Monthly Archives: February 2013

The photograph

it was in the drawer next to his bed


next to this bed, the last bed.

Not the real bed, not the marriage bed.
Not even the interim bed, the one he moved into when she died, the spare bed, the spare room, when we wondered why, he said
“because, in the big bed, I am lost, floating, all at sea…………rudderless”

We marveled at the poetry, coming unexpectedly from of such a prosaic man.
We didn’t know then that language, sense, meanings were unraveling, it was not just in bed that he was lost, floating, all at sea.

The photograph creased, handled, the paper softening, edges curling, placed, neatly in a box with everything else,

False teeth,
reading glasses, arms snapped, not needed on this voyage
key ring to a house, long gone to pay for this last bed
a copy of the racing post
three Christmas cards
a tube of smarties
2 lighters from before, before he forgot that he smoked, forgot how to smoke, forgot.

But the photograph, the girl, pretty, posing, poised,
No-body that we know
And too late to ask, not just by days, but years and years and years as he floated, compass broken, rudder snapped, captain at the helm as the ship went down

I fragment,
You fragment,
They fragment,
We all fragment.

But the photograph, important enough to move from home to homes to here carries some weight, some significance, some something,

So, we take it home and unsure of what to do, place it in the drawer beside the bed and sometimes wonder who and where and mostly why,

But generally, we forget.

Jafar Panahi – latest film at the Berlin Film Festival

i have blogged about the plight of Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi before, he is currently under house arrest, forbidden to make films, write screenplays, edit film, speak to journalists or leave the country.
His last film “This is not a film” was smuggled out of Iran – look for it on t’interweb, its out there and was made in defiance of this blanket cultural ban.

His latest film was previewed at the Berlin Film Festival last week, obviously Panahi could not be there himself, instead a large cut out photo of him stood in place of the director.

Iranian film has been decimated by a fundamentalist Islamic government, with many filmmakers in exile, unable to work, in fear of draconian bans of their creative freedom.

Panahis’ “Closed Curtain” does not currently have a cinematic release in the UK, if this changes, please, please support freedom of expression in Iran by going to see it.

Amnesty International currently are campaigning on behalf of Panahi [ links in the side bar].

Iranian cinema is extraordinary and important in terms of world cinema, if you love film and believe in cultural freedom, please get involved;
Join the Amnesty International campaign
Feel free to re-blog this article
Watch his [ and other Iranian film makers] work
Make some noise – his high international profile is probably the thing keeping him safest at the moment.

Iran has complained to the organizers of the Berlin film festival for giving Iranian director Jafar Panahi an award for an allegorical movie made in defiance of a 20-year state ban.

Panahi shared the best script prize at Berlin on Saturday for “Closed Curtain” with co-director Kamboziya Partovi for a film made in secret, which mirrors aspects of Panahi’s life under house arrest in the Islamic Republic.

“We have protested to the Berlin film festival. Its officials should amend their behavior because in cultural and cinematic exchange, this is not correct,” said Javad Shamaqdari, the head of Iran’s national cinema organization, Iran’s student news agency (ISNA) reported on Monday.

The movie follows the story of two people on the run from state security and is considered by critics to be a multi-layered portrayal of how restrictions on the filmmaker’s work and movement have brought on depression and even thoughts of suicide.

Iran banned Panahi from making films for 20 years in 2010 and sentenced him to six years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the state” following the country’s 2009 disputed presidential election.

While he remains at home under house arrest, Panahi has previously described himself as a victim of injustice and an Amnesty International statement published at the time of his conviction said he may be forced to report to prison at any time.

“Everyone knows that a license is needed to make films in our country and send them abroad but there are a small number who make films and send them out without a license. This is an offense … but so far the Islamic Republic has been patient with such behavior,” Shamaqdari said without mentioning Panahi or the film by name, ISNA reported.

A celebrated filmmaker in the West for his portrayals of issues such as women’s rights and support for political opposition, Panahi was not able to attend the Berlin festival.




puppy love

When the babies fail to come, he begins to think about getting a dog, for her of course, not him.
A gift for her, something to fill the gap, fill her days, fill the silences that fall between them more and more.

He is not a dog person, actually he is not an animal person at all.
if pushed, he will admit a mild fondness for cats, at least he is fond of their independence, their rugged self reliance, their ability to manage themselves and their ability to survive a level of healthy neglect.

Dogs he considers to be too needy, too demanding, simply too much.

The demands of babies, their neediness was pushed to the back of his mind, firmly packed away in a mental box labelled “do not open” and he threw himself instead into the making of babies.

Sex early in the morning, sex late at night, sex as dictated by the thin red line on a thermometer, by the stars and moon, sex with orgasm, sex without, sex followed by her adopting a partial headstand position, sex followed by a terrible silence.

And when, finally, all talk of babies was over, when all talk was over and she lay, night after night, a resentful, silent hump under the duvet, he began to consider a dog.

The breed was important, something small, almost fur less, skin colored, baby shaped. Something that she could hold, caress, love. Something to fill the gap.

After much research, he settles on a pug and in due course arrives home one day clutching a 9 week old puppy, allegedly fully weaned and ready to go.

She, wearing the dressing gown that has become her habitual day and evening wear, sits up in bed and stares at him and the whining, shivering dog and then slowly, deliberately, she rolls over and pulls the duvet over her head.

The puppy is far too young, not weaned and cries all night.
He wakes every 2 hours and hand feeds it the mashed puppy food the breeder pressed upon him. The animal is cold and shakes, digging about in the cupboard under the sink, he unearths an old hot water bottle and swaddling it in an old jumper, he carefully places the puppy next to the heat.

He dozes on the sofa, in case the puppy wakes afraid, lost.

Three months later, she moves out and doesn’t take the tiny dog with her, but by then it is too late, he is besotted.

The puppy is weakly, often ill, he spends nights nursing it, watching its tiny chest move up and down as it struggles to breathe.

As it grows larger, it learns to spend hours laying on his chest, panting, its bulbous eyes fixed adoringly on him.

It feels the cold, shiver easily, he finds specialist web sites, buys tiny jumpers, t-shirts, coats. By the time is is 8 months old, it has an extensive wardrobe and he finds himself planning its outfits for their daily outing to the park.

He knows they look ludicrous together, the tiny, delicate dog and he, burly, head shaven, still wearing his work boots but moving carefully, lightly around the animal,making sure that he doesn’t tread on it.

Late at night when they lie together, his finger traces the whorl of beige fur on its’ belly.
The silence between them is comforting.



For S – partner in crime on early morning surrealism

Mr Rivers moves back from the photocopier,
“Well, if you’re sure that you understand all the programme options……”
his voice trails off as he turns to the young man next to him and he takes a step away from the copier, but one finger remains, almost caressing the flashing display screen as if he is unwilling to relinquish his contact with the machine.
“We better go and see if we can free up a tortoise for you”
Gavin, 21, 2.2 in media studies and about to start his 3rd temporary admin post in 6 months, has for the last 90 minutes been following Mr Rivers on his induction session. He has seen the stationary cupboard, the staff microwave, submitted two passport photographs, in which he looks only mildly surprised, for a temporary staff pass and has had the mysteries of the internal post system explained. His face has been fixed in an expression of interested awareness while his mind has drifted, as loose and formless as a piece of free jazz, but this statement, delivered in tones of mild boredom, is so bizarre that he actually doubts that it has even been said,
“Tortoise ?” he says cautiously, hoping that he has not imagined the words.
Mr Rivers sighs ” I know, I know, but they are very popular on the 4th floor”
They take the lift, both silent while Gavin racks his brain, wondering if tortoise is some new business speak that he needs to understand, could it be an acronym, an in-joke?
The lift pings, the door opens and they are on the fourth floor, a medium sized open plan office, 12 desks, a water cooler, a meeting area with two leather look sofas and a pale wood coffee table. A number of the desks are occupied with other workers, speaking into phones, tapping on keyboards, but it is not these people that Gavin notices, it is the others, 3 or 4 of them, clutching folders, pieces of paper and moving from work station to work station.
All of them, moving slowly, painfully slowly, are seated on huge tortoises, venerable, ancient tortoises.

Mr Rivers smiles and waves at a blond woman at the nearest desk and mouths the word “temp”, she nods and points to a desk furthest from the vending machine, the photocopier and the lift and Mr Rivers steers Gavin towards it.
The desk is standard issue and holds an In/Out tray, a second generation Toshiba and tethered by one leg, a tortoise.
It is the largest tortoise that Gavin has ever seen, the size of a small armchair, its shell dark, shiny, golden and written in a neat script in white paint on the very edges of the shell are the letters P E T E.
Slowly, the tortoise lifts it head and tiny rheumy eyes carefully consider Gavin and then with agonizing slowness the head drops and the the animal returns to its gentle chewing on the lettuce piled up under the desk.

Mr Rivers flick the computer into life and nods at Gavin
“any problems, just ask Alice”, he indicates the blond woman “she’ll tell you what she wants you to do”.
He nods again and walks away, towards the lift.

Gavin sits very quietly for a moment and then the woman, Alice, calls across to him
“Go and get the P760s from Mike and I’ll show you how to do them”, she indicates a desk next to the window.
He stand sup and starts to move across the office
“Tortoise” she shouts and he returns to his deck and looks more carefully at the animal.
He doesn’t understand why he didn’t notice this immediately, but now he sees that the tortoises have been modified.
On each side of the shell is a foot rest, rather similar to those for pillion passengers on motorbikes and at the front or top of the shell, nearest the head, is a small wooden handle, obviously designed for the rider to hold onto.

Gavin rubs a hand over his face and feeling beyond foolish, he unties the tortoise, mounts the shell and begins a very slow progress towards the desk near the window.

The day continues, Gavin is given a number of errands to do that involve moving around the office, each time, he rides the tortoise. Tasks that should take 5 or 6 minutes take up to an hour, the speed of the work, or more accurately, the speed of the tortoises, creates an atmosphere that is both deeply frustrating and curiously soporific.

Walking home, at a speed that feels almost break neck, Gavin tries to re-frame todays’ events into a narrative that makes some kind of sense, but finally decides that on the weird ometer, today has been off the scale.

He considers not returning, but there is something deeply alluring about the pace of the tortoise, its’ measured movements, the speed of the workplace which draws him back and at 8.30 he finds himself entering the lift to return to the 4th floor.

Today, he is more aware, more observant and within an hour or two he has realized that many of the tortoises have been customized. Several have photographs, children, a small black dog, a rainy beach scene, sellotaped to the shells, one has a small cactus plant possibly blu tacked on. The plant falls off frequently and is carefully replaced. The largest and Gavin assumes, the oldest tortoise sports a slightly moth eaten plush velvet kitten.

At lunchtime,he sits at his desk eating a cheese and tomato sandwich and acting on an instinct he doesn’t really understand, he carefully removes a slice of tomato and offers it to the tortoise. The tortoise, Pete, moves towards his outstretched hand and gently sucks up the fruit in his mouth. There is a sensation of soft leather on Gavins’ palm. He sits and watches at the animal slowly, slowly chews and swallows the offering.

On Friday, dress down Friday, Gavin, chinos, rugby shirt, he doesn’t want to go too casual on his first week, digs about on the flotsam and jetsam of the previous temps’ top desk. He grins when he locates a tube of super glue and ten carefully, he sticks his R2D2 action figure on Petes’ gleaming golden shell.


hold me tight and show me that you care…..

This is a fictional response to a training course i attended on the use of physical restrain to manage challenging behavior.

At 11….
Hold me tight and show me that you care.
Warnings given, sanctions outlined when inside of me the anger grows, a bottle shaken, ready to explode, past thought, past reflection, nothing left except a no, a shout, a wail of nothing left to loose, a stance against everything that’s wrong in my world, so everything then.
You move towards me, one each side, calm, quiet, professional.
Hips bumping into mine, eyes meeting above my head, hands wrap round my wrists, arms around my back, moving across the floor at speed, my heels drag, as we move, three as one.
And then down, seated, my head towards the floor, your legs braced against my thighs and another, another adult standing linked into this pieta of pain, three of you to hold me down.
Afterwards, my wrists bloom, red, purple, blue, flowers of defiance.
My decisions they say, my bad decisions, it only hurts if you fight, resist.
We hold you because we care, restrain you to keep you safe, your best interests are always at the core of what we do.
Words, so many words, words as camouflage, words to disguise, dissemble, draw the eye away.
A child held down by three adults.

The caring C, the Friendly escort, single elbow, figure of four, half shield, cradle hug – hidden in plain sight, made better by words, by labels
And when you go home at night and hug your child, sweet smelling, smiling, sleepy, do your hands remember what they have done today?

At 21……

You hold me tight because you care, you say, hands around my neck, familiar bruising, the jewelry of pain.
I made you do it,made you so mad that you lost it, lost control.
Its not your fault you say, I push you to the edge, make you someone you don’t want to be.
You do it to keep me safe, you say, stop me being myself, the self that still makes bad decisions.
Your holds don’t have names, fancy titles, a worker colleague,a paper trail, a training course, certification.
More improvisory, your techniques, but still, my heels screech across the wooden floor, my head pushed down, your weight against my chest, legs clamped across mine, restrained again.
And afterwards, your fingers trace across my skin and now you are restrained, careful.
You hold me tight because you care.

At 31……
i hold you tight to show you that I care……
You pull away from me, determined to have your own way, to put yourself in harm and suddenly enraged, I grab your wrist and twist and when you pull away, it hurts and you stop, shocked, your head droops and you move towards me, suddenly obedient.
Later, scooping mashed carrots into your mouth, i see your wrist, soft, rounded, lush baby fat and a delicate tracery of fingertip bruising, a temporary tattoo of care.
Bad baby, I say, it only hurts when you resist.

Some new Poppy pictures






I realised that I had been very slack in posting any new pictures of the baby spotty one, soba few from last week

Lady Companion

This is part of an on-going mini- project. A selection of photos generated from a random word plugged into a search engine and then used to kick start some form of fiction.

At first, we thought that we had invented it, there were no words in our lives, the lives of our families, our neighbors, friends to describe what we did, what we wanted to do.

We felt as if we had discovered not just each other, but a new way of being. We were like the splendid gentlemen who are busy discovering new lands, new continents, new peoples. We had our new continent and we were the only inhabitants.

Every day was a journey, an expedition, a mapping out of new spaces. We struggled to make a sense of our new landscape, to make it our own.

We had no problems creating a culture, an identity.

In our tiny population of two, we were everything to each other, mistress, slave, police and thief, sister, daughter and finally wife.

And finally wife, whisper the word, mouth it from behind a fan, breathe out the letter sounds, sense hidden behind fingers pressed against lips.




Out there, in the world, we fill the space allowed us, spinster women, devoted friends, girls of slender means.
Our gazes averted, our modesty praised,we are held up as models of virtue.
We can be trusted to deliver baskets of groceries to the deserving poor, make up numbers when a table is thin, sit quietly while topics outside our experiences, our narrow, provincial experiences, are discussed.

But then, in our world, inside, we fill the spaces, fill all of the spaces, the empty places, nowhere is forbidden to us.

We are explorers, adventurers, swash buckling heroines.

We are the mistresses of this new land, this no-mans land.

This is for all those women, those devoted companions, those life long friends, whose particular friendships were hidden away, sometimes caught in a photograph, a letter, a gravestone.