Tag Archives: Loss

Farewell.

This is a picture of me when I was 19. My hair changed colour a lot more then so I thought an ‘in-between colours’ photo might be the most representative image to give you. The usual things have happened since then, I no longer have Rage Against the Machine and Animatrix posters on my wall, had my heart broken a few times, took my lip piercing out and forgot to put it back in so it healed over. Put weight on. Lost it again. Moved to Wolverhampton for a bit. And Birmingham. Actually you can’t really see the Rage poster because it’s covered in scraps of writing. That was a thing I did then, you see. Slightly compulsively and with middling to angsty results. I was at a uni that I’d just stuck on the bottom of my UCAS form to fill it up because all my other applications were to drama schools and of course I was going to get into one. I was actually right on that, I got a place a Mountview, but only half a Dance and Drama Award (the grant which is the only way I could have afforded it). So instead I rather bewilderingly found myself back from a year spent working in a kitchen and doing lots of canoeing in the south of France, and at Loughborough University studying English and Drama.

I dropped English pretty swiftly; it was only the poetry I felt breathed when you studied it; Great Expectations wasn’t really my thing. And then one day I saw a poster on the wall of the student foyer. Something called ‘Theatre Writing Partnership’ was looking for pitches for a play. Write a play? Fuck it, I’m 19, I can do anything! So I sent something in. And they accepted me to be mentored by a playwright as part of a group of 6-7 others. I went to Leicester for the first time, wandered around the big city like a proper Lincolnshire girl who thought Loughborough was already quite big, thank you. Got lost in the Shires (a shopping centre), and found my way to the Haymarket Theatre, where Amanda Whittington led the first of several sessions of writing exercises and I began writing my first original piece of theatre.

Theatre Writing Partnership were a new theatre writing initiative based in the East Midlands. They worked in schools, with 18-25 year olds and ‘grown ups’ and older people to develop theatre writing in the area. Though based at Nottingham Playhouse they weren’t connected to any main theatre as a subsidiary ‘literary department’ – rather an active and independent force seeking out and developing writing talent in a very large and very culturally empty region. And in their first year of being established, I wrote a play for them.

My first proper play took place in the final second before the end of the world. The final endless second where all time is stretched and everything falls apart and a girl in Lincolnshire has taken her dog for a walk. It contained presences in a tree that become a man called Olu, and that tune into that moment to plant a seed for the next world to begin. Here are some of the actual stage directions. Continue Reading →

On Love.

my copy of Aaron and Ahmed

I haven’t really talked about comics much here, before – though I have music, games, dance and, obviously, theatre – but as comics are more and more a part of my life these days (film and TV; meh), it was pretty inevitable that one would drive my fingers to the keyboard at some point.

Ready yourself for some minor spoilers (nowt more than you’d get from the blurb on the back, and no major later ones, I hope).

I just finished reading a comic called ‘Aaron and Ahmed‘. It was recommended to me by my mate Andy whose judgement in comics (except for the men in tights kind) I trust implicitly. But, unusually, I struggled with this one. Andy said it had him in tears, and so I fully expected to be in pieces afterwards, but instead I just felt kind of… silent.

I think I want to talk about a flaw in the work, though I’m not sure. Like I said, I really struggled to read the comic; I just didn’t move past the first few pages.

The writer offers you a once-broken man; an army psychiatrist saved by the love of a good woman, only then to lose her in the attack on the Twin Towers; seeks out employment in Guantanamao Bay. That’s the opening premise, Aaron before we meet Ahmed. We watch him walk into the Guantanamo.

And that’s when I leave. Because my disbelief refused to be suspended the moment we traipse the halls and dusty grounds of that detention camp. Detention. Those little neat words like hospital corners. Place of torture; that’s what we see in Aaron and Ahmed. Aaron sleepwalking around rooms where different horrific tortures are inflicted on detainees. Victims? They’re certainly portrayed like that. Right then I’m lost to the main character, right then I can’t possibly walk by his side.

What stopped me at that first page I saw a man being tortured was like the feeling of a seeing punch to the stomach of someone I love further away than I could reach them. I wouldn’t walk by it, not even as narrative companion.

This story doesn’t fit in my head. My mind said. But it fits in my world, it’s one of the pieces; it fits together with the piece I am a part of. These acts or ones like them are committed by a culture I buy into. My government is implicit in tortures like these.

Here is what interests me about the work; it’s close, recent stuff, this. How could I possibly be asked to suspend myself? It doesn’t have the historical/generational distance of Maus or Ethel and Ernest, the ‘not-here-but-somewhere-like-here’ of something like Habibi, or the personal ‘true story’ nature of works like Fun Home or Persepolis. I felt rudely present throughout the whole. And maybe that’s right; that I feel my body – my mind – present. That I see how they might or might not be implicit in a story; this story. That I see both me, and story, and the places they both vanish, because that’s where things sometimes get dangerous. Like the kinds of stories, the memes which the story goes on to talk about (still, I felt, pretty heavy-handedly). The stories we (cultures, societies, religions) tell ourselves about the world. The stories which always have to rearrange the world to fit into our heads. Sometimes these stories should bear unfolding. Sometimes we should trace the creases.

It is the first few pages which cause me to trace the creases. I didn’t really rate the stuff in the middle, but then at the end, the main character’s final conclusions ring true; there, Aaron finds me again. It’s an idea (meme) often repeated, by many people. Here’s one from 403 years ago:

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Yeah, horrifically well known Shakespeare, I know. It’s been running through my mind, that, recently, though. No one is ever lost to the night sky; it is only ever obscured from view.

Sometimes love burns with disappointment, or regret, or too much weight, or it is obscured, lost. Sometimes you might fly on it, it might suddenly be in the face of a stranger, or stoop with you to pick someone up when they least expect. I couldn’t walk with Aaron past those people being tortured. And when I realised what this meant to me, several hours after finishing the comic, my eyes were wet.

If you want to buy the book, at all, I recommend getting it from the lovely guys at Page45, you can reserve stuff via Twitter and everything.