And I’m thinking about breakfast at Veselka’s and fractured biography and The Idea of Kate Jackson and why narrative shouldn’t be restricted and all my fictions. And I’ve got a pint to my lips. And Bridle’s got more ideas than time. And Webb kicks me into gear with the phrase “beginnings matter”. And I think they really do. And so, what next?
Gillen has this line, inspired by a scientist, wherein motivation is found with the question: “What’s the most significant problem facing your field?”
And, you know, if you aren’t doing something about it then you’re part of the problem.
“Have you seen my tie?”
That line, that line I keep hearing, that phrase I write in my bones and bleed: “What next?”
You know, I fucking hate Italo Calvino.
Thompson’s heading Downtown. The Auteur’s fucked off long since to tear up the meatpacking district. Morley’s sidetracked by a beam of light coming from a street corner in Williamsburg a river distant. I’m left outside of Veselka’s with Johnson, after Nick & Norah melt inside.
“Telling stories is telling lies.”
“Lies aren’t always bad things.”
“I never said they were.”
And while he pitches uptown I’m left on the corner of four points wondering where to head. Little lines I should have said come back to me about cultures we dip in and out of, about channels we create. I’ve populated a landscape with the shape of some people I never knew, some of whom I can’t know. I’ve wound up being more honest with them than I expected. How did I start a story here?
And in the first few moments of the new year there is snow.
That’s the moment Warren turns and says “Matt, if you had funding you’d be in control of half of London by now!”
Mark’s fingers, bitterly cold, grasping the digital strands left by a decade departed. I’ve written the 00’s away in a spate of Doctor Who and poptimism, and he’s done what’s been asked of him; lone flagbearer for the Festive Ten.
Confession: in one of the most painful moments of my life I used a Doctor Who quote, letting the words “You were brilliant” slip from my lips. It’s a strange moment, over a year later, when I realise that the death of the Tenth Doctor rocked in exactly the same way. I wanted to go for a huge walk and cry in the rain.
Somewhere I hear The Idea of Kate Jackson whisper the words of VV; “I want you to be crazy ’cause you’re stupid baby when you’re sane.”
Pete Doherty died in the early months of 2005, I’m sure of it.
For a time I accidentally find myself earning money by doing what I want to do.
Powered by robots, slowed down by ink, stalled by budget. Poor girl.
Marc and I should throw more stones.
You could say I am the son of Tom Humberstone, Paul Gravett, Kieron Gillen, Warren Ellis, and most of their ideas. Bridle would call the conception something like ‘bookake impregnation’ before adding his own spit to the mix.
You shouldn’t say that sort of thing though, because it leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
His arrival is unassuming and soft, and he brings with it such overwhelming concentration and chaos that you imagine he has been around since you first stepped up to the counter clutching Young Justice. He comes to define comics as much as Joy Division define music. For a long time he was a missing element, alluded to and mentioned but unseen for the most part. He is brilliant. Everybody needs a Humberstone.
Second, Humberstone changes the game.
For the first time in a long time he felt like he hadn’t broken The Rule. Aimee would be proud.
Unknown Pleasures revolving: “You’re at home aren’t you?”
First The Girl and I build a home.
First The Girl and I consider the merchandising opportunities.
First The Girl and I run away to Oslo.
First The Girl and I get too drunk and fight fences
First The Girl and I find a cave, then a houseboat on stilts.
Morley picks up my tab at Veselka’s, and I hope to repay the kindness in future. “Don’t worry about it. There are far more important things to worry about, I’m sure you’re aware. For example; think about where Simon Cowell was when Kylie regenerated. Ask yourself what shape a new Damon Albarn might take. Stare at the sky and throw stones in the water while drumming up rhymes about why none of it would work if Eno hadn’t written ‘An Ending (Ascent)’ or if Bowie hadn’t sung ‘Heroes’.”
I’m usually somewhere in England, dreaming.
All the hayfever in the world.
We are now far too close to now to have any perspective.
Denver International airport is now my most hated location in the world. Surrounded by empty nothing, perched between endless space and void. Made of boredom and strip lights. Just shit.
By this point the shadowplay ghost of Ian Curtis is something less than present, something further from the inside of the front of the head than perhaps he had been.
“I came away to kind of think about myself, think about what I wanted to do next, maybe make something on the way.”
“Yeah… it sort of happened, not as expected though…”
And we don’t have to say much more to get that it’s been a strange few months for both of us. When we both go home it’s going to be to something temporary, a stop gap, and it might be a couple of months before we get ourselves together.
The Girl has abandoned the crossroads, and wants to build a home.
Somewhere Marc is thinking about the future. I’m beside the sea.
Echoes of Greenfield on meeting Katie (whose breasts are famous on the internet); starting to know the people I think I’ll know forever. Of course, all this way above the docks at San Diego, a vista of parking lots and heat.
friends are nice but this city makes me dislocated and sick and I don’t feel the need to stay here any more I want to be taken to ink and paper and booze and the bit where I make new friends and speak to people whose words have sat in books in boxes for something less than a lifetime but a little more than a shopping trip
Jeck is too fragmented and beautiful to make it onto a coffee table.
We’re walking up the mountain, hours before more flights, and surrounding us is the snap-sparkle of a thousand tiny fireflies. It’s breathtaking.
Somewhere I stumbled over the headstone of an ex-, or someone like her, and got distracted by Animal Collective.
(open up your, open up your, open up you throat)
There really is enough Whiskey. Quite the embarrassment.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about The Idea of Kate Jackson”
Storm roiling through St. Laurent, they appear to be on a houseboat. It is good. Stevie Wonder leers in the distance, gurning slobber attracting vicious interference.
A little shot of energy from the Far East, that a Lost Boy thinks of as sacred; ‘I know I’m not at rock bottom if that stays sealed.’
Somewhere around Parc I begin to relax.
An idea in the shape of a decade where forgetting what you were and pretending this is the fully formed article that existed forever is, essentially, as common as breakfast.
To our eternal disappointment The Idea of Kate Jackson does not appear at a table in Veselka’s, clear of our breakfast dishes, set to stand atop it and belt out “Nostalgia”. H.S.T., crown King Gonzo, passes me the flask and I’m away after one huff.
A lot of ideas as we make for the door. He tells me I should do the things I have to until they hurt.
Field agents; assets; resources; friends; co-conspirators; the right team for the right job.
In a moment’s notice images change context; Adam Cadwell’s pencil creates upheaval, repositioning The Idea of Kate Jackson into a position of power she wholly deserves.
Marc throwing stones in the water, “What are we doing? I mean it, what are we doing?” and I’m thinking ‘What do we want to do?’ And I’m not sure either of us know, but the sea is a good place to think about the future, talk about the past and throw stones.
A little less B. S. Johnson, a little more ‘notebooks targeting the collapse of artistic writing, pointing knife-like at the throat of my to-do-list’.
Somewhere over the Atlantic there are two hundred ‘zines making their way to the house of illustrator Ben. Somewhere in Montréal Aanand and Quintin are making new lives. Somewhere in New York Matthew is falling in love. Somewhere else in New York there is an awful lot of booze gathering.
Persistent references to The Auteur’s ‘Fear of Flying’ do me good. There’s spit and spite and special restraint there, all of which I would like, some of which I would argue I need.
Bouncing between Sutphin Boulevard and a hotbox. Sweat and tears. Mostly sweat, for all the right reasons.
And, yes, the water’s running into his shoes, but Coney Island looks great in the rain.
Somewhere in the sky she’s curled up, head in his lap, her mind somewhere else altogether, her foot throbbing in pain. Metal sky bucket fling them toward America.
Of course, every trip will always be shorter than expected.
Harried: The Girl books flights not long after The Boy.
I probably aim at North America wondering if, each time, I might bump into Lottie.
Letter from me to Lottie:
You wouldn’t even know me anymore. I mean, I wouldn’t you, but sometimes it’s a few seconds before you realise the changes time’s made.
So, I last saw you something close to eighteen years ago. We were children. I think it was San Francisco you were heading towards, I’m not really sure. I stayed in Hedge End. Not sun tan my end, that much is true, and school changed a lot too. I haven’t got that Turtles poster anymore. I haven’t got those Thunderbirds bedsheets (I wish) and I haven’t got that micro-machines goodbye present you left me. I don’t live in that house anymore. I don’t wear shorts, or baseball caps, and I don’t have a uniform. And I’m older now too, which counts for something, right?
So, the faded ghost of Ian Curtis reminds The Boy that he never quite made it to North America.
Cut, again, way too close.
Several names, some familiar, The Girl at The Crossroads is forever and after best known as The Girl. The Idea of Kate Jackson approves.
And it all comes together because the noise is too much and the distance is quite short and the view is pretty and the booze is cheap and the company feels good and he should have kissed her anyway.
“Can I have a hug?”
“I wonder if sometimes we all seem trapped in versions of Let’s Get Lost,” says Morley to the lot of us, breakfast at Veselka’s long since over. He pushes the salt around the table “It would be beautiful, wouldn’t it? Some detemporalised, black and white collection of ideas, loose connection, the shape of a man’s life through a medium.” “Maybe,” Johnson responds, “but haven’t we all already written that?”
Quinns and Sheret, wandering Hackney. There’s something pleasantly gormless about the pair of them, enough so that a young mother is moved to nickname them The Lost Boys. There is probably mileage in that.
There are stops, if not a route: New York, Montréal, L.A., San Diego.
In a basement club hiding undercover Kohl and Shambles sit amid the Coven. A ways away The Girl enters, stands with the next generation, waits for an introduction.
Echoing, forever and always, back and forwards though time and space and stuff; a room full of people yelling to ‘Song 2’.
Mirroring Veselka’s, but boozy; Webb, Jones, Bridle, Sheret.
Someone, somewhere, thought The Charles Lamb Pub would be a good idea. And they were right.
“Oh, I always pronounced it knee-ill-ism. Or Neilism.”
Like a beacon on the internet: ‘Get Excited and Make Things’. Time to plot.
“Paper is for wimps”
Sitting by the water’s edge I’m listening to Marc talk about things he’s seen. It’s not pleasant. I can’t imagine how hard it would be for him to tell me this in his own home. We start to think about the future.
L.A.T.E.R. that week.
What’s that Orwell line about re-writing history?
I start this project around this point. I can’t remember why, now, but I can point at the things that led to that moment. I had been asked by someone slightly crazier than I deserved if they might find themselves as a character in The Polaroid Press, and that horrified me. I wanted to put autobiography to bed, to think about it on such a demanding basis that I was left with fiction, and stories, where I hadn’t got any before. The problem is that it worked, and I am left unfinished with a too-recent history to consider.
Sat in Covent Garden, thinking about Veselka’s, he begins a work-year.
The idea of Kate Jackson features a little in this narrative, but she perhaps demands her own story. In that would be a chapter relating to the thunder and lightning she launched at the Astoria, and another about the cut of her cardigan on the cover of Plan B. There may be a passage on the restraint she feels in the vision of Erin O’Connor, and another about the power of “Nostalgia”. She will make it clear, by the final chapter, that the things worth dwelling on in life are the lived experiences, but at the very end she’ll imagine another world and dwell on that anyway.
We arrive during shift change at the crossroads. The idea of Kate Jackson is retreating, just a beret speck in the sunset. Her replacement has no name.
Dancing to ‘Canonball’ ought to come a little later, but I will forget that and instead write about ‘Brother Sport’.
“Friendly, but dull.”
The boy kicks around London. There is, really, a sense he should not be here.
In reference to ‘Dig Your Own Hole’: I’m unlikely to write as much as I ought to.
The delayed Auteur, morley, Doctor Gonzo and Mister Johnson have been waiting a long time for the boy with the skinny tie to arrive. They had almost finished breakfast at Veselka’s, and empty dishes and bottles clutter a table, showing hints of discussion in the residue. It looks like ideas, mostly, with borscht and waffles.
Chelsea to Slope, he enjoys what he knows of this town. Greatcoat kicking at his heels he stumbles at Bleeker and Broadway, nabs a Morley in L.E.S., dances with go-go’s at Trash and drinks away a slower year. He then walks through the doors of Veselka’s.
As lights explode in the sky every measure against pressure changes fail. A pop, a bubble, a nightmare headache; still and all the plane does not crash.
I consider this a victory.
I spent much of Christmas day alone, feverishly jabbing refresh to punch through the lag and be entertained. I was too cold to laugh, but knew a-change was a-coming.
Dark eyes, she cornered me in a sentence: “Come to New York with me. Really, come to New York with me.”
This goes somewhere now. I have been a lot of places, in a short time, and it is important to get it down. There is a distinction I want to make between the meditative process of getting to this year and the year itself. The year starts, like so much else, in New York: I have almost found Veselka’s.
This is about the idea of fiction.
This is about distribution of fiction.
The shadow of the ghost of the idea of Ian Curtis looms large over a pocket of North London. He remains unaware that perga paper and print will disrupt his intentions.
“Look, just don’t go listening to Joy Division.”
An overnight reappraisal of “Heart Swells/Pacific Daylight Time”: Instant transmission of intelligent heartbreak.
“You are thinking about a too-recent history,” she said “But you don’t have to worry that much about the future.”
“Heart Swells/Pacific Daylight Time” is a song of two faces.
Empty, fill furniture, move furniture,
The shape of the watch hanging, reflecting sunlight, losing battery
There’s a Polaroid Press entry written after a date in Canary Wharf where I remark that buildings don’t reflect the trauma of the financial sector, they seem oblivious. It is telling that I wrote this just days before being dumped.
Of course, Temptation’ was playing.
The beginning of the end involved table-tennis.
The Lady’s Mum made a coffee I couldn’t refuse. I became quickly hooked.
The boy winds up on the W3 again, watching the weather. It is colder now, and wet.
Julia’s image, hidden by a gas-mask, clawing at the sky. I liked the angles of her pen, rough-hewn and feathered.
Morley and the legends around the table over breakfast at Veselka’s: A “Nighthawks” for those arch-spined, close-sighted, Peel Sessions listeners.
The artist, all angles, reached for the sky.
Did you wonder where I went?
She wasn’t playacting.
I met Marc later. I like to think if we’d met years earlier then we’d have thought about our futures on the stony shore of Southend, and laughed about it later.
Much of it passed uneventfully, and that seemed good.
The Lady threw away stress with a baseball. Occasional snow and tombstones formed an unseasonal backdrop.
Mirrors, clammy hair, scattered towels, pumps out the door, hand to the wall, the cold, snatching privacy.
When I’m home in her house it all makes sense.
What he doesn’t notice is the heart-outline of his latte foam, swiftly covered as it is by a plastic lid. She loves him, if only for a second.
Am I the son of Xtie?
The last time we could have crossed paths E- wasn’t there, appropriately.
“Hey, Gareth, I’m a mate of Kieron’s!”
Would I still well up to think of ‘To Build A Home’ had it not been for 2008?
Winter dragged, that year.
Winter dragged, that year.
And I started to focus, body wrecked by some torturous poison, dripping with sweat on a cold November night, legs buckling and stopping me shifting even a yard while I clutch at bags and vomit. And this focus brings with it gasps for air, whole leaves of spinach plucked from my nasal passage, bile and couscous pouring forth, frothing, and I wished the focus would pass because in this clarity, in this precision, in this ecstasy of pain the only thing I can hear beyond my heartbeat is The Lady waking up and saying “Can’t you do that somewhere else?”
Stressed, teeth ground: The Lady wore earplugs at night.
Marky Mark and I holed up in Bristol at winter, night rolling in, curry on our laps, totally devoted to the celluloid masterpiece as soon as Samuel Curtis starts walking on Ceres. EVERY DAY IN EVERY WAY IIIIIIIIIITTTTT’SS! THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT!
“There are points when it all almost works, when you wish everything would just click into place and move.” B.S. Johnson looks whistful at Veselka’s, eating a breakfast waffle.
You can’t see it, but these pages are stained with use now.
She took me to the Sunday Upmarket to escape the week and it helped for a time, but I preferred it on my own. Why? Just go.
No good comes of writing about music.
I’m not saying life in the Tea Building was a mistake, but it was well on the way.
Old Street: Intimately shabby station in an area locked in entropic stasis. Around it the slow wheel of progress is halted in motion by the process of perpetual decay.
Ambitions extended no further than a friend’s couch and quiet drinks. And being remembered.
I’m in a strange land of fanboys and mayhem when I’m rescued by the poet.
You might say it all worked out fine in Bristol.
Coach to meet the former flatmate.
Stumble upon a break-up.
Lacking vitriol, I needed Haines to become a hero. With bile and fire his lyrics lurch towards inspirational diatribes against the weather-beaten shitness of being English.
This is all about beginnings.
Luke Haines, forever delayed, a beacon amid gestures of kindness.
While smiling in the language of “I hate you” The Auteur arrives late to the party.
Outlines fingertip-traced on shoulders.
Pop Music as prayer. ‘He’, ‘She’, ‘You’… abstractions that bask in the transcendent, sound as a grand, rolling call to the divine in all things and a dedication to the spiritual. Britney’s slave – for You – an angel, not a sinner.
It’s an aria. Leaking up the stairs, down too, it’s an aria accompanied by the splash of shower water.
I am thinking too much about my answers. I should think less.
Ah, Stuart, wonderful Stuart, just kept getting it right. A little on the side of the divine, blessed with the Devil’s attention to melody, full of poems and harmony. Stumbling upon Belle & Sebastian a little late she loved those mornings with Tigermilk lazily spinning at thirty three and a third.
Back seat of the W7, late, work-tired, trundling into Crouch End, her head resting on my shoulder.
I have in my head a snapshot of Paul Morley, sipping coffee at Veselka’s over breakfast, humming ‘Make Out, Fall out, Make Up’.
The Idea of Kate Jackson gave up waiting at the crossroads. She’d be back later, only the faintest of knowing smiles on her lips.
Zombie. I called the cat Zombie.
At 20 I didn’t quite know what I wanted, so The Lady never knew the Sloaney blip of a night and a morning. I never had to explain that and I won’t start now.
24 hours sweating and vomiting and hallucinating the visage of an illustrated Damon Albarn for the sake of, unknown to me then, love.