Ramblings: February Reflections

I find that the beginning of each new year is usually a time for reflection on my life, for some changes and also a time to relax a little and think about what I want to accomplish over the rest of the year. 2012 was an interesting year in terms of change and life in general and in a way I want to continue along that route, pinpointing the issues that tend to bother me and get rid of them for good, while at the same time focusing on the things that make me, and others happy. Of course there are moments when I feel like I am doing everything wrong, moments where I feel like I am a failure at everything, as well as moments when I just want to give up and go and live somewhere else away from everything. There are also moments when I feel like everything is worth it, and there is no place better to live than where I live now.

I feel like I am finally miles away from all of the gossip mongers that tend to be in any place that you live. People who spend their lives talking about other people, deforming stories and passing them along, just because they don’t know how to stop and focus on their own lives. I hear snippets of things here and there, random stories that I supposedly told someone else (how I wonder, seeing as I haven’t spoken to said people in well over six months), but I have decided that there was a reason that I moved on from all of that and decided to remove myself from it all, for better or for worse. Nowadays it doesn’t hurt me as much as it used to, because I am surrounded by people who really care about me and my well-being, as much as I care about them and theirs.

Sometimes in life you spend a lot of time with a certain person, and think that they will always be there for you, as much as you have been there for them. This person will be the first person you call to tell good or bad news to, the one who will answer your text at 5am when you are suffering from insomnia and need a friendly ear to listen to you. This is the person who you will pick up every time they fall down, even when you are tired of doing it and wish that it was the other way round for once. But you continue to do it because one day you know that it WILL be the other way round. Or so you think… Sometimes that person decides that they don’t have the time or the energy to help you. However painful that may seem at the time, in the long run it is all for the better. At least you are now aware of the one-sidedness of your relationship, and in the end, you are better off without this person in your life. It gets easier, and honestly your life takes a turn for the better. I feel lighter and happier nowadays. I’m not worried about that other person’s mood swings or anger or happiness anymore.

Hmmm… I don’t really want to finish that last paragraph anymore, as I started it last week and things have changed again. Yet another sign of how life can often surprise you, especially when you think a certain part of your life has gone forever, it pops back up and decides to give it another chance. We will see how things pan out in the long run, but in the meantime I am putting all reflection on hold so that I can see it with an open mind instead of being bogged down with past feelings of hurt and anger and betrayal as well as nostalgia and memories. Maybe that’s a sign of growing up (finally) – the ability to be able to forgive and move on and not to just cut someone out of your life for once and for all. Although I have to say, it doesn’t work with everyone. Some of the people I have cut out are never coming back in, and that is just so much better that way!

I’ve now been living in Bushwick for 5 years and in New York for nearly 8. Our landlords decided to raise our rent $250 this year, and although I feel like the raise is extortionate, it’s still going to be less than what most people are paying in this neighbourhood for the space and the amenities that we have. We were able to negotiate a complete revamp of the apartment (fixed windows, paint, bathroom regrout) and are staying another year here… I don’t want to move, and in any case, how would I ever be able to sign a lease nowadays with my credit as it is? I’m still not paying anywhere near as much as I paid when I lived in that tiny studio in the West Village, and this apartment feels like home. It’s also been incredible to see how the neighbourhood has changed over the past 5 years. Who would have thought that this quiet, not really very safe, area would become full of new buildings and interesting restaurants and bars. I never have to fight with cab drivers to get home anymore, and even more surprising, they actually know where my cross streets are without sighing and getting out a GPS or asking for play by play directions. This apartment feels like a home and looks like one. I couldn’t even imagine having to pack everything up into boxes and moving out now – so I suppose that means that I really have decided that New York is my home. As long as I balance it out with more travel and less time spent wishing I were elsewhere, I really don’t see myself moving to a different city or country anymore. 

Based on what an old (not anymore) friend told me via text message that bartending was cool when you were 20, not so much when you are 34, I should probably think about changing my line of work, but to be honest I’d rather not. In my opinion, living is about being happy and content in what you do, and my jobs make me feel happy. Maybe not the most mature of professions in some people’s eyes - but then again, what is? Are you all of a sudden supposed to remove all of your tattoos, put on a suit, stop having fun and do something boring for a living just because you hit the age of 35? I was pondering on that mean text message I received for a while, until one of my friends deleted it from my phone as there was no point in thinking about it anymore. I’m happy at work, and that’s the most important. Most days I come in with a smile. I am given different types of responsibility, now have some managing shifts at one job, and get to meet lots of interesting people (and many assholes too), and make new friends all of the time. What better job is there for a writer? I have enough material to write about for the rest of my life, and will continue to accumulate said material every day. Lesson learned – don’t read into hateful text messages that only contain a projection of the sender’s own life on your own. As long as you like what you do and you aren’t hurting anybody, there is no reason to feel like you are not living your life “properly”.

There has been so much good music released over the past few months, and I feel excited to see what else is to come this year. The new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album is epic (no surprise there), there is to be a new Suede out soon, a new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album, a new BRMC album, as well as many new bands that are right up my street. I need to start working on new playlists for the bar as well as for myself. And I need to make an effort to go to more shows again, starting with Knoxville Morning who will be playing at Mercury Lounge this coming Friday. I’m sure they are just as brilliant live as they are recorded. I have a pinboard above my desk where I stick notes of all new album releases, book releases and gallery exhibitions in an attempt to be on top of everything I want to do and see everything I want to do and see, but I’ve been too lazy recently. I feel like it’s time to go back into hermit mode for a while, finish off the pile of books that is growing by my bed, add to my poetry collection, finish off this newest collection of short stories and get some more photography collections together.

It smells like early Spring outside. I’m glad, as this winter has been a tough one again. Not really so much weather-wise, although it has been cold enough. For the second year in a row January and February have been plagued with the death of people close to me and of people close to people I know, and it just makes me really sad. I wanted to finish this piece of on a positive note, but I’m honestly finding it hard to be super joyful and happy at the moment. I think that all I can really say to this is that I need to keep reminding myself to always let people know how much I care about them, and to live life in a way that won’t lead me to regret too much along the way. Focus on accomplishing everything I want to accomplish, and help others feel happy with their lives too – that’s seems to be the most important take away from all this sadness and grief.

Ah Spring… I am really looking forward to feeling your warm sun on my face again!

For Mick

I wrote this piece a few weeks ago, just after the extremely untimely and heartbreaking death of a good friend of many of ours, Mick Baldwin.

For Mick
However much death you may or may not have experienced in your life, you never expect someone to die. You may be scared of losing your parents or grandparents or children or friends, but you never actually expect them to die. If a death happens it always comes as a shock, no matter how old or young the person is. One day a person is standing by your side, laughing at a silly joke you just made, and the next they are gone, lying in a coffin, their soul elsewhere, their physical presence gone from this world.

There I was, sitting on a beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica, enjoying the last full day of my holiday when I received two texts, both saying the same thing… “I’m sorry to send you this on your vacation, but Mick died in a car accident last night.” 


My immediate reaction was an inability to speak or to believe that it had actually happened. How could something so terrible occur while I was sitting in paradise? Why was I not next to my friends when they received the news so that we could all cry together? Why him and not one of the incredible amount of disgusting people who are still alive on this earth? How could someone who brought so many people together be removed from our lives in such a manner?

The past week has been surreal. I was unable and incapable of believing that someone so full of life and love could just disappear like that, one wrong turn and gone, leaving his family and large group of friends to grieve his passing. We had a benefit at the bar on Tuesday and the turnout was amazing – the place was crowded from 7pm until after closing, laughter and tears and music that Mick would have loved. A lot of drinking, many, many hugs, stories that made us laugh and cry at the same time, and a very generous amount of donations to help pay for funeral home costs in the US and travel back home to be buried in England. 

No. It still can’t be true.

I kept thinking he was going to pop into the bar on his bike and laugh at us all, and then join in the party. But then again, I think I wasn’t the only one who was thinking that. How could we have a party for him and him not be present for it? I’m sure he was there… Just not in the physical form.
There were so many times when Mick and I worked together that I wanted to shout at him. He never cleaned the bar properly or brought up ice and always forgot his phone after his shifts. The amount of times that me, or one of our other friends helped him close the bar after a shift was infuriating, but at the same time became a running joke between us. I could never stay irritated at him for more than five minutes because you just couldn’t. You just couldn’t stay angry at Mick – he would flash his cheeky grin, say something funny or silly and have you in fits of laughter. Ironically, he finished his last shift at the bar before leaving for his new job, and made a point of filling the ice for me so that I didn’t have to do it. And that one time made me forget the many, many other times he had forgotten to do it. 

When Mick moved upstate to his new job and home I didn’t remain as much in contact with him, which saddens me now. I missed our conversations about music and now always will. I’ll always imagine him making everyone in his new life happy and him continuing to make new friends and bringing them together with his old friends. That’s just what he did. 

There was a wake and memorial for Mick at the Bleecker Funeral Home on Thursday. Jamie and I went together, for mutual support and I am very glad we did. I wasn’t aware that it would be an open casket wake, something that I already have trouble dealing with, and am glad that one of our friends warned us before we went in. We sat in the seats by the casket, and watched the slide show of images that was showing on the screen. Carl did an amazing job with the play list as it was a perfect mix of songs that Mick loved and that also worked well with the setting and the occasion.

Yes. It finally appeared to be real.

The body in the casket was Mick, but not Mick at the same time. It was a copy of his physical form, without the life and party and happiness that embodied him. My legs wanted to get up and bolt out of the room and the place and run away somewhere where I could cry away from everyone, but my mind forced them to stay, and listen to the memorial and the wonderful and heartbreaking speeches given by his sister, family and close friends. Jo, Paul, Kenny and Carl were amazing in their words – they nailed Mick’s personality and love of life in the exact way that we all see and saw him. In the end it was hard to break myself away from the seat I was sitting on as there were tears and sadness, but ultimately a sense of peace in the room. 

I walked over to work with Jamie and Checho, feeling so sad and angry. However real it finally was, I still didn’t really want to believe it. Friends are not supposed to die – they are meant to grow old with you, so that you can all walk down the street with walking sticks together and drink Guinness in the pub whilst chatting about the good old days when Mick danced on the pole on the bar or when Jamie beat Paul at darts or when we were all out dancing until 8am. 

RIP Mick – you died too young but will be remembered forever in our lives.


For my Nana - an amazing woman

Last week was very happy/sad and emotional for me but uplifting at the same time. The sorrow I felt at losing one of my grandmothers was also countered by the happiness I felt to have had the chance to know and spend so much time with my Nana, who was such an amazing person and who lived such an amazing and full life. However close or far away I lived she was always there in my life, and always had something funny to say or do that would make me laugh until I cried. She had so many stories and anecdotes from days gone by, and I hope to be able to live such a full life as she did.

The service itself was simple and beautiful and I felt honoured to read a piece I had written for her during the service. Here is the piece I read, in honour of my wonderful Nana.

For Nana, the one and only little old crock

I talk to my father every day. I don't know where he is exactly but I know that he's around somewhere, listening to me, gently guiding me in certain directions. He has watched me make mistakes, fall down, pick myself up and carry on. He's also watched me succeed and make the right decisions. It's been 23 years since he left us, but there isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss him. Now Nana has gone to join him, and to join all of her husbands and boyfriends and sisters and friends who left us before she did. Whatever you may believe in, you know she is already sitting on a little throne-type chair somewhere, directing everyone and making everyone roll over with laughter at one of her jokes.

I'll always remember the time when I was a little child and wanted to send Nana a letter (even though she lived just a few doors down the street in Manton). If I remember correctly the postman thought it was funny that I had addressed the envelope "Nana Nicholls", that being because he knew her real name was Brenda, because he knew she lived down the street or because he just thought the name "Nana" was funny I will never know. But it's always been Nana. It did become "little old crock" at some point too, although I don't know if Louise or I started that one. Louise of course being the middle crock and me being the young crock. Although I'm not THAT young anymore.
I'm lucky. We are ALL lucky. Nana lived until she was 92 and we were all lucky enough to be part of her life and spend as much time with her when she was alive as we could. She was born in 1920! Lived through WW2, through the post war, past several husbands and still remained herself: funny, stubborn and classy. I have never known anyone (apart from my sister that is) who would make such a fuss about making sure her outfits were always matching. Even when we finally got her to wear trousers, she would only wear the posher type (unlike me, her granddaughter, who tended to run around in ripped jeans and holey jumpers). Even the orthopaedic shoes she had to wear after her operations had to be of the prettier kind! Nana wouldn't leave the house unless she felt good about the way she looked, and she always used to tell me that she didn't want to end up in hospital wearing holey underwear! She wore heels until she really couldn't anymore, and even then she kept them, you know, just in case she would be able to wear them again!

Nana never gave up, until she just couldn't fight anymore. I spent literally every summer and more at Nana and Auntie Louise's until I moved to NYC. At 80 she was getting on the bus to Stamford and Oakham, doing some shopping and going to the library. She loved to be surrounded by the people she cared about, and she had a heart big enough to still care about the people who didn't act as if they cared anymore. There were times when I would turn my back and she would climb up on chairs to clean the tops of the kitchen cupboards, just because she couldn't sit still. There was another time that she didn't want someone to see she was at home, so we both hid behind the couch when this person knocked on the door and were giggling like children. I tell you, never a boring day when you were around my Nana.

I’m sad because I know I will never see her again. I’m sad because I know I will never talk to her again. I’m sad because I will never be able to laugh at how she would take her hearing aid out when she didn’t want to listen to people talk anymore, and how, with her hearing aid, she would still have selective hearing. I’m sad because I will never see her beautiful little old lady face again, and I’m sad because I’ll never see that amazing person who was behind that little old lady face again. But I know that she wouldn’t want me to be sad. She wouldn’t want anyone to be sad. We should celebrate her life by remembering all of the wonderful times we had with her, by laughing out loud at inappropriate jokes and by remembering how fabulous Brenda May Ellis/Hughes/Nicholls/Beeby etc was. I know where I get my mischievous side from and I hope, just like Nana, that I never lose it.

Always tell those you love how much you love them, and always live your life in a way that you will never regret you didn’t do something because you were too scared to. And last of all, because all of you here today loved my Nana in some way or another, I love you too.

(To finish off, a phrase that she would say to me every so often when we watched Eastenders together):

"Oh yeah… You know the woman who played Pat in Eastenders? She’s a lesbian you know!"

So much ANGER

I’m just SO ANGRY at the moment. Small things that usually wouldn’t really bother me are throwing me into fits of intense irritation, things that would normally piss me off are making me scream with rage, and I don’t even want to think about what will happen if something or someone really tries to annoy me.
That person tapping their foot constantly in the seat behind me? I want to smash my fist into his/her face. The person sitting next to me in this coffee shop who keeps looking at my screen? I want to pour hot coffee over her head. The cab driver who tried to run me over last night? I wanted to chase after him with a baseball bat and smash all the windows in his cab. That obnoxious car alarm that keeps going off under my apartment window? I want to open my window and scream obscenities until it stops. I stomp down the streets hoping that some kind of physical activity will help release some steam, but it doesn’t. I try to put my usual happiness-inducing playlists on my iPod and think of better places, but that doesn’t help either. I try to leave the house and write somewhere else, hoping that I will be more inspired elsewhere than what I normally consider to be the place where I feel the most comfortable. Same problem. Angsty and highly irritable seems to be the top feelings of the month, one that turns me into a raging angry person, something that I am finding really hard to contain. I’m usually such a balanced person; I get angry like anyone else, but it’s usually easy to contain and to get rid of. At the moment I feel like I am on the edge of some kind of imminent explosion. It’s so ridiculous that even spell check telling me that my fragmented phrases are grammatical errors makes me want to throw my laptop against the wall. “That’s the way I write you fucking piece of crap software who is telling me I am wrong!!”.
Like it’s THAT easy.
So why am I so angry? I mean there must be some reason for this? I list up all the reasons that could explain the hows and whys. I’m angry that I spent Christmas away from my family. I’m angry that I couldn’t afford to pay for a flight ticket back home to be with my family, especially seeing as my brother just lost his father and could have done with his (angry) big sister around. I’m angry because I am constantly broke and it’s always a struggle to pay the rent and the bills and my credit is in such a bad state right now that I would rather not even think about it. I’m angry because I wake up feeling depressed every day and I know that I don’t feel strong enough to fight it this time. I’m angry because I am not pushing myself hard enough to finish my novel. I’m angry because I miss my family, and England and France, and my friends abroad. I’m angry because all the men I meet either treat me like shit, disappear or just aren’t the right person for me. I’m angry because I’m not 25 anymore, and I’m angry because I’ve not traveled in years and miss it terribly. I’m angry because this world continues to fall apart around us and all we do is watch it happen. I’m angry because there is so much sadness around us and I can’t change it. But most of all I am angry because I can’t be superwoman all the time, and I wish I could.
Maybe I SHOULD just go and punch someone. Maybe it will help.

Of emotional rollercoasters

Anything I write today will just be too sad or too angry or too thankful. This week has been an emotional roller coaster and I am not prepared to write about it in public just yet and I just really can't get the words out properly anyway. I am thankful for the friends who gave me hugs and listened to me, and to those who were just there. I want to kick those who "zoned out" when I needed them the most, you know who you are, and also who you aren't to me anymore.

I listen to this song every day. It never fails me with it's beauty.

Smashing Pumpkins - Galapogos

Always brings tears to my eyes. Recently rediscovered this song and remember how lost I was in 96. Huge eyes that would burn up with tears on a whim, without warning, no real control.

"Carve out your heart for keeps in an old oak tree
and hold me for goodbyes and whispered lullabyes"

(The person who made this video did an excellent job - the movie fits perfectly).



I didn't feel isolated last year when I wasn't drinking. No one made me feel uncomfortable, and it just seemed normal.

Not this year. I feel super isolated. No one calls to hang out anymore - it's like you become boring because you are not out dancing on the bar black-out wasted at Motorcity anymore.
Even my close friends - no one bothers to make plans - I feel like I am always the one getting in touch and trying to hang out, and it's tiresome. Because yes, if I don't bother, then I don't hear from anyone.
Mostly because, yes, everyone is either too hungover, or too depressed from partying too much to think of anything else than themselves.

It makes me really really really sad. This is the first and last time I mention it because I needed to get it off my chest, but that doesn't make me feel any less sad about it.

It's sometimes very difficult to see if people really do care about you in this city, or if they are just saying they do to shut you up.