Mar 172016


Aussie Cyril

I cropped and rotated this pic by Aussie Cyril to create the geometry of the black box having its corner exactly at the image’s centre, and reduced the colour and contrast to achieve the sculpted look of the figure.

‘I assumed you knew, Bel. I thought word had got round. Sorry.’
    ‘No, I’m sorry.’
    ‘You didn’t hear about it from anyone who drew me, then.’
    ‘No. And I didn’t keep up with your Two Small Lives serial…’
    ‘Oh god, that! I mean, no-one does…’
    ‘…All along, you must have been thinking I knew. I’m so sorry.’
    ‘…Honestly Bel, I don’t expect people to read my story; it’s just my cathartic online drivel…’
    ‘I did read it faithfully every week, but then… I had a lot going on last winter. I’m just really sorry.’
    ‘No, I’m sorry!…’
    I go to put the baozi on a dish, no longer hungry. I don’t want to revisit last year. I wish I was under my duvet. Alone. ‘Actually I did email you at the time, but you were… I can’t remember now.’
    ‘Sorry, Suki.’ Bel is sidling towards the bedroom. Is she, like me, wanting to escape? Are we as bad as each other? ‘I had too much to deal with last year,’ she says.
    ‘No, it’s really alright. It was just, back then, I was thinking you’d be a good person for advice coz we’re so similar; like, in age, both single, childless and everything. I mean, what would you have done if you’d found you were pregnant at forty-seven?’
    ‘I have a daughter.’
    ‘A daughter?’
    ‘Sorry.’ She leaves the room.

I don’t know what to think. I need a fag. The rickety screen door to the balcony is permanently shoved back since cool December has seen off the mosquitoes. I go outside, light up.
    The way Bel and I relate is so disconnected. Life in Shanghai is altogether, in every way, disconnected. Huh. That’s why Bel’s so at home here.
    The tower-block opposite ours is chequered with murky windows, many now in darkness at this late hour, some still bluish from the depressingly low-wattage utilitarian strip-lights. Millions of people stacked up in functional boxes. At home in England there’ll be fairy-lights everywhere, and Christmas trees and candles.
    I look down onto the college’s ornamental gardens. The staff housing area is well landscaped, albeit in a Disneyland-ish style: ornamental ponds; fake rocks made of something synthetic; a toy-town bamboo bridge. The croak of frogs echoes loudly between the apartment blocks. Bizarre. But nearly lovely, in a way. When all’s said and done, it’s not desert. It’s not Parisian HLMs. It’s not bombed-out Baghdad, or an African refugee camp. Why not think positive?
    Someone on the paving below hawks and spits. Christ. I can’t get used to that. Day and night. The glistening globs make me nauseous. They are everywhere. I tread in them by accident. My skirt trailed into one. They are disgusting.
    And we don’t know anyone, and no-one wants to know us. And here in suburban Shanghai there’s no bar to go out for a drink. And the internet connection is crap, and anyway it’s all censored.
    From somewhere above, a dark soft nest comes floating down – the contents of a cleaned hair-brush: black hairs bonded by crud – and wafts onto our balcony, touching the back of my hand. Yeuch.
    For all that people are strange and inaccessible, they are much too close.

I go put the untouched baozi into the fridge and turn off all the lights.
    Bel is already in bed with the lamp switched off, thank god.
    How old is her daughter? Who, and where, is she?



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  12 Responses to “Page 16”

  1. Rich, deep pathos well stated. What an exquisite physique. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks again from all of us on the team for your compliments, Joseph. “Especially about the writing”, says Suki’s manager Sue Vickerman.

  2. I LOVE these writings…

    I’d forgotten about those globs everywhere. They WERE grim. It’s been great getting your latest page each Thursday, as it’s my designated painting day and I’ve been painting up my Shanghai diary from my visit – so your writings have been vividly bringing back so many bizarre things. Lucky I missed the globs really! Not nice in a painting….

    I’m immersed in painting flowers now for the cathedral.

    • It got to a point (re gobs), Jane, where I thought – is that person hawking and spitting coz he’s seen me coming? Am I a sort of gob-trigger? People look at me and are moved to hawk? Do I give people a bad taste in their mouth?
      Do I make people feel sick?

  3. Suki – you need to come round for a meal!!

    • There could be one of two subtexts here:

      1) ‘You need feeding urgently!’
      2) ‘I need to advise you about putting up nude photographs of yourself on the internet – you’ve gone one step too far…

      Thanks Anna – I’d love to come round when we’re back in Blighty. May I bring Bel?

  4. Being seen naked is a uniquely human dilemma, all other animals are focussed simply on surviving… For we nudists it is all about body acceptance and the freedom to live in the moment. Art and the nude in art is an important window onto ourselves, and we applaud Suki for her courage to pursue this.

  5. Lovely writing and photo Suki (-:

  6. Thoughts that have occurred to me regarding Suki’s photoshopping of Cyril’s pic: how many artists would let the model come and change their drawing? How many photographers, for that matter?

    On the other hand, is it right for the model to have zero ownership of the product?

    I for one would have been most annoyed, had I been Cyril. I don’t know how Suki gets away with stuff sometimes.

    • The photographer has the copyright, at the end of the day. A model once cropped one of my images then claimed that she had the copyright for the images. I laughed. I don’t mind if the model wants me to edit in a certain way for them, but please don’t claim the copyright lol!! 🙂