Monday, 20 December 2010

Haikus 1 and 2

Haiku 1

My big winter coat
Ready at the dry cleaner's
In time for the snow.


Haiku 2

Adverse conditions
encourage community.
Neighbours talk and smile.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

23

23
An art work to commemorate World AIDS Day, December 1 2010, and all those who have lost their lives.
















Monday, 15 November 2010

New Exhibition: Trace Elements



TBC Artists' Collective comprises four London-based artists – Beverley Bennett, Charley Peters, Laura Davidson and Paul Mendez – who work collectively to generate projects with a focus on drawing and its scope within contemporary art practice.

Established in 2009, their recent first show Delineation: Contemporary Dialogues with Drawing considered the presence of drawing beyond its traditional parameters and within such disciplines as writing, film, sculpture, painting and embroidery. Delineation began a series of projects that will engage the collective with other artists, writers and curators, who are invited to participate based on their individual perspectives on drawing. 

Always keen to challenge creative identities and generate new ideas, the 12-Pages Online Project Space enables members and associates to regularly produce new work by means of short deadlines and notional themes, often instigating fresh lines of inquiry. 12-Pages Magazine seeks to document each key stage in the development of these and other of the collective’s investigations.

The collective’s latest exhibition project Trace Elements will continue to develop the initial themes first outlined in Delineation, exploring drawing through erasure, repetition, accumulation, trace, memory and the interruption of surfaces.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Walk On By

A TBC banner stands proudly before the caryatids of The Parish of St. Pancras
A year in planning and it was over a week of chills, breakdowns, walk-outs and artists' talks.

Delineation: Contemporary Dialogues with Drawing, the Collective's first show, was an exploration of contemporary drawing practice and the presence of drawing within different art forms, from video to embroidery to sculpture. Its venue was The Crypt, a cold, damp, earthy space that wouldn't at first - or indeed upon reflection - seem to lend itself to the displaying of works on paper, which made up the bulk of the show. Indeed, after only five days in the space, some of the artists involved observed slight decay in the pristine quality of their works, all of which were framed.

This was the only negative; the show was well received; it was generally accepted that TBC Artists' Collective had indeed subjected contemporary drawing practice to a rigorous interrogation, and  comments from the public largely expressed pleasure at the standard of work on show. My personal experience, however, was mixed.

Fallen autumn leaves imprinted into the road below by constant traffic makes for a beautiful, short-lived, painterly patina

First of all, the venue - not The Crypt itself, a wonderful space (and don't its management know it), but Euston, which only exists for me as the departure point from London to Birmingham and those reluctant trips back to the family that fill me with dread. (I would like to extricate the fine transparency on which only my family exists and lay it flat onto my wonderful, spectral London.) Getting off at that underground station every morning in order to open up The Crypt for 10am immediately set a tone of foreboding to each day.

Nevertheless, I sat down, and wrote, as I had proposed to do all along. I wanted to sit and write in the space for the duration of the show, but wasn't quite prepared for my distance from the generally accepted definition of 'performance', as my piece would inevitably be branded. Growing increasingly paranoid with each successive coffee and pee, I could feel that each approaching viewer would expect me to do something 'performative' in their presence. I felt like a particularly boring piece of video art, one of the many I have walked by in galleries and dismissed out of igorance of the length of the piece, or how long I would have to wait for some action. I sat in the corner of a small room in the centre of The Crypt at a fold-out table, facing a wall, writing whatever came to my head, but not what I could call 'stream of consciousness' or 'automatic' writing - although there were indeed moments of each - resolving not to interact with the public. Mostly I wrote to complain about the damp (a hindrance perpetuated sensorially by James Jeff Lindley's running-water/water-torture sound installation) and my apprehension, but it was too late. My work was public. My failure to prepare for the work, or devise a strategy for a performance, was apparent and inescapable. I improvised, but betrayed myself with a lack of ideas.

Writing in the space, coffee and Twitter never too far away. Pic by James Tuitt

Before all this, the first day and Private View were fascinating. As I sat against the wall with my back to the 'door' and an assortment of objects behind me, people still somehow seemed confident to approach me within the space, something I wasn't prepared for. I thought that they would maybe stand at the doorway quietly, peering in, and walk on by (which, again, I was unprepared for, as in the event it felt like disinterest or a rejection). One man came right into my space, took a look at the Bible, photographs and journals piled up in the corner, then came quite confidently up behind me, animating the hairs on the back of my neck, to read exactly what I was writing about him:

There is someone actually standing over my shoulder watching me as I write, and watching what I am writing, and photographing me, using flash, highly inappropriately. I didn't expect them to do that. I thought that they would walk by the doorway, act or express surprise, and carry on walking. I didn't think that they would actually come into my space, look over my shoulder and read what I was writing. That was very strange. Heat came to the surface of my skin, across my shoulders, as the man, whoever he was, the white man or the black man, came closer to my neck. I wrote and wrote as it happened, but now that he is gone, the excitement has died down again, and I should reply to the text message I received, and drink my coffee.

Not the 'invader' mentioned, but my friend Martin Knizia, who is actually allowed. Pic by James Tuitt

A close-up of some of the text written in-situ

Another:

I don't know who that was, but he came right into the space (I assume 'he' was a he) which he is encouraged to do to see what page my Bible is open at ('No part of the world'), and, in front of the Bible, the Mike Arlen pictures, both of which are two steps inside the door next to a small pile of my journals. He seemed to pore over them for a moment, before stepping around to my side, to view me in profile. Am I really the same man as in the pictures? Well, I look very different, so different he has to make quite sure. I now have hair, a big high-top fade, whereas then I had a short crop. I now have a thick, scraggly beard, whereas then I was clean-shaven and wore no glasses; now I wear huge vintage Cazals which are like a mask. And of course, I am dressed. Because the sticky label is so big they must be wondering what all the clothes I am wearing are helping to cover up, if it is indeed me in the picture. I could say it isn't. I could say that that is Paul Mendes and I am Paul Mendez. He is 22 and I am 28.

Some old journals, a Bible (my oldest possession, owned since 1994), some drawings, and pictures of 'Paul Mendes by Mike Arlen' (sic), taken in 2004 when 'Paul Mendes' first moved to London. Pic by James Tuitt

Close-up, the 'sketchiness' of my quick handwriting is emphasised
Moreover, during the private view, two women came into my space and started trying to interrupt my performance, seeing their actions as 'interactive', egging each other on to take my cup of wine away from me (I drank about six cups and was quite drunk by the evening's end). Again, one came up to the side of me and would have been rather distracting had I not been writing about her every word and action:

Left-handed. I noted four people to have remarked on this banal fact, as if there was nothing more interesting for them to comment on

People are asking me if they can interact, and are trying to do their best to distract me, but I am having none of it. They are trying to read the work in my journal and have to crouch down to the floor. They have opened themselves up to the photograph and are asking if the sticker needed to be that big... I thought they were actually going to touch me. The glands in my armpits opened up and started to itch uncomfortably. At no point did I crack facial expression or look up... I loved the way those two women commented on the fact that I am left-handed. Like that makes the blindest bit of difference to anything or anyone.

I could hear that there were lots of people in attendance, all enjoying themselves, and most importantly, the work; I regret to say that I've been to too many private views recently at which the work has been secondary, mere decoration for an evening's free drinks. Private views are the new parties. The art scene is the new society. There can be nothing better than an evening of free drinks at some cool exhibition opening, particularly during a recession.

The next day, however, to state the obvious, was the morning after the night before. Hungover and tired, I once again sat in the space, but the words failed to come to me as freely as they had done the night before. This would be the story of the next two days, fraught with insecurity and paranoia, not to mention an overbearing sense of over-exposure, that prompted me to write this letter to my colleagues:

From: paul.mendez@tbcartistscollective.org
To: TBC Members
Cc: 

Subject: Re: Paul Mendez: Work In Progress

After a couple of days' bedding in, I just posted this on my blog. Hopefully tomorrow will be different.


Paul

--------------------------

This is Not a Performance, This is Real Life

Half way through Delineation, and I have reached the depths of despair, an achievement as great as touching the stratosphere, depending on which way you look at it.

Having asserted my intention to write in the space for the duration of the show, I choked after a day, then half a second day, and four hours of a third. It is a beautiful space, of course, as almost everyone I've heard walk past and into my personal space has agreed, and it is full of neat work by members of TBC Artists' Collective, but it is a group show, not a collective articulation, and here as elsewhere, group shows elevate some members to the detriment of others. If it does what it says on the tin (of artist's shit), then all the artists involved function as one. The result should be the light work of many hands. I put my hands up and say I did not understand the brief, the space, how the space relates to drawing, how I relate to drawing, how TBC Artists' Collective and the mix of its featured artists relates to drawing, how I relate to TBC Artists' Collective. I put my hands up and say I still don't know the answers to any of these questions, and I can hear people say, 'don't try to understand, just do', but there must be a reason that I have reached the age of 28 without ever having 'done'. It is unfortunate that it is the middle of the show before I decide to be honest with myself, but next to my name on the plan it says 'performance' and so here it is, a little bit of drama, a mini-breakdown.

The decision to write in the space wasn't really a decision, but a blurt-out that I then had to stand beside like a puddle of my own vomit. As a 'writer' I felt that it was the only course of action. 'Writers' don't put things into frames, they don't visualise, they write. Any participation in this show by a writer would have to be a written 'performance', or comprise the reading of a text. Any other ideas? Perhaps I could have announced a timetable of readings of work produced in or around the show. I could have done a lot of things differently, such as refrain from taking on so many administrative duties around the organisation of the show, whether I put my hand up because nobody else did or out of flattery when someone suggested I would be the ideal person for the job. Like many men, I am vain, and embrace flattery like a bee does a rose. I therefore end up being controlled by suggestions and steered and pushed this way and that like a child's remote control car. My uncle bought me a remote control car once, when I was about seven. My mother took it away from me and told me I could have it back when I was 21. Needless to say, by then I'd forgotten about it and couldn't care less anyway. In fact, I've only just remembered it now. I wonder if they still have it? They probably gave it to my brother.

Sponsorship and fundraising: fail and an albatross called The Delineation Workshops. 12-Pages: fail – no print-run; the cover is too conceptual and in the end contains an error; the piece of work I wrote was too long and took up too much space, and in the end had to be cut so brutally only half the original story remains. I am the copy editor of the group, having put my own name forward as such due to my horror at the profound dyslexia prevalent in the group, either that or its manifestation of the decline in standards of basic education in Britain, and my wish to maintain an accurately written face on anything associated with me, Mr. Perfect. On top of all of this I had to make work for the show (having been told I had to participate, and in harnessing that other great undesirable man-trait – pride – thought, what the hell, how hard can it be to make art), reconciling myself with the visual form and its abstraction of ideas whilst developing a line of investigation, and the skills to finish, that would make me sound as clever and appear as strong as all the professors and graduates that make up the vast majority of the group. I have set myself up for an epic fail that has inevitably materialised, perpetuated by unpaid rent, strained friendships, a crisis of dignity and a constant fear of being thrown out into the street that will of course result in me being thrown out into the street like a used, worthless, toothless, filthy, diseased whore with cum and blood no longer running down her legs but crusted and sticking them together.

Yes, I feel sorry for myself; yes, I accept that, and yes, I am a fool. It is on days like this that I see my timeline in two colours: red blocks for positive times and blue for negative. Today is a blue day, obviously, and it pushes all the other blues to the surface, drowning all the reds. During the lows, you don’t remember the highs, and vice-versa. Some people say I should just snap out of it. How about: fuck off. The only way to snap out of whatever-it-is is in death, and even then, who knows?

On Tuesday I set myself up in a small mostly enclosed space within The Crypt with a foldaway table and chair. On Wednesday I introduced a few old journals, some explicit photographs of myself nude that I have censored (at least the top one), and some small sketches. I put my current journal on the table and in the afternoon, began to write belatedly. It was exciting when someone came in and peered over my shoulder at what I was writing, not that I was writing anything particularly enterprising, just a load of new shit to add to the load of old shit written in the pile of old journals in the corner behind me. I faced a brick wall, and ignored my audience. My friends came and went during the private view, without my greetings. I failed to prepare for this show and so have been inconsistent, sometimes talking to people, sometimes not, sometimes writing down what people say, and when there are no people, such as in the cold light of the morning after the private view, there is only the most depressing space imaginable. Suddenly I feel exposed, and want to get away from people and from what I set up for myself for the public to pick at, without preparation.

I have completely sacrificed myself for the group. Congratulations everyone on a good group show - sorry I spoilt it.

--------------------------

I hadn't meant to send this version. The version I posted here on Stillborn, and that I had meant to send out to other members of the group, ended with this key paragraph:

Because I don't know what I'm doing, because I don't have any ideas, I should have put myself up as a material, to be used however members of the group envisioned it. I should have been used as a puppet, for the work, not the administration; the former could have been a success, though the latter could only have been a failure, because I'm not a professional.

TBC. Nice show. Sorry I spoiled it.

--------------------------

I could do nothing right. Here is a selection of responses:

Yet somehow, in all your drama, you still manage to stay true to your honest and open style of writing.
And...question the concept of the show, which in a way all the work included does - we do
have to ask ourselves if the work is considered drawing and whether or not we align what we
have contributed as so. You are questioning this directly as a subject rather than a static object doing so.

The text is not and you are not a failure, in the way that it articulates the turmoil experienced within a group of creative people with different ambitions and ideas. You are having a critical dialogue with the group, in a passionate way. It could be read as an insult, which i lingered on at first, but one has been provoked to accept your honesty and bravery.

You are going through what every artist goes through - some crisis of confidence, but through this
(and you are already doing this) you critique your own presence in your work and life - " 
'Writers' don't put things into frames, they don't visualise, they write. Any participation in this show by a writer would have to be a written 'performance', or comprise the reading of a text. Any other ideas? Perhaps I could have announced a timetable of readings of work produced in or around the show" points towards this. I also like the imagery conjured of you, sitting in a Crypt, sacrificing yourself.

You think and you reflect and with that have confidence in yourself.

I'm probably being like proper cheesey.

Have a better day tomorrow!!!!!

xx


--------------------------

i really dont think you've spoilt anything. people enjoy what you're doing, and it adds something else different and unexpected to the group/show. i'm really glad that you're part of it too, it's comforting, for me it feels as though we're both doing something different and true to us. and i think what you are doing is real. it's honest, and you've gone with what you feel or felt at the time, rather than not having a go at all and seeing where it can lead. you've been brave, and remain so, even as you leave the space to let it stand on it's own.

i dont really know what to say. you feel what you feel. but i hope in good time (soon) you come out of it happy, and proud of what you've achieved.
sorry i've been shit, and i hope we're still cool. if you ever want to talk i'm always here, even if it's just to rant.

love


--------------------------


The blank box loaded with history, its own and other people’s, is climactic in its temperament.  Wrapping you, as it does, in chill and damp without light, distraction, or for the most part attention from other people it confronts you with the voices of your head. In past and present those demons torment you: you are a failure, you are insignificant, who are you they say but a fraud, what did you think would happen shooting star, star of the show? 

In this space, you have an opportunity – those voices are not our voices, nor are they your own. Allow your mind to settle, allow it to confront you with the wall of your despair, give it and your inner self a hug. Tell yourself that you love yourself anyway, do not seek our approval or support because you can do this on your own.  This chaos, this doubt, are part of the process of creating. We have all faced this. Remember:

Your writing is a gift as is your honesty and courage.
You are powerful.
You have an enormous generosity of spirit in welcoming and accepting others- this is reflected by your friends who in turn accept and cherish you. Remember this especially.

Do not call the show a tin of artists’ shit.

Drawing is the documentation of what the eye’s mind and hand experience and try to explore or understand.  Since your eyes see only a wall in this space – do you have to remain there? Or do you have the ability to visualize, to travel, to see internally? Can you leave your space and ‘perform’ in other spaces – I think you will be welcome in them all- so move your table and travel.  The meeting ground of drawing and writing is in documentation so listen to the show, explore what you perceive to be the links between us, write our narrative and rhetoric- our failures and successes, write about why this is difficult and confront the sometimes bleak and difficult process of making something because if nothing else – I can guarantee you – you are already ‘doing it’.

x

--------------------------

Hi Paul

I'm really sorry to hear what your 'performance' has brought up for you these few days. You seem to be blaming yourself and it saddens me to hear this. Surely, in 'real' terms your contributions to TBC have been pivotal to the success of the show?  

Look, if you fancy a chat about any of this shit then I'm happy to listen. Unfortunately I can relate to some of the low self-esteem I'm gleaning from your writings and it might help you to hear yourself saying this stuff out loud to someone else rather than venting on the 'internet ether'. Don't feel obliged though ... 

Take care of yourself and see you tomorrow?

--------------------------

Dear Paul,

I have only just read  'This is Not a Performance, this is Real Life' and I wholeheartedly hope that this bit of pathetic, overblown, self indulgent nonsense is part of the Performance and Not Real Life.
You are an extraordinarily talented writer, and in the handwritten form displayed on the wall you have found a way of making art that fits in perfectly  with and stands up to the rest of the show. Think of it this way, Fiona Banner is an artist who uses the written word; you are a writer who makes art.

See you tomorrow,

-------------------------- 

Cop-out
Artist's Shit

I had left the space at 2pm, in a hurry and in a huff. I went to Tate Britain to have another look at Rachel Whiteread's beautiful drawings, and a peek at the Eadweard Muybridge show. The thing about the two Tate blockbusters this season is that they feature the first artists I ever appreciated. Gauguin was an unlikely editorial star of an issue of The Watchtower, the fortnightly study text of Jehovah's Witnesses, whom I immediately took to for his refined use of colour and the fact that I'd never seen 'black' people in 'classic' painting before; and Muybridge and his descendants, courtesy of GCSE biology text books, was my first exposure to naked men. Unsatisfied, having moved on from these early guardians, I decided to journey across town to Lisson Gallery. As I was supposed to be engaging with a performance, I thought that I should belatedly try and learn from the best. Marina Abramovic's work is hardly that of a shrinking violet, who is embarrassed what the public, and her art-world colleagues, think of her, or it. It is visceral; it interrupts the viewer and shakes him/her out of their comfort zone. People walk through art galleries and daydream. One guy, laughing with his mate in The Crypt, walked past my space and said, 'Shit! Scared the fuck out of me.' I was happy to have snapped him back to attention, something inanimate works cannot do.

Back at The Crypt, I became embarrassed about this aspect of performance art. I even started singing 'Walk On By', the Bacharach and David song released in 1964 by Dionne Warwick, although I'm more familiar with the 1990 Sybil version.



Trouble is, you cannot be blasé with a performance; people are so hell-bent on finding meaning and relevance to a piece that each and every syllable that comes out in speech, every written word, every line drawn and every second spent sat in silence will be analysed. One man whom I said 'walk on by' in the presence of promptly took his friends out of the gallery. This is why I am disappointed that the point of what I was doing had not transmitted to the public. It was there before their eyes. Not many people get to see a writer in action; should they not be curious of how the books they buy and the works they agree to canonise are made? Do they not feel privileged to participate? Do they assume that, because I do not acknowledge them and ask their name and who they are and where they are from, that I am not interested in them? Do they not glean anything from the paradigms on the floor behind me? By the end I felt like an intruder in my own space, and left, allowing the Bible, the journals, the drawings and photographs to speak for themselves in the form of an installation. My presence in the space was for my benefit, not theirs. 'Work In Progress' was about everything I am about, not the work itself.

All in all, Delineation was of course a positive experience. It was my first show, and my first piece of work. There are things I will want to do differently next time, but I doubt Fondazione Prada will be knocking on my door for a while yet.

 




Friday, 29 October 2010

This is Not a Performance, This is Real Life


Half way through Delineation, and I have reached the depths of despair, an achievement as great as touching the stratosphere, depending on which way you look at it.

Having asserted my intention to write in the space for the duration of the show, I choked after a day, then half a second day, and four hours of a third. It is a beautiful space, of course, as almost everyone I've heard walk past and into my personal space has agreed, and it is full of neat work by members of TBC Artists' Collective, but it is a group show, not a collective articulation, and here as elsewhere, group shows elevate some members to the detriment of others. If it does what it says on the tin (of artist's shit), then all the artists involved function as one. The result should be the light work of many hands. I put my hands up and say I did not understand the brief, the space, how the space relates to drawing, how I relate to drawing, how TBC Artists' Collective and the mix of its featured artists relates to drawing, how I relate to TBC Artists' Collective. I put my hands up and say I still don't know the answers to any of these questions, and I can hear people say, 'don't try to understand, just do', but there must be a reason that I have reached the age of 28 without ever having 'done'. It is unfortunate that it is the middle of the show before I decide to be honest with myself, but next to my name on the plan it says 'performance' and so here it is, a little bit of drama, a mini-breakdown.

The decision to write in the space wasn't really a decision, but a blurt-out that I then had to stand beside like a puddle of my own vomit. As a 'writer' I felt that it was the only course of action. 'Writers' don't put things into frames, they don't visualise, they write. Any participation in this show by a writer would have to be a written 'performance', or comprise the reading of a text. Any other ideas? Perhaps I could have announced a timetable of readings of work produced in or around the show. I could have done a lot of things differently, such as refrain from taking on so many administrative duties around the organisation of the show, whether I put my hand up because nobody else did or out of flattery when someone suggested I would be the ideal person for the job. Like many men, I am vain, and embrace flattery like a bee does a rose. I therefore end up being controlled by suggestions and steered and pushed this way and that like a child's remote control car. My uncle bought me a remote control car once, when I was about seven. My mother took it away from me and told me I could have it back when I was 21. Needless to say, by then I'd forgotten about it and couldn't care less anyway. In fact, I've only just remembered it now. I wonder if they still have it? They probably gave it to my brother.

Sponsorship and fundraising: fail and an albatross called The Delineation Workshops. 12-Pages: fail – no print-run; the cover is too conceptual and in the end contains an error; the piece of work I wrote was too long and took up too much space, and in the end had to be cut so brutally only half the original story remains. I am the copy editor of the group, having put my own name forward as such due to my horror at the profound dyslexia prevalent in the group, either that or its manifestation of the decline in standards of basic education in Britain, and my wish to maintain an accurately written face on anything associated with me, Mr. Perfect. On top of all of this I had to make work for the show (having been told I had to participate, and in harnessing that other great undesirable man-trait – pride – thought, what the hell, how hard can it be to make art), reconciling myself with the visual form and its abstraction of ideas whilst developing a line of investigation, and the skills to finish, that would make me sound as clever and appear as strong as all the professors and graduates that make up the vast majority of the group. I have set myself up for an epic fail that has inevitably materialised, perpetuated by unpaid rent, strained friendships, a crisis of dignity and a constant fear of being thrown out into the street that will of course result in me being thrown out into the street like a used, worthless, toothless, filthy, diseased whore with cum and blood no longer running down her legs but crusted and sticking them together.

Yes, I feel sorry for myself; yes, I accept that, and yes, I am a fool. It is on days like this that I see my timeline in two colours: red blocks for positive times and blue for negative. Today is a blue day, obviously, and it pushes all the other blues to the surface, drowning all the reds. During the lows, you don’t remember the highs, and vice-versa. Some people say I should just snap out of it. How about: fuck off. The only way to snap out of whatever-it-is is in death, and even then, who knows?

On Tuesday I set myself up in a small mostly enclosed space within The Crypt with a foldaway table and chair. On Wednesday I introduced a few old journals, some explicit photographs of myself nude that I have censored (at least the top one), and some small sketches. I put my current journal on the table and in the afternoon, began to write belatedly. It was exciting when someone came in and peered over my shoulder at what I was writing, not that I was writing anything particularly enterprising, just a load of new shit to add to the load of old shit written in the pile of old journals in the corner behind me. I faced a brick wall, and ignored my audience. My friends came and went during the private view, without my greetings. I failed to prepare for this show and so have been inconsistent, sometimes talking to people, sometimes not, sometimes writing down what people say, and when there are no people, such as in the cold light of the morning after the private view, there is only the most depressing space imaginable. Suddenly I feel exposed, and want to get away from people and from what I set up for myself for the public to pick at, without preparation.

Because I don't know what I'm doing, because I don't have any ideas, I should have put myself up as a material, to be used however members of the group envisioned it. I should have been used as a puppet, for the work, not the administration; the former could have been a success, though the latter could only have been a failure, because I'm not a professional.

TBC. Nice show. Sorry I spoiled it.




Monday, 25 October 2010

History

Empty streets suffer long holes in the road.
Like bombs dropped, constant alarm
Halts the one or two vehicles in the city.

Torn flags wave in the nauseous winds
While the lower castes take the prints of criminals.
Spendthrift generals pick the pockets of children
As roaming soldiers prepare new ground.

On Sundays, the banks close
And the churches throw open their doors
To catch all the shrapnel into town-planned tinkering
Pockets, passages, crevices and corners
With papers cracked over, reaching up in praise.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Dear Jonathan (Part II)

Married with FIVE children? Are you joking? How old are you, a year older than me? I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like had I stayed in the truth, and I shudder. I would have been a completely different person of course, with a different catalogue of experiences, so it is perhaps an unfair question, but I don’t know if I’d be happy. I think I am being true to myself now, and I can’t imagine being a father, especially not to FIVE children! How do you cope? How old are they all? What are their names?

Congratulations on your baptism. I’m happy that you have found something real in your faith and taken that step. Did something happen that made Jehovah real to you, or was it just a question of time and conviction? My sister once told me a story of how a problem in her life, and its subsequent resolution, made Jehovah real to her, and she has never looked back, so I can completely understand how that can be the case.

You must lead a busy life, being father to – I have a lump in my throat – FIVE children, at the age of 29, working full-time to support them and reserving enough energy to be a father to them all individually and as a collective, and be a husband and baptised brother. I admire you greatly, particularly as you say you are happy. I would, if I was in your shoes, be too tired to be happy!

Again, it means a lot to know that you are praying for me. I still see myself as being one of God’s children. I feel that I have been given a role that only I can fulfil, and that role lies outside the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, at least for now. I have no idea what the future holds, but perhaps my knowledge and experience, having known the world from within and without the organisation, will one day come to some use. That is all any artist or writer would want – for their toil to have a lasting impact, and their suffering to have been for some good. So, you don’t need to worry about this little sheep being away from the fold; I’m quite safe here, and I’m sure we’ll see each other again.

Kindest regards,

Paul

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Dear Jonathan


Dear Jonathan,

How are you? It has been a long time, indeed. I’m touched that you thought of me and took the time to write such a heartfelt message. Only you and my brother have ever done so.

So what’s going on? Are you married? Kids? How are your family? What do you do for a job? Are you baptised now?

I’m struggling along in London as an artist and writer. I have my first exhibition at the end of this month and a second following quickly after, so I’m very busy – and stressed – at the moment. I’ve had small pieces of writing published here and there but, like most people, I’m still waiting for something real to happen. I’ve been here for six years now and can’t imagine living in another city.

I live with, amongst others, a girl from my year at high school, who is also an artist. We produce a magazine of contemporary art, for which I am the editor. Busy, busy, busy.

I have been through some bad times since I left the truth ten years ago, and wallowed in dreadful emotions that I still feel twinges of now and then, even today. Nobody’s life is perfect, or totally happy, but I do genuinely feel that I am being true to myself and leading the only possible life I can lead. Of course I can see the world for what it is – the very streets of London manifest the declining apocalyptic world painted in prophecy – and I’m sure that something will happen soon. Trust that I am not simply pretending that nothing is happening; I just feel that my time now is best spent outside of Jehovah’s organisation, knowing both good and bad, just as Christ did.

I know that you will think I'm just brushing you off and making excuses. Jehovah's people gave me my education, which has gone on to inform and ask questions of everything I have subsequently thought or acted upon. Thank you for reminding me of what I should be thinking about, however. ‘You are still my brother, and I love you’ is what my sister Sarah said to me once, and I repeat that to you now.

Best wishes,

Paul

Friday, 8 October 2010

Evisceration


Evisceration I (2010)

Home is where the red hat is.
My open wounds exposed, I cower and recoil
Deeper, into my own room, in which
The big-boned boy jumps and kicks…
And his sister screams and hollers, little bitch.

Evisceration, II (2008-10)

Foaming your hair and eating clementine segments, 
Looking out of a window on a train, 
At a desk, with cigarette and pencil,
In bed; how your morning attitude has changed!
Giving good look, over a balcony, running in plimsolls
With your goofy smile, we all began to die.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Work In Progress: Paul Mendez


The presence of drawing in Paul Mendez’ work centres around, firstly, the opportunistic entrapment of floating words and phrases onto paper, that exist individually as statements or coagulate to form prose, and secondly, the exploration of thoughts and ideas that may be expressed in a manner liminal to both words and images. In the former, Mendez’ biographical writings form the basis of a ‘word bin’ from which various phrases and scenes are extracted and spliced together, adapting William Burroughs’ ‘cut-up’ technique, and in the latter, statements are reduced to lines on a grid, that question how beauty translates across art forms.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Means To An End

Credit: ESA / V. Beckmann (NASA-GSFC)

An artist's depiction of the accretion of a thick ring of dust into a supermassive black hole. The accretion produces jets of gamma rays and X-rays.
A track that really sounds, for at least a few bars, like you are disappearing through a black hole in which nothing exists except you, it and the aggregate visuals of your past lives, is the soundcheck of Joy Division’s 'A Means To An End' from Disc Two of the 2007 reissue of Still.

Soundtracking the nauseous lurchings of the solar plexus as the body skirts closer to death, it is the music of Dante's Divine Comedy, and Rodin's The Gates of Hell, but can only be heard in The Thinker's area of the sublime. Hence, I don’t know whether I am ascending or descending. It feels like those nervous moments on a plane where the sound of the engines suddenly ceases and the plane itself seems to drift. The instruments themselves fade in and out of the track. At the beginning of the first chorus, there is no bass nor much of a lead guitar, only drums, heavy and bassy themselves, and yet there is still an exquisitely restrained atmosphere as if all the instruments are being thrashed with great intensity, but with headphones plugged in.  The atmosphere is black, like the dead-air-space coined by Radiohead, but nacreous gases in pink, blue and purple are rising, slowly, with only the merest hints of pale yellow and green. And then bang!  The descending bassline crashes through the ground with the drums in perfect harmony like two malign lovers skydiving; the lead guitar follows like the ephemera from the mid-air collision, the blast illuminating the night sky as I tumble irredeemably through the booming black hole, fearless and ecstatic, with the chemistry between the instruments, just drums, lead guitar and bass, the bass pervasive like nothing else in Joy Division, and slightly off-key, manifesting the beauty and power of that which I had never understood. Here, sound is superior to vision; I can only see the sinews of strumming forearms in hell as they almost burst.  I knew I shouldn’t bother to try critiquing anything so sacred, but it’s not a critique, merely a visualisation. 

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Sleeping Man (After Exposed)

Men, I watch the reflection of as I look into glass-fronted pictures at art exhibitions.

Men, I am too shy to openly direct my attentions toward. Sexual tensions are only a moment in manifestation, before repression wells up inside like a marshmallow monster.

As I walked through the exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera, I remembered all the times I watched someone in their bathroom behind a frosted or distorted glass window, or someone watching someone else, ignorant of himself in turn being watched, or hesitated when walking by a slightly-ajar door to capture the shapes and shadows within, or looked out of my window and seen a man sitting topless at his desk in an apartment below and opposite, and waited and watched until he stood up and demonstrated his pink, fleshy nakedness. I remembered the reflection in a puddle on the floor of a man masturbating his beautiful cock in the cubicle next to me at Birmingham New Street station. Fear and shame precluded me from action, but now I realise that post-exposure, where no glory hole can be found, a little strategically directed piss on the floor can facilitate the desire of a man, above all, to be objectified, sexualised, worshipped, fucked.

Pre- the World Wide Web, men have not been used to being objectified, perhaps since the Romans, and still aren’t, save for a minority of top-shelf magazines.

In the early days of candid photography, people were so much more innocent. In the main, they couldn’t afford a studio photographer’s portrait services, and didn’t know how to act or pose; there was less access to cinema and imagery to teach people how to make clichés of themselves. Subjects were freer, and must have found the interest of a man with a camera as a special honour rather than an intrusion.

In this democracy, in which we all possess cinematic, literary, visual, musical and voyeuristic minds, we all know how to be watched. I long to return to the era before twenty-four-hour, multi-channel TV and movies-on-demand, YouTube and Big Brother, before everyone stopped pretending and posing like their favourite star, being instead themselves, quite deserving the fifteen minutes of fame (they were denied for being ordinary and uninteresting) for being unique and expressive, and human.

I watch men on tube trains and buses, ordinary men whom no one else would afford more than a glance (or so I thought; various of my friends share the same nondescript tastes). I look, awaken him to my attention, and he looks back, but catches himself, and looks away. Yet his body language orients him towards me; he even steps nearer, and on a packed bus, stands in front and adjacent, and close to my knee, the very leg hairs within my jeans standing up to reach out to his. He opens up his body by holding onto the ceiling rails on both sides. A girl in front accidentally knocks into him with her backpack. They smile at each other politely, but for a split-second longer than necessary. The hard-on I gave him is now directed into her. 

Ignoring him therein, I don’t even look up until I notice that he has alighted the bus. But now there is another man, who is yet to realise and maybe never will, that while he looks all around for women to fuck, I’m the one who’ll suck.

Less aware than the previous guy, I consider him in profile, the slightly flat back of his head suggesting an Eastern European regionality. He is thick-set and physical, and slightly dusty, a workman, maybe a builder. His beautiful nose is a perfect length and width, curving slightly outwards in the middle and ending in a curt, soft stub, implying a taut, hard cock. I tell myself to engage him in conversation, find out what makes him smile, what makes him happy; look into his eyes and see how comfortable he is, and how long it takes him to nestle into the cradle of my gaze; taste his mouth, embrace him and teach him how to drink me in. I keep it in my head. I want to know what his ass is like, open. He glances at me for the first time, and when the seat next to me becomes vacant, sits down. He smokes. I can smell it on him. I lose the idea of him.

One of the most memorable images in the Exposed show is of a female photographer cowering with one hand yet holding out her camera with the other to capture a monstrous Jack Nicholson attacking her with a golf club. I would hate to put myself at that level of risk just to take a picture, but do know what it is to be surreptitious, and have the heart race, and the palms sweat.

I was recently sent on a press trip to Hamburg, where I indulged myself in the wall-to-wall sex on offer with careless abandon (not that careless, I was safe). My holiday (how can they send a man like me on a press trip to Hamburg during Pride and expect me to be a well-behaved ambassador?) began the moment I stepped onto the Piccadilly Line, threw down my weekend bag in the luggage recess and sat down next to it, diagonally opposite a beautiful older man, again thick-set and potent-looking, with the neck of a bear and forearms like hams-on-the-bone, and massive thighs, between which sat, seemingly breathing and pulsing independently from the rest of his body, an enormous packet.

Moreover, he was asleep, or rather snoozing, in the manner we all occasionally find ourselves doing, in the middle of the day, waking up at each stop to assure ourselves that we haven’t passed irredeemably into some strange other dimension courtesy of our sketchy daydreams, before powerlessly nodding back into semi-oblivion. It afforded me the opportunity to watch him from behind my slightly tinted Cazals, without any fear of being noticed. I couldn’t help but seize upon a further opportunity.
Man on the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow Terminals 4 and 1,2,3
A few months earlier, I was on an N29 night bus back home from Soho, sitting in the one of the four facing seats at the front, opposite a foreign man of indeterminate nationality, maybe Albanian, and an old Chinawoman. The man, dressed sloppily in regular-fit jeans and a tight T-shirt not quite long enough to cover his moderately hairy paunch, appeared terribly drunk, like a cartoon character burping intoxicated bubbles. He looked upon the vex-faced Chinawoman as if she were the object of his sexual desire, vaguely and longingly. Across in the other set of facing seats were two bare-legged chav-girls coming home from a night dancing, wearing cheap platform heels and very short, butt-skimming dresses, seemingly teasing the Albanian – who clumsily flitted his attentions between the tense old Chinawoman and the two girls – by opening and closing their legs subtly, as if to gently spray the perfume of their pussies in his direction (à la Glade plug-ins). So keen was he to see the source of this reference, up one of the girls’ skirts, that he leaned out into the aisle just as the bus turned a corner, sending him crashing out of his seat with a cushioned thud (courtesy of his meaty right shoulder) that almost sobered him up, but not quite. Like an old man holding back a heart attack, he clambered red-faced into his seat, folded his arms, nestled his ass, and fell asleep, as if nothing had happened.

Very soon the old Chinawoman got up, and got off the bus. Appearing for that moment almost completely sober, he shifted across and took her place opposite me, and fell asleep again. Immediately I noticed – why hadn’t I before? – the great lump in his trousers, an apparent semi-erection curving down between his legs, and pulsing. I appraised my current situation, sat on a bus with earphones in, listening to New Order on my iPhone (and therefore blocking out the drunken reveries that resonate like every bar and club you’d never be caught dead in, in one enclosed space), sitting opposite a man whose knee is touching mine, his legs apart, revealing a tanned slice of beer belly and a swollen cock barely restrained in the worn fabric of his jeans. My iPhone has a camera, and with my earphones in, I can pretend to be scrolling through iTunes while I capture the monster within:
Man on the N29
Man on the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow Terminals 4 and 1,2,3 (2)
Having achieved this, it was still with the tension of a thief that I took out my iPhone and blatantly shot twenty-nine frames and four video clips of the man on the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow Terminals 4, and 1,2,3, even in the moments he sat awake, and shifted position, his heavy cock and balls apparently the immovable pivot around which the rest of his beefy body rotated. All along I feared being whistle-blown by an outraged fellow passenger, but I was allowed to steal freely. I shot him as he slept, as he woke, as he shifted forwards, as he opened and closed his legs, as he listened out for information when we were held at Hounslow, as he scratched himself.

Like a man from times they talk about when men were really men, his heftiness implied the presence of a labourer, although polished and ready to travel. It was then that I noticed he was wearing a beautiful watch, and had a copy of The Times folded up in a side pocket of his outdoor-purpose backpack. As much as I believe in a ‘working-class intelligentsia’ (thank you, Dr. Jim), I have not spotted any builders reading quality dailies. This was a refined, cultured, silver daddy of a man, with the masculinity of a bull, i.e. the man of my dreams, and much as I had to steal from him, he’s now mine forever.

Delineation: Words in Progress

When I was a child I was scared of washing machines. I couldn't walk past one for fear that I would be sucked in by it. My paternal grandmother's house was the worst, because the living room could only be accessed via the small kitchen, in which there was a narrow gap between the dining table and the washing machine. One day, when I was four, I arrived there with my dad, and the washing machine was on spin. I was holding his hand, and as he proceeded through the kitchen, I froze and dug my heels into the floor. He laughed and made fun of me out of embarrassment, and took my hand. I screamed. I would not walk past that washing machine. He picked me up and put me high on his shoulder, and took me through to the living room. I subsequently rationalised the fact that if the washing machine wasn't able to swallow my six-foot-tall father, and I was on his shoulder, then I was safe.


I'm at a time when I'm not able to write much creatively. I don't know why, and I shouldn't just accept it, but even after ten years of experimenting as a self-identified writer, fear of a blank page still seizes me in that same way. I don't know what I am going to say, or how it will come out, if indeed anything will come out at all. The longer I leave it, the more difficult it gets. Starting on a blank page, in the case of writing or drawing, is like facing a black hole, or, for a four-year-old with a spectacular imagination who perhaps hasn't watched enough TV, a banal household appliance. To use an unavoidable chiché (I can't be arsed to try to come up with anything more eloquent), it is a step into the unknown. Only when you pick up the pen, pencil or pastel, or strike the keys on the laptop, will you write or draw.


Sometimes, though, you need a pick-up. Sometimes you need an authority figure to rationalise your delusions and demonstrate that everything will be okay, someone who will click their fingers metaphorically and bring you back to reality. The washing machine is not a black hole that will spin out of control and swallow up the world within its wet cotton folds. The blank page is not going to jump up in your face and suffocate you. 


From an irrational fear, washing machines soon became an obsession. I was the weird six-year old actually sitting on the kitchen floor amongst a five-person family's piles of dirty laundry, watching the drum go round one way a few revolutions and back round the other, sounding like a generator in a sci-fi film, the warm water lapping up against the concave window.  I sat smelling the smells of the kitchen, dominated by the unreachable dirt between the washing machine and the kitchen carcass, and the congealed fat in the fryer. The drum of the washing machine reminded me of my other obsession - cars. I would be pressed up against the rear window, watching faster cars swoosh past my dad's beige Cortina. I loved wet roads, when the cars overtaking us looked particularly dynamic, their wheels gliding through planes of water, spraying it up like a thumb over a hosepipe. Like the drum of a washing machine on spin.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Writing Wrongs (Black Bottom)

I wish.
Excuse the pun, but what a life I lead. Writer, artist, art critic, curator, project manager, literary editor, fundraiser, waiter, barista, escort.


Yes. I do all of that, and then proceed to sell my dick. Isn’t that incredible? Does anyone else out there have quite that range of experience?


All of which, allied to my grasp of the English language, should make me a great writer, but at the moment, I am producing the goods only occasionally. I don’t know why. When I tell people stories they question how I could possibly ever suffer from writers’ block. I am seeing PL, PJ and GDN, all whilst trying to engage the establishment in important art/social projects for London.


Maybe it is just laziness. I sit at my keyboard at 0055 with my eyes glazed over, knowing that I will not complete 1,000 words. Maybe I don’t write at the right times of day. Maybe I don’t give myself enough credit for the work that I do. Maybe I don’t want to do this. Maybe I think I should, but really, actually can’t.


I just fucked someone for £150, and there was even talk of running along to the next guy in the same evening for another £100. Even at the height of my renting, when I was 22, I refused to see more than one client per day. The one time I did was almost completely disastrous.


There is something extraordinary about me and about what I do but for me it is totally uninspiring. Maybe that’s why I cannot write about it. I hate that I have to do it, never mind have to then relive it and make it sound beautiful. Perhaps it is the job of someone else, to write about it, to dream of it. Perhaps it is the job of someone who could never do it, to dream of it, be shocked by it, and appraise or judge it.


It’s even more boring that I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and was personally devout. I took it upon myself to attend meetings when my parents had let their heads drop. I took it upon myself to work as an auxiliary pioneer, engaging in door-to-door service for sixty hours in the month of August during the summer holidays. I even took the lead in services, as the only baptised brother. That was one of the best times of my life.


Six years later, lying in squalor with my mouth fused shut from neglect, I wondered how I had got to that point when, stoned out of my head, I had allowed a stranger to ride me, take the condom off then ride me some more, before scratching a two-inch wound inside me with his cum-dipped middle finger as I wanked myself to completion.


I hate that I have to sell myself, but as time goes by I realise that some form of slavery will never be far away from me. I must be the only writer in the world for whom it is more natural to sell their body than their words. Even the project management work I do is unpaid, which is why I have to hold on to the clients who want my dick. Being top with a big, black dick is an amazing thing, but I’d rather be a bottom with a big, black American Express.


But while I stay slim and healthy, there will never be a shortage of middle-aged white men opening up their pink arseholes for me. And I shall never tire of it. I don’t have to talk; I barely even have to smile. Either can be detrimental to the level of devastation. Talking can force one to talk too much in the vain hope of reclaiming the sublime power one held naturally when one went about one’s life unconscious of being observed by the awestruck other. I don’t want to talk, but just to fuck. Talking and sex are mutually exclusive, and should never be combined. I don’t even want a big man to talk dirty to me. I’m the top, and you can just shut the fuck up. Smiling makes people think I’m just another cute little black bottom, and destroys their self-worth when I refuse to be fucked and flip them over. I just want to get my cock out. It’s big - not that big - but big enough on my small frame to cause jaws to routinely drop.


One day, nobody will want me for those reasons any more, and I will be forced to push through as a writer, as no one will even want me as a bottom, and there will be no easy option left, unless, as has happened with the bears over the last few years, the masculine ideal becomes that of the middle-aged black man, which is unlikely, to say the least.


I’ve had, and get, more sex than anyone, but it is never enough. I think I’m becoming cold, as when I try to imagine it, even the idea of being cuddled up tight within a strong man’s arms, nestled in the cleft of his beefy, hairy chest, fails to stir me. The more I think about it, the more I would rather be alone. I don’t want to wake up next to someone breathing sourly over me. I don’t want to have to fight over the folds of my linen. I want to fart and wake up in the middle of the night and jack off without waking or offending anyone. If I do have sex with someone I want him to fuck off straight back to his own bed as soon as we’re done. And don’t even dare try and push your dirty dick into my mouth in the morning.


For the time being, this will be my life, working hard, coming up with ambitious ideas and achieving their realisation, for free and so for no respect, as I write myself to sleep at night, having compromised my genital health in the living rectum of some middle-aged tosser with more money than problems. If it keeps me young, so be it.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The Thirteenth

THE SIXTH

It is a truly beautiful morning. It was a little foggy earlier but it seemed to clear in an instant, leaving beautiful sunshine, the faintest of breezes and a clear sky, such that even I can sit outside and write in a T-shirt.

The birds are singing as if never before, with the joy of the spring atmosphere. This is one of their busiest times of year; it is like an annual festival, and one, furthermore, in which there is good weather.

It is strange, because here, eight-hundred metres above sea level, some of the trees are yet even to bud, whereas lower in the valleys, as everywhere else, one would think it was mid-June, everything is so green. Apparently today and tomorrow are going to be the hottest days, so we must appreciate them while we can.

The mornings here will be a time to steal alone, to reflect, to wonder, to watch and describe. I wish I knew the names of all the birds and their songs. There are cows in a field in the distance, and in some of the fields, the dandelions are so pervasive as to resemble rape.

The sky is a pale blue, illuminated by the sun. But that is the colour it appears when I wear my shades, which are hardly rose-tinted. When I look above the rim of the lens the colours are much more vivid. The sky approaches a rich blue turquoise; the tulips turn from burnt orange to scarlet. Just to confuse me, Jim adds some Indian sitar music. This isn’t the France of Chopin or Berlioz, or even Boulez.

I don’t know how I feel about being here. I don’t know even if I should think. I feel that I should just relax and enjoy the clean air, and Jim’s company, and that of all the villagers and farmers. I feel that I should work, but would that not be a shame? I feel that I should write about how I feel, but I do that all the time, and that wouldn’t constitute a holiday of the mind.

The only thing that is annoying me at the moment is my runny nose. ‘Chase after it then,’ my father used to joke.

Jim and I talked about our childhoods last night. He asked me if I thought my parents love me. That is a difficult question to answer; if I put it to them they would put themselves utterly on the defensive. I should assume then that they don’t, but surely, they must? If they had an opportunity to save my life, of course they would, but they would do that for anyone. But would the notion of being in power once more over my life delay their decision for that split second during which I fall irredeemably into the abyss? My mother, particularly, would fall victim to that vindictiveness, like Lot’s wife.

I would compare my father to Lot. His heart is in the right place and I’m sure he is a wonderful man, but he is held back tragically by his wife. Hopefully he will keep his eyes on the road, so to speak, and not look back when she fails.

I am sitting with the sun shining on my left cheek, quite warmly indeed, but the breeze has picked up sufficiently as to make a cardigan necessary. The Indian sitar music is wonderfully gentle, soothing and unintrusive. I should begin purchasing ambient music such as this for my own home environment. It looks likely that I will stay in Whetstone for at least the rest of the summer, hopefully punctuated by a couple of nights in Covent Garden, but I don’t mind that. The sofa is going, I am selling all my junk and if I create a pleasing ambience such as I am experiencing right now, in my bedroom, then all will be well.

I’m not particularly a comfort and luxury person. If I find myself in the lap of luxury I somehow feel guilty, and cannot really relax or spend a great deal of time. I never feel, anyway, that I have achieved total relaxation. Perhaps that will be a good reason to take up yoga again. Even taking a hot bath, that most traditionally relaxing of pastimes, leaves me cold, literally and figuratively. It is as important, I’m sure, to know when and how to relax as it is to be organised and to work hard. I’m feeling a little hungry. What I’d give for some brioche and jam; but I’ll have a milky coffee instead, I won’t want to ruin lunch, it’s already 11am.

I always refer to it as being like a fan, that when switched off, continues for a few moments to whirr, and that when switched on again, reacts somewhat lazily before getting back to full speed, when trying to describe my reaction upon being displaced from London to Garde, and back again. For the first day or two I am still in my struggling, surviving, serious London guise; and for the first day or two back in London, I am relaxed and languid, when I really should be hitting the ground running.

I have nothing else to say for the time being – well, of course, I have a lot to say, but this isn’t the place. Later on we will have lunch and then go back into the garden to do some work, continuing the weeding and the cleaning of the flowerbeds. It is work that I like to do, small and intricate rather than heavy and taxing. The breeze has picked up quite considerably in the last few minutes, and the sitar music has finished. No matter; it will be useful when we are hot from gardening work later. The few clouds in the sky are passing, and there is little to come other than a few little scrappy slips on the horizon.

THE SEVENTH

It’s raining, persistently. Today was meant to be the best day of the week, the hottest, the sunniest. I’ll be damned if I’m going out there to weed on my knees.

It’s amazing how ridiculous it is, the ideas of, first of all, gardening in the rain, and secondly, writing whilst on holiday. If this were not my profession, then I would have to write, because I would not in my normal time have the time to. However, in my normal time, I have the time to write 10,000 words if I am efficient enough, so on holiday, what does a writer do?

I shall do the washing up, la vaiselle, in a second. It’s amazing how similar the French word for ‘washing up’ is to my mother’s maiden name. The sun is out again, so there should be a rainbow, shortly.

Jim has made the house look very pretty. He has bought a huge bunch of rosemary in and put it atop the wood next to the fire, which he has let die prematurely, as the weather has turned. It may have been very hot the last couple of days, but as we are seeing, the weather can turn at any time.

The cat is completely ignoring me, possibly as I haven’t fed her the entire time I’ve been here. Now that we’ve both come indoors (Jim sounds as if he’s just sat in front of his computer upstairs) the rain sounds as if it’s done, and a certain sunny brightness is coming in through the windows and door. As I’ve been using his computer, with its French keyboard, I’m now getting slightly confused using my own. French keyboards are weird, you need to press shift for full stops and commas and numbers and everything, and it’s AZERTY instead of QWERTY, but German keyboards are even worse.

The pussy is licking her pussy. Absolutely no manners.

I had, just before lunch, been reading a little bit about Caravaggio, particularly the paintings, ‘Sick Bacchus’, ‘Boy With a Basket of Fruit’ and ‘The Cardsharps’. I don’t know what I’m going to do with the information I glean but it seems necessary. I’m making a lot of mistakes with my keyboard now, particularly with full-stops.

It has become strange that my own so-called ‘boyfriend’ actually wants to fuck me. He even did, two nights ago. It felt very strange for a couple of days, such that had we Internet access, I probably would have written about it on Facebook. He doesn’t have a particularly big dick so it was nothing for him to fuck me; it was only a bonus that we had poppers handy, although I’ve been farting like a cow ever since.

Now that we’ve both come indoors, it’s stopped raining, as could have been predicted. I can’t believe I’ve learned so quickly the French keyboard skill of shift>full-stop, when French itself proves to be so elusive. I’m quite sure that other languages will come to me before French, so perhaps I should turn my back on it in favour of German, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, before coming back to French. It would help if my so-called boyfriend would actually speak to me in French, but he’s being terribly selfish, claiming it to be a release for him to speak English. I guess he’s not a teacher, and so I cannot expect to rely on him.

Maybe I should learn German first, and go to Vienna and Berlin. 666 words. How many more signs do I need that I have the devil’s energy? That’s three times now that I’ve landed on that number. It’s never 665 or 667, always 666. What does it mean anyway? Isn’t it just a superficial human invention? I think that this is the key for this trip, to try to spout out a thousand words a day, which is easily done. Speaking of which, I had a dream involving Leona Lewis last night, incorporating an interview, and she was very pompous, but I claimed that she was allowed to, because she was a real lady, although she looked a right chav, with her Sweater Shop sweater, cheap perfume, lank hair and Argos 9ct-gold neck-chain, with – I don’t remember quite – a bear or a love heart pendant. Gross.

I used to yearn to look like those girls, as much as I yearned to look like the boys, with their adidas hoodies and Kickers. School was magnificently shit; the only lasting, good thing to come out of it is Beverley Bennett. What a cool name she has always had, and has; I can’t imagine why she would want to ruin it with the insertion of a ‘J’.

I suppose that is the reason I want to change my own name – although, in my defence, it isn’t a change; I have merely dropped my surname in favour of the promotion of my second Christian, a very Christian, Catholic even, name – we all want to sound different, i.e. better, than we actually are. The names we have been given by our parents, indeed our slave masters in mine and Beverley’s cases, we have been called for the last twenty-seven years, and we want to get away from the mediocrity that has otherwise characterised that period. We want to be called what we want to be called; we want to move on and become something new, but it would be a terrible contrivance to commit ourselves to wholesale change. We are neither Lady GaGa (Stefani Germanotta) nor Elton John (Reginald Dwight), nor do we purport to be. PAUL JOHN and Beverley Bennett. We are what we are.

THE NINTH

If I had a car now, I would drive myself away.
If I had a rope…

I won’t even attempt poetry, but there has to be a way of saying how I feel right now, and that I seem to feel every time I come here, within several days of being here. The fact I am leaving in two days makes my departure, and the chance to be away from him, tantalisingly close, but yet so far away. I still have to negotiate today, and we have a long social day tomorrow with four other guests, only one of whom speaks any English. I guess she’s about to become my new best friend. Or I could order for it to be cancelled altogether.

I’m out. I decided that when he called me a moron and an idiot and tried to fuck me, just because I asked him to brush his teeth and turn off the music because I wanted to go to sleep. When he once again tried to force his hand down my pants I asked him to stop. Of his own accord he went and slept in the other room. This morning, he’s behaving as if I’m the one who has done wrong. He was blind drunk, and I wasn’t going to let him fuck me, again.

I don’t know why I haven’t plucked up the courage to do so before, but I have to leave this man. He normally treats me well but now the negatives are outweighing the positives. We all have problems with our loved ones – I seem to have them more often than most – but we seem to have run-ins more often than most. The saving grace of our relationship has been his structure of living, i.e., he comes to London for ten days and goes back to France for four or five weeks. Every time I come here, whether for five days or a month, at some stage I begin to feel trapped and worry whether I will ever get home alive. I’m sure he’ll be nice to me before the day is out and my mood will change again, or I’ll simply back down and apologise for what little role I had in last night’s fallout. Of course that is exactly what he is waiting for me to do as a means of exerting his power over me. I only care because, on Monday morning, I will need a lift to the station.

I had a very strange waking dream, that there were a hundred or so of us collected in a room for a Jehovah’s Witness-style assembly, that included Beverley Bennett, some of her friends, and some other boys. During the break we went for coffee in various places. Afterwards we ended up dancing, in our shirts and dresses, in someone’s house, posing for photographs. I seemed to be terribly happy. My grandfather (dead since November 2002) then announced the results of a raffle, of which the top prize was £200,000, a relatively life-changing amount of money. He opened the envelope, and with the smile disappearing from his face, called out, ‘Paul John’. The result was met with whispering and muted applause, while I clasped my mouth with joy and the realisation that finally, my life would change for the better – I began to think of all the things I could do with the money, while everyone else in the room looked accusingly on. Finally, my grandfather approached me and said, ‘Paul, did you fix this?’ before I put him supine and said, ‘Just because I’ve come from this stupid family doesn’t mean I’ve tried to fix the result. How dare you accuse me. Fuck you! Fuck you!’ I said so as forcefully as to essentially fuck the life out of him. But he knew, and I knew, and everyone else knew, that one day I stole from my mother, and so was capable of anything. I counted my winnings. They amounted to £200.

I stole £20 from my mother. £200 is what I’d until recently been making every week out of D.K. in exchange for my dick, and has been my average weekly wage even in legitimate work, for the last several years – I’ve never been able to break out of that bracket. £200,000 – even £20,000, would change that forever, I would make sure of it. My grandfather, mostly indifferent in life, has become my moral accuser in death. The last thing he said to me while alive and well, as far as we were concerned, for he by this time must already have known he was dying, was, ‘Where is your respect?’

As far as the Jehovah’s Witness assembly is concerned, such situations are ubiquitous in my dreams, due to guilt and the idea that I am missing in action, unaccountably, and have been so for approaching ten years. Kath Tutton bent down to kiss me from a greater height than ever, and I couldn’t manage to congratulate one speaker, who performed bare chested and as sinewy as Brad Pitt in Fight Club, but with an ugly brace in his mouth, as he was inundated with fans and was turning this way and that, always eluding me.

Now that I have decided to break up with Jim I can simply put myself back on the game and see if I can make any money out of it. I doubt it; I’m getting on a bit, after all, but I must at least try. I will need D.K. to be with me for the next few weeks. I need to explore every avenue in order to make money. I need to be able to stand on my own two feet. I can’t keep on having to rely on belligerent individuals with only their own best interests at heart. I need a cigarette, and have run out of tobacco. I need to become a hustler, like Jay Z was. At least I’ve proved I can be fucked.

THE ELEVENTH

Stress. I can’t wait to get home, and it’s been a long time since I said that. I hate Gare du Nord at the best of times, but today, it was full of Gypsies and beggars and I was convinced I was about to be robbed. One shouldn’t have to be so concerned with other people.

I am daring for writing to lift me out of my ennui and make me feel better. I have to change everything, still, although I’m aware these things don’t happen overnight. At least I have changed my writing habits, for the better. Hopefully the rest will follow, but I find myself as penniless as ever. Jim has to go. I have to start making my own money. I have to get published. I have to be better organised. I have to take better care of myself. I am important – I can’t just give myself to everybody. I have to finish something.

I know I have a little infection in my dick, and I definitely have anal warts. These little niggles, for all I know, may be aligned with something bigger, and worse, their presence has coincided with a marked change in my relations with Jim. After a year and a half, almost, we finally had some meaningful sex – in fact, for the first few days of my stay, he was virtually chasing my ass around the house. I came in his mouth. He spat it straight back out but he won’t let me hear the end of it if I’ve given him something unsavoury.

I have to face up to everything I’ve done, everything, no matter how far back in the past, otherwise I will never be rid of this sick feeling of guilt. I love what I could be, but hate myself. I have so many complexes; how do I turn them into positive destructives? Now I’ve got my computer out, I want to go to sleep.