Crop of Oranges

•March 19, 2010 • 2 Comments

Exciting times. Just been long-listed for Ornage….err…the Onge….the….on……well….err….I was so excited  when I heard I sent an email to all my friends saying I had been long-listed for some strange prize, no one knew quite what.

It’s the ORANGE prize. Yay.

Having had  a good look at the other 19 books on the site, so many felt like just the kind of book I want to go out and buy, especially Kingslover’s Lacuna. Like me, she stirs in a sprinkling of real-life characters (e.g Frieda and Diego) and I like this kind of thing a lot. There are a few books from the USA on the list too, and I like American books very much, especially those about or from the south. I have so much to do between now and the 20th April, but plans may have to shift a little as I will be buying and reading quite a few of this 2010 crop of oranges.

Still pinching myself.

Black Rock and the Green Bicycle

•March 13, 2010 • 3 Comments

I’ll be visiting Lancaster next week, first the campus to pick up my red leather bound PhD, then, later, to read at The Storey Auditorium with my fellow Trini author Amanda  Smyth (Black Rock). I look forward to the trip. I’ve been hoping to read with Amanda since we met (via this blog) last summer. I love her novel and wonder if  those listening to us read will think our novels complement each other. We will be reading at The Storey Auditorium, Lancaster on Weds 17th March. 7pmish.

Also, I will get to see my Lancaster friends, Alison Easton, the poet Paul Farley and my ex supervsors, the babe team, Lindsey Moore and Jo Baker, both who gave me great help with the writng of WWOGB.

Spring is here soon. I saw blossom on a tree the other day.

I go to 5 rids tonight, again, to dance off the week.

Goodbye Harlesden

•February 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Ahhhh, blogging. It’s been three weeks since my last…..tempted to say confession.  (Actually, its been about thirty years since my last confession to a priest.)  No, it’s been over three weeks since my last post, the longest gap since I started blogging. The reason is that I’ve been having a few housing problems recently, and it’s been so cold and soggy outside that I have not ventured out much. I’ve been at home, staring at the sleet and odd bouts of snow. I have been deep in edits of my next book/memoir and I have been arranging to move house, all the way across to Kensal Rise at the end of March.

I’ll be leaving Harlesen!  I’ve been living here for three years. Wow, what an adventure. In Harlesden I worte two books, lived with a newborne baby,  my God-daughter Lois, a poet, Neil Rollinson, and now Kina, a tennis coach. I ran a small writing group around the kitchen table, grew tomatoes, peppers and fresh herbs in the backyard, watched various families of foxes come and go, survived an invasion of bed bugs and numerous mouse attacks. It has been a lively three years.

I will be leaving One Pound Man, Mr Patty, the Jam Down Bakery (best meat loaf and jerk chicken in london), the Misty Moon, the Brazillian caf on the corner. I will be leaving Way to Save Internatonal Supermarket, open 24/7, where I can buy everything from cactus juice to Polish bread, to a hookah pipe. I will say goodbye to the men who run the fish-monger’s shop. No more fresh mackerel, sea bass, red snapper. No more avocados like at home in Trinidad. I will be leaving the casinos and human hair shops and numerous fried chicken joints, Dracual Land, and people barbeque-ing on their front steps in summer.

I will say goodbye to the Christian evangelists who take to the clock tower square every Saturday afternoon with their guitars and PAs.  And no more Nation of Islam. No more chaos in the streets. Goodbye to Peacocks.

I will miss Harlesden. It has been the most ethnically diverse part of London I have ever seen, let alone lived in. There are no Starbucks here, no chain stores. It has the feel of a Victorian high street: colourful,  indiviual, competative, small businesses vying for your attention.  There is  a big park with a bandtsand and great cafe, and playing fields, a good gymn. I have really lived in this part of London and appreciate its new-old feel. I will miss the extreme eccentricty of this small outpost, its personalities: Deepak, the King, Mr Campbell, (One Pound Man), Mr Hussein, my neighbour who does yoga on the lawn. I will miss Rose Rouse being my neighbour, and her tarot readings, my friend Katy Lynton’s drop-bys for coffee, tea, gossip.

I’m moving in with Curly. Just one neighburhood over. It will be spring.  A new time. New thoughts, a new book to write too.

Slow Anarchy

•February 2, 2010 • 2 Comments

It’s February. What happened to January?  Strange time of year, eh?  Everyone I know is either full of cold, broken-hearted or pissed off with the weather. It’s been years since I spent a whole winter in the UK; usually I fly home for  a month, which makes a big difference to the winter months.  Yes, I agree. Winter sucks.

Happily, though, I have been hired by English PEN to teach an eight week course. My students are refugees from Angola, Belarus, Pakistan and South Africa and Venezuela. Today we did a class on micro-fiction and we wrote tiny stories which came from tiny poems. Next week the poets Malika Booker and Choman Hardi come to do guest readings, both have written strong and very autobiographical collections I admire. We aim to produce a booklet of my students’ work, to be performed at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon; I hosted the readings at an event last week, and wow was the writing spectacular.

Tonight, on my way to a talk hosted by Spread the Word, I bumped into my friend David McCandless (of Information is Beautiful). He was bummed out, so I dragged him along. The talk was about writers-in-residence. Lemn Sissay was on the panel, fabulous Lemn and writer-in-residence at the Southbank. He mentioned the word ‘anarchy’ and I perked up considerably. The main thrust of what he was saying was that when an organisation works with a writer, they can’t expect a tame sort. They get a wild card, a pusher of boundaries, who may or may not produce what has been asked of them.

Right on, Lemn.

“I’m an anarchist, too,” I piped up. “A slow anarchist. What kind of an organisation would ever want to work with me?”

What, indeed. There was a nice woman there, from London Underground. I wonder if she would consider me as writer-in-residence on the Bakerloo Line?

After the talk, David and I headed for Drummond Street and a curry and a Cobra beer. We discussed life, death, sex and fame.

On the way back to Euston Station, I got out my fat black marker pen and drew sad and smiley faces in all the ‘O’s on some company’s renovation boards.

Dangerous I am.

Slow – and dangerous.

Green Bike Mystery Solved

•January 17, 2010 • 1 Comment

Years ago, in 2001, my mother told me the story of arriving in Trinidad in 1956 with just a couple of suitcases and her green Raleigh bicycle. She’d told me lots of stories of her early years in Trinidad, but this green bicycle story stood out. “You brought what??” was my response. My writer’s instincts went into red alert. A green bike?  I saw her immediately sailing around the savannah on it, knew how smashing she would have looked, what a sight. I was amazed. White pople don’t ride bikes in Trinidad, and there’s a long and complicated reason why.

On a piece of notepaper, I wrote the title of the book, dated it and slipped it in the back leaves of a Filofax, where it cooked for years. I went to live in Trinidad for six months in 2006. It was then the book fused, turned from something that might have been a simple romance, into the thorny and politically critical book it is today. The blimp obessed me, so did  a story about  a little boy called Sean Luke who was murdered by other children in a cane field in the south. Every day murders and police brutality in the papers. The murder count was like the pollen count here.

I wrote the first draft of WWOGB in those six months in Trinidad. The rest was cut, polished and expanded in the UK. But even so, over three years, I came and went at least six times to Trinidad, all the while, picking up gems for the book.

My mother never knew what became of her green bicycle. She knew she gave it away, but never remembered to who. Well, dear reader, last week, I found out who. She sold it to a friend, Mary Doig, mother of the artist Peter Doig who now lives in Trinidad. Mystery solved!  And what a delightful twist in the green bike’s micro-plot.

Small world. But of course, it begs the question: what did Mary do with it?

Che and Nin meet

•January 8, 2010 • 1 Comment

Today was the first day I ventured out since Monday afternoon. The snow has been bad in Harlesden. I got the 220 bus to Shepherd’s Bush and had lunch in the Stone Mason’s Arms with fellow writer Louisa Young  who I last saw at Totleigh Barton years ago. She is author of the Lion Boy books and she is a very clever and interesting person. We discussed managing ageing, the two World Wars, the advent of plastic surgery (for wounded soldiers), sex, alcoholism and racism. Phew.

Currently reading the diaries of Anais Nin, 1931-33. She  wrote diaries for thirty yars, so this is just a section of her diary, the part with Henry and June, of course. She talks a lot of her family home on the Malecon in Cuba and her sessions in analysis with Dr Allendy. God, how glamorous to have been born into  a fine home on the Malecon – and to have been in analysis in the 1930s. Nin is terribly intelligent. Her diaries are perceptive and her writing is poetic.  She loved both Henry and June, in different ways, she was no prude. Henry took her to brothels, she had an affair with  them both. She got married but always had affairs.  She was a woman of the world who trained herself from an early age to know as much as she could about all the arts, about everything in fact.  Her father abandoned his family and she took this very personally. Fascinating woman, really. I wonder if anyone has written a novel about her.

I also woder if anyone has ever written a novel about Che Guevara. I have lots of postcards of him, age thirty-something stuck all over my bedroom cupboards. One of him on a fishing boat with Fidel, a few of him playing golf. When I was in Cuba in November, I heard that he left behind a wife and four children when he was shot at point blank range by an FBI assasin in Bolivia. (no free and fair trail for Che) 

They cut off hs hands, to prove to the world it was really him. Che was asthamtic too, like me. Hacked and coughed his way through a revolution; they didn’t have steroid puffers in those days. 

Of course, Che and Nin never met. But they were alive in the same  era and both wrote diaries. Che wrote The Motorcyle Diaries amongst others.  Must read Che’s diaries too.

I wonder, I wonder, if anyone had ever thought of writing a novel about Che and Nin meeting……wow. Now that would be a dreamy thing – to mesh two diarists of huge charisma together in words. Yeah, bet no one’s ever thought of it, till now.

No need to worry if anyone will snitch this idea. Copyright of this blog!

Love after Love

•January 1, 2010 • 6 Comments

Happy New Year! Here’s a poem a friend read to me over the phone today.

Love after Love

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was yourself.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desprate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott