“Must have been just before curfew. Maybe 10.30. Luckily one of our patrol officers saw it – must have missed the fuckers by minutes, it was still wet.”

“Well can you get someone to clean it off before morning?”

“It’s tar, it’s going to leave some kind of mark. People are going to see this in a few hours, they’ll know why it was painted. And it’s only a matter of time before they connect the dots, she’s not involved in the black market so they’ll want to know who she was seeing, and in this shitty parochial little Island, it won’t take long before everyone knows. I can’t be seen to be part of this.”

“Of course not,” Reinhardt snapped. “I told you not to get involved at all with that tart.”

Oskar shrugged; it was immaterial now. “The point is, she’s been singled out. And I’ll be linked, sooner or later, and that’s my career down the pan – you know the Baron’s views on setting an example.”

Reinhardt leaned back in his chair. It was a comfortable chair – whoever the occupants had been before the place had been requisitioned, they had certainly known how to pick their furniture. “Singled out. Yes, you’ve got it on the nail there.”

Oskar’s face reddened slightly, perhaps thinking about how he’d singled out Claudette himself when he first saw her behind a stall in the market. “Well, we’ve got to do something about it.”

Reinhardt smiled. “You’ve already given the answer. She’s been singled out, marked. Just her.” Oskar looked blank, and Reinhardt sighed again. “So we make sure that she blends in again.”

“But the tar… cleaning it won’t be enough”

“I know. Do we have any tar here?”

Oskar’s face brightened as he saw what Reinhardt was driving at. “No… but we do have some flamethrowers.”

“We’re not burning down doors, Oskar, don’t be ridiculous. That really will get you arrested, probably sent back to Germany.”

“No, no. The fuel.” The fuel they used for flamethrowers was black and sticky – if not quite tar, certainly tar-based.

Reinhardt snapped his fingers. “Excellent. Get some of the oiks out of bed. We don’t need too many, better keep this relatively quiet, so pick ones you trust. Use the 3rd Battery. I’ll get the fuel and some paintbrushes.”

Oskar saluted and marched quickly out of the door. Reinhardt was no longer annoyed, despite the other officer’s foolishness; even a little excited about the unexpected night-time diversion. This would teach those bloody Islanders to pick on some unfortunate woman who had, after all, done nothing more than what her Creator had made her for. The sooner these inbred cow-fuckers got used to the idea that they were all German citizens now, the better. He retrieved the tools, and went to wait for the others in the front hall. No use taking these out in the street before they had to, even if the Islanders were all in their houses, sleeping out the curfew.

It didn’t take them long. Reinhardt had stressed the importance of silence before they left, and the soldiers were punctilious about following orders. They all knew the symbol like the back of their hand, and whilst none of them had the painting skills that it was rumoured the dear Fuhrer had, this was not supposed to be an exhibition of artistic talent. They’d managed to cover a wide area – from Queen’s Road to the start of St Clement’s Road. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of buildings; houses, shops, offices. All marked. Heavy black daubs, spirals of spikes ranging from two to ten feet in height. The sign of the Reich, splashed wherever the eye fell. The smell of tar hung in the cold February air, permeating the soldier’s hair and clothing, although they’d make an unspoken agreement to leave their uniforms off. Reinhardt nodded approvingly. Oskar just looked exhausted. Reinhardt patted him paternally on the arm.

“You’d better go get some rest. We don’t want anyone wondering what you’ve been up to at nights, eh?” He chuckled. Oskar felt faintly sick, and told himself if was the lingering scent of bitumen.


The Chief Administrator of the Channel Islands, Baron von Aufsess, was having a bad morning. His assistant, visibly nervous, had informed him of a wanton act of vandalism in the night, and it was clearly the work of his own forces. Act of vandalism, he said – this was more than that, this was a rampage.

“Unauthorised use of military property. Damage to the prestige of our forces. Provocation of the local population. This cannot stand. Arrests will be made”

The assistant nodded. Privately, he felt that the Kommandant would block any attempt to punish the perpetrators.

“Of course, we’ll have to get it cleaned off. And it’s tar, of all things.”

“Shall I get a group of Islanders for the clean-up, Sir, or should we use some of our units? It might set a good example.”

The Baron made an angry noise. “Don’t be foolish. Get Organisation Todt to send over some labour. Not the Russians, we don’t want any more escaping or leading the locals to misplaced pity, we’ve had quite enough of that. The Islanders will probably balk at cleaning this up, given the circumstances. We are supposed to be leading them into a better future, not turning them against us. As for our own soldiers – hasn’t our reputation been damaged enough? I will not have my men humiliate themselves, be mocked in public thus. We are here to lead by example. The swastika must be respected, by Islander and German alike.”

Noirmont by Night

At my last birthday, a family friend gave me a poetry prompt (this was actually several months ago, sorry Ian), presumably referring to the previous poem published here (originally posted a couple years ago on Facebook). I sat with it a while, thinking I’d already said my piece. And then I took a walk up there a couple of days ago, and realised what I’d forgotten the first time. The bodies. The men sent in by Organisation Todt, whose forced labour was used to build Nazi fortifications around the Island. Over 100 men died during the construction of fortifications in Jersey. And, whilst I’m having difficulty finding a good source confirming this online, it’s fairly wide knowledge throughout the Island that, if a Russian POW died whilst building, from exhaustion or starvation or illness, the Nazi soldiers were as like to throw the body in the wet concrete and keep going. These men are not mentioned on the informational posters dotted around the bunkers, which concentrate instead on technical specifications. I walked up there, and I found two men working in one of the bunkers, sweeping and painting. I asked if I could take a look, and they told me that, whilst only the top two levels had been open, they were working to open up the lower levels too. I wanted to ask them why they were doing this, but I didn’t have the words to hand to explain why I felt this was reprehensible. So instead, I wandered down to the lower levels, the dogs sticking close to me. A shaft of concrete sinking into the ground. Each level identical, aside from the viewing slits in the top two levels, two small rooms and a narrow spiral staircase down to the next floor. When we got to the bottom, I got a headache. I assumed it was from the wet paint they were using, 5 floors above, but the cold emanating from the bare concrete walls chilled me more than the biting wind outside.

Cars parked,
discreetly distant from each other;
windows fogged
with illicit smoke or frantic steam
And the sea
is invisible
from inky sky.
Barely audible below the cliff,
rocks, once sharp,
wearing away
year by year
wave by pounding wave
and the sea
and the sea
and the wind
keening a mourning song
for the brutality
documented in concrete
Those unknown dead, buried,
perhaps in that wall there.
Unmarked graves,
monuments to cruelty.
Statues of torture.
These dead will never go home;
captive in the cement
they laid to spec.
Their ghosts unheard over the gusts
and the sea.
Their lives undocumented.
Their deaths painted over
in the name of remembrance.


The island where I grew up was occupied by Nazi forces during WWII. All over the island, there are concrete fortifications built at the command of the occupying forces, some military, some sea walls. In the last few years, there has been a movement to clean these up and restore them, in the name of history and remembrance. Something about the way that this is being done has left me distressed and disturbed – walking through the landscape of my childhood, only to find a carefully restored monument to the forces that would have killed me in another time.

Dappled sunlight falling through the trees
onto soft earth and pine needles,
daffodil spears piercing the ground cover.
Maybe a week until their golden trumpets
blare forth assertive colour.

Onto the heath, the bracken
rusted by winter cold,
Sage-green lichen misshaping bare twisted branches.
Wind scented buttery-coconut by gorse,
tinged with salt.
I can hardly bear the brightness of
grass and sky washed clean overnight
over-saturated by morning sun.
Water, shining diamond-like from blades of grass
kept military-short by armies of rabbits.

Horse shoes carved into the turf,
I hear the soft thunder of galloping paws
And the dog runs past, leaping lamb-like
In sheer happiness at being alive, here, now.
The piglets in the next field squeal, outraged.
Tripping over mud, each other, themselves
to crowd around the patient mountain of their mother’s body.

On the headland,
geometric, Bauhaus shapes:
concrete fortifications
stark against the sky,
left from the Occupation.
After the war, the weapons
were torn out, left the earth bleeding,
thrown into the ocean
for water to envelop, rust.
Now, to keep memory alive,
they have been resurrected;
a cannon painted sky-grey,
seeming new, ready, waiting.
Let me come across these memories half-buried,
emerging from the earth
softened by time and overgrown by brambles.

On the cliff, the German gun
looks like nothing but what it is:
slender death,
precise as any scalpel,
pointed accusingly over the water
My eyes follow the silver sunlit path over the sea
and can see no further than the horizon.

Tales from the Front Hob

It may be a cliche, but in this job, you see a different side of people. Not always their nicest side of course. But I do feel it’s a privilege. Being the representative for the Domestic Front, I do have extra responsibilities. But you get to see the unguarded side of people, observe and facilitate their daily routines. It’s impossible not to form attachments – I sometimes wonder who’s dependent on whom.

Most of it’s drudge work of course – always first to rise, first cup of tea, or some kind of hot drink – kettle goes on. The mundanity doesn’t get to me, it’s half of why I’m here. People soft from sleep or exuding low-level tension until after the first hit of the day. Unguarded, like I said. No pretence when you’re still half-fogged from the unseen things that chased you through your dreams.

The social rituals – door opens, someone comes in, kettle goes on. Some acknowledgment of this fact usually, it’s one of the social lubricants as much as the sharing of a drink. Sacred laws of hospitality. Sometimes they even joke about its cultural specificity, but the ritual happens with every guest regardless of the script.

There are the emergencies too. I won’t lie, I half-enjoy these. Those times when someone comes in, jerkily or slowly or trudging, and impart news of some calamity. Without thinking, they reach for me. It’s a way they have for caring for each other, I know that, but it’s nice to know one plays an important, if unnoticed role.

Morning, midday, afternoon, evening, night, over a trade or a counselling session or a lesson or a visit or business, or a late night snack or to kick-start some energy or to create a quiet moment for recharging, or simply to eke out the conversation half an hour longer, in which case my offerings are generally soon forgotten. The kitchen is where it all happens and I have a front row seat – or I should say front hob. I smooth your interactions time and again, I sit with you in your darkest moments and your relief and your illness and your laughter and your endless experimentation in the kitchen, your creations and disasters. I am there when there is a person slumped on the sofa for hours, unable to do anything but accept my offerings. I am the first out of the box when people pack up their lives and move them to a new place, ready to help them settle and reclaim their normality. I am there in offices, hospitals, community centres. I am there when the bottle is too dangerous, I am there in war and peace, holding together the fragile norms of human interaction. My hob is your hub.

Reasons to be Optimistic

I’ve lost my job. It was careless.
The bridges lie smouldering behind me.
On the other bank, abyss between us
they tell each other that they had no choice
that I had been told (repeatedly) my (multiple) failings
over the course of some months
in order to correct and improve myself.
And it was out of sheer willfulness
that I continued
to make mistakes,
that I started to (be) care-less.

My hair is less professional now.
Cherry leaves in autumn.
Which sounds poetic
but on a human looks
Drunk, and the dye from a bottle.

I spend my days doing unproductive things
like looking at the sky
and walking with the dogs
collecting sticks from woods
fallen leaves to match my hair
and berries from trees
boiling hedgerows up in the kitchen
waiting for winter
knowing that nothing lasts
(except that jar of pickled pears my mother made in 2008
which I will eat singly on special occasions).


I have opinions on this lady
My opinion is that she is no lady
My opinion is that there are labels for this lady
My opinion is that all opinions are valid
Especially mine
I will express my opinion to you
I expect you’ll agree
That this lady holds our opinions in her body
This lady says she rejects those labels
That she cannot, does not match the expectations
that the perfectly reasonable and objective descriptors
Bestow on her
Because labels are shorthand for a person and cannot contain
The full multitudes of her unhyphenated humanity.
Those labels fit her.

In which I am super-suave

We are lying in bed and chatting. The animals have been corralled downstairs. We are discussing how nervousness makes us say stupid things, and vying for the title of ‘Most Socially Inept In The Face Of Hotness’, stemming from a conversation about how, when we met, E had gone on rather a lot about beards, and wanting to climb the owners of said beards, before abruptly fleeing (our first date went remarkably well).

“I used to really fancy this guy,” I reminisce. “First year of uni. He was in a production of Martin Sherman’s Bent, and he was amazing, this skinny, androgynous indie boy. He was in some of my lectures, and met my friend EM in a seminar. She was – is – in a band, the Bobby McGees. And he had a radio show, on the campus radio station, and invited her on it, and because she’s a good friend, she reluctantly acquiesced when I begged to be allowed to meet this specimen of beauty. So there we were, in the radio studio. EM had talked very well about her music, and he’d played some extremely cool indie tracks. Then, out of sheer politeness, he started asking me questions, to fill some time. When he found out I grew up in Jersey, he asked about that. I imagine he wanted to hear about political corruption and tax loopholes.”

E is breathless with anticipation. “What did you say?”

I hide my face in the pillow. “I said it on the radio. On the radio. I talked about Jersey’s inbreeding problem.”

E shrieks with laughter.

“I even mentioned that in St Ouen, they used to build houses with extra large attics, in case they popped out a wrong’un. That’s not even true. That’s just something my best friend made up to mock St Ouennais.”

It takes some time for E to restore both breath and gravitas. “So, what happened?”

I take a minute to restore all the painful memories. I’m still not really over it. “I bumped into him a few weeks later. I was doing laundry, and I was doing laundry because I’d run out of all my clothes except the most peculiar ones, which I was wearing, with a massive sack of dirty underwear on my arm.” I take a deep breath. “And I asked him, oh, you know, what are you doing tonight, that kind of thing. And he said he had an essay to write. And I said… I said…” I am momentarily speechless. “I said, oh, is it very long and hard?” E is weeping by this point. “I didn’t even realize what I’d said until 20 minutes later, sitting in the Laundromat, staring at the underwear going round, when I suddenly curled up in a ball and hid in my own armpit.”

E decides to make me feel better. “You know I’m a blurter, right honey? There was this girl in the year below me at school, and I had the biggest crush on her. Like, I didn’t really know at the time that’s what was happening, but I just couldn’t stop staring at her, I’d come to a standstill in the corridor when she walked past, the works. And one day, she asked me something, I can’t remember what she said, like what’s up or whatever, we had overlapping social circles. And I looked at her. And, without any input from my brain, my mouth moved, and out came words. And the words that came out of my mouth were ‘Will you father my children.’”

We agree that we are fortunate to have found each other. We are clearly not really cut out for normal society.