Jan 142016
 

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ALT TEXT

Bel

From Bel’s website. I don’t believe this is (as Ilka would have it) evidence of Bel “having a fixation” on me.

Berlin Schönefeld Airport. End-of-September rain.
    ‘Welcome on board.’ The air hostess smiles, looking at me curiously. My eyes are still swollen from crying.
    My flight is with Aeroflot. Cheap. Over-long. Thirteen hours to contemplate my fate.
    On my lap is my half-read biography of Lee Miller, “Man Ray’s muse” in the 1930s. In the month since my epiphanic Shibari session, and in view of the project Bel wants to carry out, I’ve been googling Art Nude photography, and have thus collected interesting reading-matter for my new adventure.
    We taxi down the runway.
    First I will prime myself by watching Mr. Right-On New Man John Berger’s 1972 TV series Ways of Seeing. The Youtube review says it “challenged and changed a whole nation”. Berger famously said “women watch themselves being looked at”, as in, women are taught to think of themselves as always on view. But this is the 21st century. Men, too, are on view now – aren’t they? I have uploaded all four episodes onto my i-Pad. I put in my earphones…

Moscow airport. Awaiting my connection I check emails. One from Ilka already! My eyes well up again, but it turns out to be annoying.

Just visited Bel’s website. She got fixation on yu, see pics on homepage. Be worried.

Dear Ilka, Yes, tankyu 4 askin, journey going fine. Re Bel’s pics of me – they from when she made those film shorts, just by-products. Im not her focus. See her intrestin Shanghai blog. Hav nice day.

I’m being made to defend Bel. Is Ilka jealous?
    Last leg. Moscow to Shanghai. The plane is taxi-ing.
    Clunk. Seatbelt on. I stick my nose back into the biography. Lee Miller was only Man Ray’s lover or so-called ‘muse’ for three years – so why does it seem to be her main claim to fame? Frivolous model, or professional photographer? Despite her son’s posthumous promotion of her photographic and journalistic achievements, it seems images of her are more known than images by her.
    Zzz… zzz…

Shanghai Pudong Airport. Sudden overwhelming humid heat. China. Fuck. Fuck.
    Long sleek black hair… Short skirts… Smooth slender legs… Who would ever give a man a second look? Bel could surely get some gorgeous skinny Chinese woman for this project. Why does she want me?
    Eventually, at the other side of a striped barrier, I see her. Creased linen shirt and slacks. Hot and sticky. Every bit the pasty British expat teacher.
    I don’t feel attracted to her. I just don’t. Ought I to?
    The awkwardness of having to work out how to greet each other is avoided – thank god – by the gushing of a pretty, beaming young girl:
    ‘Welcome you! My name is Miss Lily Hong’ – she holds out her name-card to me with both hands. ‘Assistant vice-manager Foreign Affairs Department.’
    ‘Hello – “Lily Hong”, was that? Ni Hao!’


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Dec 172015
 

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ALT TEXT

Hong Kong Ron

Another photo from my amazing Shibari bondage session here in Berlin. The whole new world of Art Nude photography beckons…

Ping – a text. Tamara! Our first contact since the bondage session she so masterfully set up.

Pics show u likd it. My man Ron & rigger more attentive to yr wellbeing than fcking artists yes? Overt & honest D/s. Fab.

I shoot off my answer.

Yes, very fab. Plannin return to UK. Yu still require live-in maid?

Bugger. Soz. Jus movd in wid sick father, ex astronaut, 86, Guernsey. Cancer, prognos 6 mths, cd b 2 yrs, he fights! I love my dad. Precious time. My needs 2nd place.

Despondent homeward tram-ride through Prenzlauerberg‘s autumnal September night. My evening booking has been in an old-established Wohngemeinschaft – a commune of anarchist artists with a fabled historical link to Bader-Meinhof – in a squatted former bread factory near Hackescher Markt. Their “studio” is the cellar – unheated, damp, gothic, mausoleum-esque – whose white-tiled vaulted caverns stretch labyrinthine under the railway…
    I turned blue with cold, but that lot were too up themselves to notice. I hate my life.

Aldi Supermarkt on the ground floor of Ilka’s building offers a procrastinatory distraction. I pick up the cheap Sonderangebot champagne – the cause of my belly’s repulsive bulge. Mentally I revisit the Cafe Dezember’s specially-equipped basement. Suspended on a handmade rope from the 19th century ceiling I slowly spin. Helpless. Ecstatic.
    Finally I drag myself up the stairs to Ilka’s apartment. To Ilka.

    ‘Shanghai?’
    ‘I’m sorry I ever came to Berlin.’
    ‘You’d stay with that weird photographer woman?…’
    ‘Be honest, Ilka: it hasn’t worked out. This second attempt.’
    ‘…the one who barely speaks!’
    ‘I’m not managing to write here.’
    ‘You don’t know anything about her…’
    ‘Bel and I get on very well. We made all those film shorts together.’
    ‘You think she’s got undiagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.’
    ‘We’ve all got our issues. Look – I’m not doing anything here.’
    ‘You are! You’ve been modelling!’
    ‘I’m not writing.’
    ‘But you’ve only been here three months.’ Ilka pulls off her coat and hat, sets down her briefcase, slumps at the kitchen table. ‘You’d be running away again.’
    ‘I’m losing sight of my raison d’etre. It’s making me scared. And I’m getting fat.’
    Silence.
    ‘So anyway… I’ll be sleeping on the sofa tonight.’ I hate myself for upsetting her. ‘Want some champagne? There’s an opened one in the fridge.’

I realise I haven’t even acknowledged Bel’s text.

    SHANGHAI HERE I COME more details pls!


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Dec 032015
 



ALT TEXT

Hong Kong Ron

Shibari is a Japanese artistic form of rope bondage originating in an ancient martial art for the restraint of captives. The master who tied me up in this and other poses last night (hired by Tamara) was brilliant. A real expert.

PART I    Berlin, late September

Last night’s epiphany is making me face facts.
    Trying to patch things up with Ilka these last three months has been desolate. The truth is, my Berlin adventure has gone pear-shaped.
    So has my body.
    That’s why I can’t write – even with Überagent Victoria Herz of Brown and Herz Literary Agency champing at the bit for my second novel. Just thinking about my unfinished manuscript makes me shrivel up and open another bloody bottle of champagne.
    And Acquiescent Ilka lets me.

As for the life-modelling that earns my crust, I’ve had it up to here. Berlin’s artists are as up themselves as British ones.
    Why do people want to draw me – a fellow creature – naked, subdued, uncomfortable in an arduously lengthy pose? Is it after all, as the Po-faced Feminists would have it, exploitation? Abuse?

The problem isn’t about being naked. I’m talking about the lack of heed for the model’s wellbeing.
    Whereas last night’s session was something else. A different kind of artist; a different kind of art. A careful, controlled way of relating. Yes – care-ful. Full of care.
    Though the Po-faced Fs would have kittens.
    It was so out-of-the-blue. At six pm I took an international call – my ex-flingette, Tamara, in Leeds.
    ‘Get yourself to Szredski Strasse a.s.a.p, Cafe Dezember. Go straight down to the basement. I’ve booked you a session with a Shibari bondage master.’
    You have to submit to Tamara. Everyone does.
    Turns out Tamara was paying the photographer (her pal Ron from Hong Kong) to send her the pictures.

Thank god Ilka is in Leipzig with her work. Bondage would appal her. Because Ilka’s a hard-liner: men subdue women. The patriarchy spoils her day. Her position has remained immutable these twenty years. She’s stuck in the ‘eighties Women’s Movement past. Whereas I became male-curious. They are interesting. For instance, the most common cause of death for men under fifty is suicide. We women think we’ve got problems? Men have certainly got problems.

Already so many impossible things before breakfast. Then – ping! A text.
    Wow – it’s from Bel. How long has it been?

And what a proposal!

An epiphanic night, and now this! Are the gods intervening, on this September morning in Ilka’s sparse, frugal apartment off Prenzlauer Allee?


 

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