Oct 062016
 



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Bel

When I went onto your laptop last night I discovered you’d installed this pic as the screensaver. One from your movie about me, STILL LIFE, made soon after we first met. I look then how I now feel. Was I having a premonition about you? Is there such a thing as a ‘suicidal nature’, and might I have sensed it?

Just checking your emails. S’okay, none are personal. Just spam and stuff.
    ‘Scuse me while I check my own emails. Oh! – your brother again:

…basic details are, one week after her daughter’s funeral Bella took Élise’s ashes onto the Ostend-to-Dover ferry to scatter them at sea. Remarkably Élise had managed to write a note asking for this, indicating a rare moment of rationality. The note compounded the tragedy for Bella by proving Élise’s suicide was pre-meditated.
… passengers saw Bella jump, but the rescue was not quick enough to save her life…
…have no idea about a chest x-ray. Are you sure? She never mentioned…

I think John thinks I’m just the person you were sharing a flat with.
    I suppose he’s not wrong.
    And here’s a long email from my ex, Ilka!… Well well… She’s going to marry a 72 year-old widower who likes art, because she’s lonely. I’ll just quickly acknowledge it:

Dear Ilka – CONGRATS! Wishing you peace & contentment & hope ul be happy. He sounds good person. No need get defensive about going straight. Have had marriage offer myself. New life in Australia. But need my independence. To be honest sth horrible hs happened here will write more v soon not now. Sx

We’re wondering, Bel… did you leave us a note? I’ve been searching this desk, but there’s nothing much… My last poetry collection; a couple more books: ‘Chinese Whispers’ by Ben Chu, ‘The Good Earth’ by Pearl Buck; all these print-outs of articles that I’ve kept for you in a neat stack… You’ve put a big red circle round a paragraph on this first one, the Paul Verhaeghen:

‘…the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age… We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.’

Exactly what Tim Lott said. The culture of our homeland sets us up for terminal frustration, disappointment and a sense of failure.

I, too, hate this world. But as you say – which corner of the planet to run to?


 

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Jun 302016
 



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Greg-I’m-a-Kiwi

Interesting props were provided by Fei Mo Di’s friend Greg-I’m-a-Kiwi for today’s life-drawing session at Qi Qi’s boho café-bar. Greg took this picture himself.

Air Quality ‘moderate’: Unusually sensitive individuals may experience respiratory symptoms and should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion.
    A slight reprieve for Bel.
    On our taxi journey to the life-drawing session at Qi Qi’s, Bel mentions, ‘Lily Hong will be meeting us there with a voice-recorder to get some vox-pops for the sound-track.’
    ‘Brilliant!’
    Hesitation. Then – ‘she confides in me.’
    Is this an oblique reference to their triste or whatever it was yesterday? ‘Good! That’s good.’
    ‘She’s lonely, is Lily Hong.’

After twenty minutes of warm-ups the group decides they want one long pose for the rest of the two hours. And thus I am able to retreat peacefully inside my head in a way that I used to do every day in my former existence, modelling for artists. Without knowing it, I have missed this. A time for swimming thoughts to become ordered.
    On the long Metro journey into the city Bel had shown me a really interesting homily on the Guardian Online’s book pages. Tim Lott – successful writer – warns today’s parents against telling children they can be whatever they want, because it is so difficult to achieve those big dreams, to reach for the stars and attain them – barring a lottery win or some fluke of good fortune.
    He suggests that, given the competitive nature of modern society, it’s better to keep our enthusiasms and passions for our hobbies, claiming he has gained the most joy in his life through the commonplace activities of home, family and hobbies, rather than his actual profession as a novelist. The latter, despite having given him a few particular moments of success and reward, has taken a high toll in terms of effort and struggle and disappointment.
    It’s better (he says) to ask children not what they want to be, but who they want to be. The neoliberal regime benefits from us all believing that it is purely success in the workplace that makes us a success as a person ( – he’s obviously been reading that Pankaj Mishra article). But we are presented with only two alternatives: superstardom or – that loaded term – mediocrity. As such we are all – almost all of us – going to endlessly feel disappointed in ourselves and our achievements.
    It’s good, what he’s written.
    Shouldn’t I aim to be, first and foremost, a kind, generous-spirited person, rather than a writer?

Throughout the session, kind Qi Qi is constantly checking on my welfare. ‘You okay? Enough warm?’
    ‘I’m totally happy thanks!’
    But I’m not totally happy.
    Why can’t I be content with my modest successes – my small online readership, my poetry collections, my novel, my collaborative movies with Bel, my prowess as a doughty energetic model? I already have a legacy to leave to this world. Is it time to just stop questing, stop striving, think small, local, intimate; stop getting on aeroplanes, try settling? Is it time to commit? And thus reap small, satisfying benefits? I am approaching my half-century of life. Is it time to give something back, rather than fret that I haven’t received enough?

I don’t even notice Bel’s camera clicking away. She’s so cleverly unobtrusive. It’s lovely to be working together again on a small good thing.

It’s late when we get back to the flat. I bring Bel hot milk in bed. ‘It’ll already be a little bit spring-like when you get to Antwerp!’
    But she has lapsed back. Face closed. Remote. Incommunicado. A terrible state that is more and more her usual one.
    How could she not have been uplifted by that wonderful session at Qi Qi’s?


 

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