Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Collar Bones by North Highlands

Collar Bones by North Highlands from Big Ugly Yellow Couch on Vimeo.

'i often worry if i let you go, one of us would die

and i often worry if i held my breath one of us would die

and i often worry if i let you go, one of us would die

and i realised, that's what love is supposed to feel like.'

this lady's voice, oh, i could listen to it for days on end; in fact, i have been. this song makes me feel wrapped up and safe and sad and hopeful. it makes me think of summer and days that haven't happened yet (and might not but could).

yesterday i confessed to my sister that the thought of getting close to someone else scared me - that i sometimes wanted to fall back into my old lover, for safety and comfort and ease. she reminded me of how breathtaking it is to discover a tiny piece of something about someone for the first time; something that is not big or significant, but is newly yours in that moment, like breaking open a stone to find the ridged swirls of an ammonite.

this song reminds me of that. it feels full of possibilities.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


Elif Shafak is amazing:

"literature has to take us beyond. if it cannot take us there, it is not good literature... the sufis say, knowledge that takes you not beyond yourself is worse than ignorance. the problem with today's cultural ghettoes is not lack of knowledge. we know a lot about each other - or so we think - but knowledge that takes us not beyond ourself, it makes us elitist, distant, disconnected."

From the TED conference in Oxford, which I would love to be at.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


All nature has a feeling: woods, fields, brooks
Are life eternal: and in silence they
Speak happiness beyond the reach of books;
There's nothing mortal in them; their decay
Is the green life of change; to pass away
And come again in blooms revivified.

John Clare

walking over the hill yesterday morning was like being in a van gogh painting (my phone camera does no justice to the scene, unfortunately).

the grass was beautiful, whip-long and full of thrumming grasshoppers. there's not much real green space in the london suburbs, but our pockets are lovely.

i bought some new shoes, as i realised that all my footwear was black (and foot-baking in the sunshine), and i was been wearing them nonstop; they dye my feet red sometimes, but it is a small price to pay.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


of all the trite, overused sayings that i hate to hear, 'life imitates art' is high up on my list.

(it's not that i disagree with the sentiment, and i think wilde probably had a lot more to say on the subject than those three words. it's just one of those phrases that people casually throw around, hoping it reflects their good taste and superior brain - and it becomes almost meaningless with its ubiquity.

it's a bit like when a song you like reaches the top of the charts and is then played in every shop that wants to be 'hip' for the next year until you've forgotten the time when you did not know this song. Indeed, you have forgotten that the song isn't in fact a natural part of all human existence, so imprinted is it on your mental wallpaper, written into you like 'Brighton' is written all through a stick of rock, the lyrics ('The dog days are over, The dog days are doooonnnne, The horses are coming, So you'd better run") incorporated into you (admittedly nonsensical) life philosophy).

but hey! did you know, life sure imitates art!

i say this because my recent experiences have been taken right out of the Camera Obscura songbook of life; if you know the band at all: yes, there is exactly as much half-tearful sighing as you would expect.

Camera Obscura were already pretty much my perfect band; they understand that misery is crucial to good pop, and traceyanne's lyrics cut right to her heart, without any fussy description or overwrought language. i have yet to find an emotion they do not match: i can listen to them anywhere on the scale from cheerful (upbeat piano or warm horn sections) to morose (sparse guitar and verge-of-tears-vocals), though often the songs actually deal with a whole bundle of conflicting emotions at once. Saying that, they are brightest when dealing with the sad little aches of love gone wrong.

so it's not much of a surprise that i have been listening to them on repeat recently. it's comforting to hear my own feelings sung back to me over (really rubbish ipod) headphones, and i'm continually surprised by the way in which their lyrics and melodies exactly express that which i find i cannot.

i do wonder in part if this is because over the past few years i have spent an unhealthy amount of time listening to them. have i just tagged my feelings onto a familiar, similar resource to help me articulate them to myself - or even, have my feelings been shaped by my exposure to traceyanne's particular kind of melancholy? if i was a fan of grindmetal (is that a genre?) would my feelings be significantly different - would i approach them and recognise them in a totally different way?

in any case, i'm glad to have you, Camera Obscura.

reappearing is a tricky act to get right.

i loved someone, and we are over. words seem to have no substance - little flutters of love said and retracted in nearly one breath have left every letter hollow. words become noise when unbound from action, and my head is filled with the hum of promises never fully intended to be realised.

of all i have lost this is the most unbearable.

so i come back here, to learn to trust words again, and to use them until they have meaning.