And then it was January. Or actually, February if you’re a (mild) hypochondriac and the imminent end of the first month of the year of PROMISE is slipping away into the ether. It’s been a potent start to my year, how has it been for you?

January is always full of wonder and also longing. The last day at the end of the month is the day my father died, and whether I know it or not, it’s creeping up on me like a cloud of smoke. Historically the mist has particularly choked, but right now, it’s enveloping me like my favourite incense (Nag Champa) from Stick, Stone & Bone on Christopher Street here in New York City. Less than a week away and I feel oddly ambivalent. Ambivalent towards my physicality, and more interested in the invisible threads percolating around me. You know, the ones running out into the world—into and from other humans—but mostly just zigzagging without even so much as a nod from me. Maybe this is what happens one decade on from losing the great love of your life, but I’m mighty interested in these new sensations. They feel affirmative. Different. Smiley. Like honey. Or treacle. Which is always rich and unctuous until you eat too much and feel sick. And it dribbles, which I love.

Talking about love, reclaiming the familiar while discovering new horizons of an intimate relationship is frankly wondrous; my dad lives on in my heart and mind. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of him in some context. Fucked up? Wish I could speak to dad. Done something brilliant? Need to tell dad! Met a man…DAD!!!!!! Need a bear hug and a looooooooooong walk? Where’s dad? Want to cook slow roasted lamb (his speciality)? Hurry dad, I’m hungry! Trying to be bold and jump into something new in my creative life? Well actually, he would just say jump. I ask for help now more than ever. Advice too. In fact, I want to know what people who I know intimately and don’t know from a bar of soap are thinking. Safe to assume they know something epic that I do not. How exciting is that? Dad, well he taught me THAT. My dad’s death has been the ultimate exposer. From facing my mortality to shattering the glass walls of control I thought I had carefully built, when everything crumbled around me with aplomb, it was a disaster. And then one day it wasn’t. And today it isn’t.

In becoming intimate with death and loved ones who have lost, I have seen unbelievable stances of beauty, of bravery, of devotion, of sparkling soul bursts, gosh so much that it makes me giddy thinking about it. Of course, I’ve seen self-destruction and bad behaviour (myself included), but I choose to remember not forget anymore and feel the light and the good. I’ll leave you and me with this passage of sheer candescence that touches me so very deeply:

“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography—to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.” – Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient


source: Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient





You never read a poem out loud when you’re writing it?


No. That seems obscene to me. I don’t want to hear the sound of my own voice. It’s the sound of something in me, but it’s not my voice. It isn’t a literal voice – at all. But there is a murmuring.

The Paris Review, Eilleen Myles, The Art of Poetry No.99

Before you flagellate yourself for using “yeah” or “um” too much (guilty), and that’s before you flagellate yourself when you hear your own voice,  a lot of linguistic devices don’t necessarily undermine what you’re saying.

The psychology of what makes us cringe is up for the taking. Is it a shock of self-consciousness? In a 2006 paper on embarrassment, researchers wrote that in moments of disruption, “such as in illness, clumsiness, or exposure to the judgments of other people, the lived body becomes an object of our attention. In these moments, the body appears as the corporeal body. … The corporeal body can therefore be conceptualized as the body-subject turned toward itself as a body-object. Embarrassment and the “self-conscious” emotions seem to always occur within dynamics in which the lived body is momentarily reduced to the corporeal body.”

Maybe every cringe-induced playback, whether it be by phone or video should be accompanied by a transcript: these things are much more bearable that way. Second, do we dial back the hyperbole? Nah, I’m always in danger of falling immediately to the floor in the fetal position for these grand life occurrences.

The thing is, language, our ownership and understanding of it, must evolve in order for us to survive. Like the dysfunctional belief in colorblind race relations, ignoring it will not make it “go away”. Language fits that marker. For example, the word “cringe” is one of my favorites, but the actual words that make me cringe are: moist, phlegm, panties, ointment, velvet, weeping and so on. If I had to hear myself say all of those tongue twisters in quick succession played back, I’m sure I’d elicit a very visceral reaction in me (and you) —  the linguistic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.

Which brings me back to hearing our own voices. To put it in more technical terms, you’re adding bone conduction to air conduction when you speak with your own voice. Bone-conducted sound is when you activate your vocal cords and vibrations are set off through your skull, eventually reaching your inner ear. The acoustics in your skull lower the frequency of those vibrations along the way, essentially adding some bass tones.

As a result, the voice we hear inside our heads is lower, richer and more dulcet because of these extra rumblings, and hearing it come from outside ourselves (on a video for example) makes it sound tinny and alien.

Parker J. Palmer — founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal — cautioned that what we hear might not always be a mellifluous serenade by our highest selves — but giving voice to the parts of ourselves we least like is essential to the process:

My life is not only about my strengths and virtues; it is also about my liabilities and my limits, my trespasses and my shadow. An inevitable though often ignored dimension of the quest for “wholeness” is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident and proud of.


source: Rachel Cadman|I Love LA






Everyone wants to fall in love in a strange town,

Everyone wants to dive in that river of dreams

where the incense swirls toward the stars

and the mirrors on the hearts of the saints 

make it impossible to lie to yourself.

John Oliver Simon from “Gringo Trail”

In “Mirror”, by Sylvia Plath, Plath finds a mirror thoroughly uncanny. “I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately. Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.” In “Through the Looking-Glass”, by Lewis Carroll, Alice is playing with her kittens in front of a large mirror. “How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty?” she asks. Before you know it, she is up on the mantelpiece. “Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through.”

If you shine a light into a mirror, does the fact that the light reflects back mean that you are effectively doubling the amount of light in the room? If you throw an apple against a wall and it bounces back at you, you don’t have more apples than you started with, do you? Having said that, covering your room with mirrors will certainly discourage you from throwing things indoors.

I’m certainly not a scientist, but I can tell you that the wattage “effect” is noticed as I’m currently around a reckless use of mirrors. Light, she’s a tricky thing. Mirrors bring to mind illusion, self-love and self-loathing, and to an extent, fear. But they also show the wildness, weirdness and wonder of what’s possible. The effect of meeting ourselves in the eyes of friends, lovers and strangers, is more than a postmodern pig-out: these pieces are a vision of what happens when the ‘dance of similar’ becomes something much more meaningful.

In feng shui, mirrors are used both to bring things toward us and to push things away. There’s something mysterious about our mirror images, like our shadows, like photographs – because obviously keeping up with your actual reflection may be a near-impossible task. As if a part of us that lives in a non-dimensional alias can ever be richer, stranger, and noisier.

Like most shiny talismanic objects that are both protective and decorative, as soon as you think you’ve managed to get a handle on what they symbolize, the next act of discovery will pull the rug out from your feet. What else could become as strangely seductive but disturbing? In truth, smoke and mirrors isn’t weird at all, it’s a miracle-flecked song of desire for souls who find reflection, identity and revealing mandatory, and are quite fond of watery glimpses – metaphoric associations at their most potent and anonymous.

“The world is no more than the Beloved’s single face. In the desire of the one to know its own beauty we exist. We are not alone. The world we face faces us. We look out and the world looks back at us.”



source: Olafur Eliasson



When you feel things deeply do you get angry? Do you shout and scream? Do you retreat? Do you go mute? All of the above? None of the above? I’m choosing my words carefully, but maybe lyrical perfectionism is imperative. Maybe ineloquent or careless utterances betray us: I’m think specifically when I told someone who cut across me on the highway recently to go and f*@K himself.

I’m intrigued by people who don’t give too much away – a gnarly badge of honor if you will. But then, I begin to find them disingenuous and boring. Nothing to share means literally, nothing to share, not even drops of spilt tea into a mug cavernous enough to house them. I think that’s why it’s made me want to try and get close to this strange, mysterious thing that we can do with words. It’s what’s made me want to beat everything including my chest, such is the power of the feeling. Reading words that touch me takes my breath away. I literally have no clue what to do with myself.

When I get riled up which happens less and less these days, the jolting release of turning life up loud (music, car, running down a hill), is a potent desire that’s not met in too many other areas. Except screaming like a lunatic into the ocean. That’s pretty grand that is. Or bashing a set of drums with a torrid beat. That’s grand too.

When my dad was alive, we would speak about everything and anything – that was one of the big joys of our relationship. And now that he’s gone, I do find myself looking at him in photos and wishing I’d asked a lot more of him when he was still alive. Because there’s so much you want to know once they’re gone. That sense of mystery isn’t exciting, it’s palpably urgent, and I don’t want to hold my breath on it.

I’m bringing this up, because my dad taught me about knowing how much to expose, knowing how to pace. Simple things that are mighty helpful when I come to approach my writing. I give myself time to open up that part of me, and then close it down again. Closing up all those edges and carrying on about your day is a discipline that’s necessary.

Living in New York has removed me from familiar surroundings, opened my eyes, and forced me to think in an entirely different way. Life is nothing if not unpredictable. It’s also sublime doing the last thing anyone expected, casting off the shackles to reveal much more than glimpses of a vulnerable and kaleidoscopic human being underneath. Someone once sang “these are the greatest times of my life,” simultaneously capturing the energy of the times while emphasizing an opposition to them.

Aaah well then, I’m a supreme contrarian indeed.


source: Hockney | A Bigger Splash |




Midnight At The Oasis. Showtime In The Sahara. The decaying and dusty streets of Morocco are begging to be revisited. I’m planning a ride from Rabat to Casablanca. Funny things, road trips. They can be the best way to get under the skin of a country. Or your own skin. Or someone else’s.

Apparently I’m gonna need some mighty patience. The expressway I’m hankering after is 57 miles long, which in the grand scheme of things is a mere blip o’ this life, but the traffic I’ve been warned is an absolute beaut, with long delays and slow movements par for the course. I quite like the idea already.

I’ve been told of Morocco’s dangerous drivers who supposedly neither dip their lights nor slow down at corners. But that’s ok, I drive in Cape Town, across highways I shouldn’t, and even once in such torrential rain that I think my headlights got excited.

There’s something about a drive, something so compelling. From first rides of life, illegal smells (cigarette smoke in a car!), graduating from incense to perfume in gloriously confined spaces, lemon trees billowing through car windows and the architecture of buildings (maybe) lining motorways. I’m reminiscing now, but it gives me a tingle to see my joyriding evolution. And goodness, I’m only just getting started at this life.

Rides and journeys, destinations and dalliances, they get me going they do. I could tell you about a myriad of roads, lanes and paths I want to drive down. Some are at shores, some are high atop mountains, and others, they’re just off the beaten track with not a soul around. I love to listen to music when I’m driving just as much as I love listening to birdsong and the wind. Especially if my arms are out the window and they feel like they’re going to fall off.

I also like the louche, laid-back and (a bit) seedy ride you can take, which is probably why I’m itching for the Moroccan road trip. The air, she’s a bit raffish, but the labyrinthine hearts of towns remain intact, mazes of tiny streets, souks, monuments and traditional dye pits. I want to chase the sun knowing that there’s nothing a full tank of gas cant fix – it’s the essence of optimism in motion. It’s definitely sexy when you’re with someone you find sexy. Oh, and vice versa. It’s the idea for both of you that renewal (or something else – sorry mum) waits just around the bend. The wide open highways beckons, but also challenges.

Which leads me back to Morocco, the beating heart of North Africa that borders the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. I just want to stuff my face with lemon cake and mint tea under rays of pink-soaked afternoon sun filtering through trees. I want color, history, hairpin turns, flocks of goats, a camel or two, maybe an impromptu festival, definitely lots of markets, oh, and starlight over my head. Maybe the trip will be the road itself. I’ll let you know.



I think of my back as a landscape, an enigmatic canvas that is rather specific about who touches it, paints it, blows on it and encircles it. And I think our spines that sit aloft are wildly beautiful. To me, they encapsulate mysteries and unravel secrets: miscellaneous bones that perch above a creamy expanse of skin, penetrating our lives, begging us to make the most of what lies inside. I’m specifically thinking of talents and desires, openness and freedoms, as frightening as they are exhilarating.

Georgia O’Keeffe said that “making your unknown known is the most important thing, and keeping the unknown always beyond you.” Shimmering with growing vibrancy across a lifetime, our spines exchange ideas daily, writing each other letters under endless skies and atop fiery sunsets. Like the books we read, we display spines that we’ll never crack and hide the ones that we thumb to death. To expose a bookshelf (like a spine) is to compose a self, because books can be owned without being read and read without being owned.

Spines forge our passage to a world that excites with its chambers and contours, frills and fleshy folds, potential for abstract form. Somehow they reveal at once our most private selves and our most public personas. Unlike volumes of paper that have the potential to be mauled savagely, I like the idea of spines that have been carried around in pockets, a passage in every volume to be underlined in pencil with an exclamation or interrogation mark inserted in the margin opposite, treated with old coffee, tea, and maybe even whiskey stains. Vertical one-dimensional stripes on paper become a 3D point signifying a certain kind of freedom. But remember, the spine in itself, was never really the point at all.



“Crime is only a left-handed form of human endeavour.” The Asphalt Jungle

To be honest, the only time I give my lack of leftiness much thought is when I’m elbowing the person next to me, or when some neuroscientists release a study that suggests my left hand is a window to my soul, or that it can be used to divine my future. I’m right-handed all the way you see. I’ve tried writing with my left, but the scrawls look akin to the pen to paper ramblings of a serial killer. For some reason those who confuse left with right don’t have the same problem between top or bottom. Gravity rules huh? In most societies, up to 10% of people are left-handed. But wait, you need your right hand to stencil your left.

The Bible also suggests that lefties have the devil on their side, so you’d at least think they might have some fun sinning during our short time on Earth, but no – studies also show they reach sexual maturity later than your average right hander. Awkward. It seems to me as a layperson that a pianist does the most difficult things with his right hand, but that a violinist does the trickiest bits with his left hand. I suppose it depends on what piano music you’re listening to.

According to research presented by Dr Daniel Casasanto to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, people just prefer things that are in front of their favourite hand. It could be products on a shelf, or applicants for a job. His theory, in simple terms, is that because people go through life with a “fluent side” and a “clumsy side”, they develop a kind of unconscious favoritism, even for things that don’t require them to use their hands.

‘Not being a political thinker, I suppose I identify the right with certain virtues and the left with certain vices,’ wrote Philip Larkin. The Semetic inventors of writing wrote right to left, which is still the custom in the Middle East, but in the West we write right to left. I can’t figure to whether that’s all right or not.

Nasrudin, the mullah, was sitting with a  friend as dusk fell. ‘Light a candle’, this friend said, ‘there is one just by your left side.’ ‘How can I tell my right from my left in the dark, you fool?’ said the mullah.

The flexible of hand tend to be flexible of brain, because the two halves of the brain – each of which controls one hand – are more practised at talking to one another. For some reason, this also helps you get to sleep faster. I have candles to burn and bridges to cross though so what about being ‘inconsistent-handed’? Some say a pun is the lowest form of wit, others that wit is the best form of pun. Is this because there is no logical answer?





‘She sounds the way bananas taste.’ So said Truman Capote. And I empathize with him. Was he a synaesthete? I think the poet Arthur Rimbaud was. ‘I invented the color of vowels. A is black. E, white. I, red. O, blue. U, green.’ Alexander Theroux listed things that he felt seemed yellow: ‘maiden aunts, gumdrops, diffidence, the letter H, all women’s poems (except Emily Dickinson’s, which of course, are red), lewd suggestions, debt, the seventies, Nat “King” Cole’s song China Gate, sadness, the Yale English department faculty, the name as well as the country of Brazil, August, the House of Congress, the word “hills”, lampshades, physicians, insurance agents, the thin, squealing noises of children in playgrounds, political compromise, the state of Nebraska, illness in general, old wagon wheels, whispering, and the vapid name Catherine.’ (Picador, London 1995).

For the General Election in the UK last year, James Wannerton who has lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, teamed up with the artist Sam Cornwell in The Guardian to show how each political leader tastes. I liked the Lib Dems flavor best because they’re ‘exactly like rubber bands, with a drizzle of yoghurt.’ I see what he means. Oranges taste blue to me. And sometimes kisses evoke thoughts of pear drops. Uh-oh Kayla. Did you know that our tongue is only sensitive to sweet, or sour, or salty, or bitter flavors? Course you did. Paradoxically, sensations of taste are created through smell. But the majority of our sense receptors are in our eyes. Sight so dominates our intellectual practices, that we construct designs so we can see what is happening. What gave us the ability to think so wonderfully abstractly?

‘…consciousness or sentience, the raw sensation of toothaches and redness and saltiness and middle C, is still wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’ Steven Pinker