22 June 2009

rusty hangover

My writing feels rusty. Like some manner of creative arthritis, my fingers need coaxing to tap and pound the keys. The gaps between the joints have atrophied a touch. I'm like a stop-motion skeleton clicking away. The words are there, I just need to remember them. And where they go. And, occasionally, why they go there.

It's kind of like a hangover. A really bad hangover. You know those sorts of hangovers - the sort where it takes you a minute or two to work out where you are, even if it's your own bed. You touch your face to make sure it's there. Then begins that slow assessment, working out where the pain is coming from, clenching you fingers, wiping the goo from your eyes. Maybe there's a trail of drool dried at the corner of your mouth. You smack your lips and wince at the taste of your mouth. There's a pint of water next to your bed, but steering it to your lips is a challenge. You look in the mirror and recognise the face, but can't place it. Even working the shower is too much for you. By the time you figure the taps out, opening the shampoo becomes impossible.

In the end you're clean and dressed but still feel as though you're having an out of body experience. Or that you've borrowed someone else's body. Someone else who treated that body they lent you very badly. You'd like to register a complaint, but through the haze the truth dawns, and the body's yours. And you did that to yourself.

And so my writing drought has wrought a writing hangover, not caused by an excess but by a dearth. Where my words don't look right, don't read right and don't feel right. They feel somewhat like someone else's, but they're mine.

And like a hangover, I did it to myself. There's no one else to blame.

21 June 2009

sunrise and salmon bagels...

I hadn't been drinking.

Not excessively, anyway.

I just didn't feel like sleeping. One DVD finished and I popped in another. It was one of those late nights: bed felt like more of an effort than staying up.

The last movie on was John Boorman's Excalibur. I loved that movie. Let down by its budget effects but still impressive: proper, filthy mediaeval production design but with the proper nod to the chivalric tones of Chr├ętien de Troyes' epic work. It's an energetic piece that mixed well with my insomnia.

I lived in the centre of St Andrews at the time, in a flat on the top floor with a view towards Sallies Chapel. It was an awkward place; the floors uneven, poorly insulated and the occasional sloping ceiling. Seagulls on adjacent roofs would sometimes make ungodly racket in the wee hours. There were a lot of stairs to climb to that odd wee flat. I liked it, don't get me wrong. Its quirkiness pleased me, as did the luminous pink couches.

The window in the sitting room overlooked Market Street. It was May 1st, and the sun was glorious at 5 in the morning. Through the open window I heard noise and the significance of the date settled into my sleep-deprived head. The first of May is the day when a couple of thousand students decide to go swimming at sunrise. As May Day celebrations go, it's quite a lot of fun. Far groovier than a Maypole.

I had no intention of going swimming, but I thought it might be a way to walk off the insomnia and laugh at drunk, sleep-deprived, shivering wet students. So I grabbed my Sox hat and bounded down the steep steps and wandered towards the beach.

Already the exodus had begun. Towel-clad, blue-lipped and dripping, they stepped tenderly. Some held near-empty bottles. Some squelched in their soaked shoes. Their rugby tops were damp. Makeup ran and normally perfect hair resembled a blind bird's nest.

I got to the beach and bumped into Lish, who said I should join her and her friends for an after party. I had nothing better to do. I was still a student, and the idea of starting a party at 6 in the morning appealed.

All we had was a case of Beck's and a doorstep. And the sound system of The World's Filthiest Land Rover. It was enough. We listened to cheesy tunes at full volume and opened beer after beer. We brought bedding out from the flat - why we weren't in the flat I'll never know - and engaged in morning banter. The swimmers warmed up and drank more beer. I think we laughed so hard we couldn't breathe. We took turns rocking out in The World's Filthiest Land Rover, bouncing along to the ridiculously cheesy music (Meatloaf was involved).

The beer ran out and we went in search of coffee.

The guy at the juice bar knew us all. He rolled his eyes and finished getting the shop ready for the day while we collapsed in a corner and drank our coffees. I had a quadruple espresso. We chatted about what to do next. Some wanted to do donuts at the end of West Sands, some wanted smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels. We split in different directions. I, as ever, followed the direction of food.

And there we sat, in the West Port at 11 in the morning, with espressos and smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, drunk and happy, making a mess of things. One of us managed to get more cream cheese on their face than in their mouth. We laughed and paid and stumbled out into the bright late morning sun. I pulled hat low and gave Lish a hug. I needed home and bed.

I climbed the steep steps and noticed my flatmate had gone to the office for the day. I pulled my curtains shut and succumbed finally to my bed.

Some amazing friendships started that morning. Started with movies and insomnia and beer and coffee and bad music and almost entirely by accident.

And now one's gone, almost entirely by accident.