Sunday, 27 April 2014

to find yourself---- in the places you weren't

'You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness. Like resignation to the end, always the end.'

Lately I've been visiting a lot of places from an ancient past. Though looking over my shoulder, I can almost see it- vague, distorted, but there. See, in material years its not such an ancient past, but in an(other) sense it is. Or I don't know, maybe its just that my mind has grown tired and my memories have all turned hazy. Yeah I'm not really sure why.... why I've been going back. I guess I think it might help me to understand where I am in life right now. You see sometimes you have to go back, to go forwards. Only through remembering where you came from, will you understand just how far you've come, or how near you are, or how little things have changed and how much of a journey you still have ahead of you. It's funny. Whenever I leave a place, I rarely go back... It took me over a year re-visit to the Natural History Museum and over a year and a half to go back to the London Wetlands Centre. Working in visitor services is a strange experience- to meet hundreds of new people everyday, to turn special spaces into home, the observatory, the tower, the theatre, the empty corridors and dark spaces... Anyone who's worked in visitor services will know what I mean. It can be so beautiful and incredible, but also so stifling and difficult, to be enclosed in a place where people go to seek inspiration, to learn and to be... 

I guess a part of me also thinks that by going back I might find some kind of clarity, maybe re-connect with people who shared that experience, who know what its like and more than that to make peace with the places I lost myself, to find parts of myself in places that I left behind. I think we leave parts of ourselves every time we say goodbye and every time we don't say goodbye to a place, or a person or a community, every time we move on, we leave behind a part of ourself, in the void, in the word, in the space between the letters of that sad sorry word 'goodbye' every time you say it, you leave a part of you behind, maybe then it's no surprise I've always felt so scattered, maybe it's no surprise that since forever the world to me has felt so fleeting and transient and illusory... Going back to the wetlands epitomized so much of that- incompleteness perhaps, a history forgotten, a photograph on the wall taken by a friend, unsure memories rehashed, the bench where I wrote another book, the bird hide I sought refuge in in the rain, in the fog, on winter morning and summer afternoons- the grass where I caught the sun rays, the observatory where I listened to Johnny Cash and drank cups of tea, those sunsets- the melancholia, the joy, the peace, the discontentment, all those wonders and wanders, all those ideas that materialised, and premonitions that didn't- to be so settled and caged at once, to feel a kinship with the birds that flew in the wild side, and the birds with the clipped wings in World Wetlands- and those waters that ebb and flow, see I've always been drawn to wetlands, the landscape reflects so much of my soul, imprinted in the sky, reflected on the water- open, non-withholding, but wholly changeable- furious, dark grey, raging to bright and still and peaceful. Perhaps wetlands reflect the universal soul? I don't know. But I remember all those trips I took since sixteen to the wetlands, with age, a place that once seemed so big and boundless, became small and confined, but again, was that my mind?

The world shrinks and expands in proportion to ones courage, I once read. Maybe it was just that I wanted more from life than endless moments of quiet in a hide where I could... hide... maybe I wanted more than endless moments of quiet broken up by endless moments of repetitive chatter, chatter, chatter, would you like to gift aid your ticket, the toilets are that way, the bird feeding will be at 3... but still, to be able to go back and to feel that awe still, years later, but to also seek comfort in it,- in the fact that it hadn't changed at all, but it had and it will continue to. And it was the same at the museum, I remembered those endless moments of quiet- staring at dead dino bones and rocks from the beginning of time, to those endless moments of the same repetitive chatter-the toilets are that way, would you like a bag with that? See I've had so many jobs over the years, if I put them all on my CV I'd probably never get hired as I'd look so schizo, I've done a lot of odd jobs in a lot of odd places, from LSE to East Indian Tea Company- but it's these two that have really really stuck with me, in a way that I can't really explain or understand.  

I guess life... I guess a big part of it is about existing wholly in a place when you're in a place, and not being somewhere else, mentally, not residing in memories of the past, or visions of the future; to simply be present- I mean so much of my life, my art, my writing all comes down to it, to finding ways of being present- fluid yet fixed, and yet all are means to an end, and the end is so far so far so far. To take yourself from the centre and to watch from the periphery, to view the world, to not constantly judge yourself and others in relation to yourself- the places you go, the places you exist, the less you're in those places, the less they'll be able to teach you,--- and the less receptive you'll be to those lessons, to understand and procuring them. Then somewhere down the line, you'll find life becomes a confusing algorithm--- a sum that doesn't quite add up- you feel scattered and living becomes a blur, one long ass nonsensical blur (in every sense). Particularly in the geographical sense. In London, I feel like I've been everywhere. I mean I haven't, but I feel like I have. I've worked all over, in south and north, to east and west, south east to north west, west north and the centre of everything. I've studied all over too, wandered by foot from place to place, navigated skilfully through streets and through and around people's lives- I guess for a long time, I've kept life at arms length, present but not present -  but there nonetheless, always trying to be open and friendly, just trying to get through easily, without the drama- but often, (and I've recently come to realise this) often the way you think you come across isn't the way as you actually come across, and once you've been to or existed in / and exited so many places you very quickly come to realise how little it means- perceptions, in particular self-perception. People a lot of the time just are, the way they are, the way they are; cold, warm, mean, nice, uncaring, messed up, broken, jealous, spiteful, loving--- and that's just life. You have to take it for what it is, you have to take people for who they are, and sure its tough, but the most important thing is to not let the way people are effect the way you are. You just have to stay true to yourself. At the end of the day, a soul is just a soul is just a soul, and there are more than 6 billion in the world.

And so sometimes I feel wise and think I've learnt at lot of lessons, but at the same time none at all. I haven't learnt anything. I don't know a lot of things, but I do know people. I know people. I think having existed (in parts/ not the whole sum) all over, I think I've become well accustomed to moving on, or so I like to believe, in actuality, I don't think anyone can becomes well accustomed to moving on. It is and always will be tough as nails, to uproot and be planted somewhere else. But I think some of us have that disposition, and it is a sweet disposition, to start over, to explore and to see what's on the other side, people like us, maybe we get a buzz out of it, of flitting, being everywhere and nowhere at the same time; to be a stranger, even in our own bodies. To flit- to travel through, to flit, to disappear to reappear and to understand then, that you weren't as effed up and dysfunctional then as you thought you were and even if you were, who the hell cares, life moves so fast, its so unpredictable that you just have to realise that it doesn't matter- its a whole loada empty nothingness. And so these thousands of goodbyes,  these incomplete departures, these places- to start again from scratch----and to feel that there isn't a single place left that doesn't have memories attached, far out places, streets, benches, stations, bridges, gardens, and I guess so much of my guidebook is about that, not just visiting places, but existing in them, making them your own, through the idea's that may inspire, the conversations that might take place- the possibilities. the possibilities.  

And so to leave a part of yourself in all the places you left behind, that's the point, to be scattered, geographically, mentally- scattered- to meet people from everywhere, from all corners of the world, in all corners of London, to experience the whole world in a single city, your city (wherever that may be). To be outside yourself but inside yourself too. You know, sometimes I try to think about it chronologically, things that have happened, all the things I've seen, life and death ... all the friends I've made and all the friends I've lost, all the places and times I lost myself, and found myself and lost myself again and again and again, and so for me find  out when I went back to the wetlands,  to find old friends, maybe strangers, to find they had been wholly depressed or sick and to be none the wiser, to realise that you're not the only one who disappears off the face of the earth, multiple times. And she said, you're like a secret agent, the way you come and go, the way you change numbers, and switch jobs and travel wherever. It's surreal, finding yourself in the same places in different times, meeting the same people who aren't the same people any more, at least not the people you came to know or not know. That's it then, right? You have to take yourself out of the centre of your own world, to realise there is so much more to it than that, to look at the bigger picture. To understand that everyone is dealing with their own shit, to understand that you can never recreate the past and you shouldn't ever seek to. What is gone is gone forever, don't dwell on idea's, don't reside in rose tinted memories, encounters that weren't, don't fixate on friendships that never blossomed, stories that seemed incomplete-- for life isn't neat, or orderly and logical--- it just is, and so often it is... out of reach and hollow through....

Golders Green Crematorium

finally got around to visiting Golders Green Crematorium, so peaceful and solemn
 ...almond trees and magnolia, sunlight and ashes, life and death....


The Vault Gallery

...slightly beggin it trippy....

Neptune Marina


...ten thousand visits later...

But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like
You've been here before?


Monday, 14 April 2014

Blue Monday, a Gold Moon and Somalia

Monday's are hard. Some Monday's are impossible. You know... you know those Monday's, you wake up your body aching, your head somewhere else, somewhere between that world and this one... and you don't want to see people, you just want to stay in your room all day and stare at the pale ceiling of your prison room and wait for it to pass--- it's all you have, a deep desire for solitude, a feeling of melancholia-and it won't go away, the malaise, you know it so you wake up and get dressed in the same old clothes and you float through the day half alive, just trying to survive...---- there on the grass, the pink cherry blossom falls gently to the ground, the pigeons fly in unison, there alone, with other loners: there alone, wanting nothing more than to go home. Home.  

And in trying to get through, you barely make it, but then you force yourself to go the distance. I travelled up North, ran for miles, swam and swam. I told a stranger I miss Somalia. I miss my Hooyo. Walaahi I miss my Hooyo. I miss the promise of the holy month, I miss the time that faded. I swam, I ran, I waited.... for nothing. I breathed in the twilight, the bright night sky, the full moon so gold, the stars above the ancient cemetery. You and I. And everything makes you feel something, something inexplicable- between sorrow and a dream that will never be realised; for we're all going to die before we come to realise, anything worth realising. And so like the dreadlocks that went down to his knees, like the little Jewish boys and their fathers, dressed in their dignified attire, like the reflections on the water of the pool, the soft zen music, the grumpy old woman who talks to herself.... 

And so I got the bus some place, gym bag weighing me down, key dangling from the zip of my khaki hoody, eyes half open. Still not there.... not nearly there. And then when you get there, to that beautiful mosque in the night, you there alone. Except there's another, an old African woman chanting soft praises to God. But you alone, You alone. You not alone. You've come home. And you throw your bag to the floor and make sujood, tears streaming down your face. I'm home. Lord I'm not alone. You're with me. I give myself to you. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Nepal in London

Sometimes I love people.... I think I always love Nepalese people.... I went to this gardening session in Abbey Wood the other day and met all these incredible bad-ass Nepalese women. They were so beautiful and fierce, with so much love to share and wisdom to impart. You wouldn't believe how surprised and happy I was when I learnt they understood Hindi and so we spoke and they called me sister and I felt like I was their sister. In their bright clothes and with their golden attitudes- the way they said garme, and bhajee, the way they smiled and laughed in the poly tunnel! To find Nepal in London, to recreate home when home is so far away, that's what Tooku Maya Gurun said, a fiery widow with a cannabis leaf sewn onto her hat. Tooku has a matchless sense of humour. And as they left they said, it was a joy to meet you and they hugged me, one by one... I felt it....

How beautiful to be able to connect with people, to share a language, to share words, to understand....what a great gift- to be able to understand. Hira told me to stay away from baadmaashes, 'scoundrals' that take drugs and disco! She said most men are badmaashes and I agreed. She reminded of my mum and my elders back in Lahore. Lahore... London.... Katmandu... it's a funny ole world...
For more photos:

Abney Park Re-Visited

green and pink



midsummer moon in spring

sunset in cambridge...magic