Another Suffolk Boy

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Wanchai


Stumbling the streets of Wanchai
past the bars of ham faced expatriates
I’ve paced by them since my early twenties
will I still pass them in ten years’ time?
Maybe my wife will be with me,
or maybe I will still be aloneas I was at 23. 
Lonely, wandering the globe.
Embracing the melancholy luminosity of neon-lit streets
with the fragrant harbour smelling of salt and oil
the ferries and clouds floating away from me
I didn’t know you then.
The adventure sucked from these streets,
by sweaty plimsoles and suit jackets.
Humidity wafting home.
But nevermind,
I have someone waiting.
at least this means something. 






Thursday, 9 August 2018

Magazines

Magazines

Copyright Nathan Whittaker 2018, Peru.

I found her reading my old magazines one night. She was lost in her pillow, her finger sliding across the glossy page, drawing her eyes deeper in, unaware of me. She, along with the night itself, had begun a journey across some mountain range somewhere, or through some forest. I stood in the doorway, wrapped in my dressing gown behind the horizon of her next summit. The edges of the door frame cut into my palms as I clung to it in the wind, out of her sight. I could feel her world tumbling away from everything it had previously been, lightened by the darkness of that room and the shine of her imagination. It was the first time I had worried about the coming independence of my daughter.


You ask me why I go to the mountains;
I shudder and offer no remorse, it is the most selfish of ways.
As the freezing gill flows down the mountain and washes away the beach.

Of course, I still put my boots on. 
But my daughter is only fourteen. 
She listens to pop music and talks to her friends online. 
I never meant for her to see those magazines. 

Friday, 2 March 2018

Never Be

February by Nathan Whittaker© 


It was only natural that I became a loner. Some say shyness is a curse...

I was born shy. It is not something I was taught or learnt, it was not something I was uncomfortable with. It is something I was unaware of. I didn’t know what shyness was until the day I was made to feel shame.

Society… adults were censorious of shyness. My teachers condemned it, distant relatives drew blood to my cheeks and gathered one and all about to warm their cold fingers on my glow. They found duty in encouraging me to ‘snap out of it’. Everyone drew attention to it.

Nothing had come so naturally as my shyness.

Yet, the moment I saw my shyness reason a tremble in the eye of another, the haze came over my eyes. I felt my cheeks warm. My own embarrassment was a source of my own embarrassment.

 Why was I so shy? Why was it so awful to be shy?

I am still shy.

There is nothing wrong with that.

My own company has guided me across continents. It has found me my interests, fought my demons, eased my worries and passed my exams. It has been the making of me.

I have never learned something worth a damn in the company of others. I would have been too busy. I would have had thoughts spamming my mind at speeds too fast to contemplate or remember.

But alone…

Alone I have walked miles. I have crossed distant mountains, tramped down the snake grass of wilder plains, I have tripped over in the roots of great forests. I have been happy, alert, aware, alone.

I have learnt much from those experiences. I have learnt to meditate on two feet.  

Alone I have learnt that loneliness is very much a feeling.

Aloneness has always stood a state of being.

I have often been alone. Only once have I felt lonely.

I have learnt to at least try to be natural. To mimic the world I pass through on foot. To follow the way.

And so… maybe sometimes I do reach out for attention. Maybe sometimes I want to show off and express myself through art, through writing, through arguments, actions, selfishness, love, kindness, attitude. Maybe sometimes, I like everyone else, crave company. And I am always shy, I always will be.

Maybe, just maybe. I am normal. And finally, It requires no tremendous effort, to be normal. 

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Almost Heaven



THE FIRST BOOK I EVER ENJOYED WAS READ AT Almost Heaven. Itself was a book entitled Almost Heaven. I named that tranquil spot of isolated Suffolk countryside after the book I had first read there. I began it a day after my final high school exam, and I finished it a few days before I first set foot in the United States. It was the first time I’d ever picked up a book without being told to do so.

The long summer days I spent on the banks of the that isolated lake, are still some of the best I’ve ever had. The walks to and from that spot, will never be repeated. They are where I imagined foreign lands and most importantly, my mysterious future within them. At that point in my life, almost exactly half my lifetime ago, I had not begun my independence. My future was unwritten in totality and I was free to dream of the wildest future.

I never became the person I dreamt I would. In fact, little changed. I spent most of my twenties dreaming of being someone, of being somewhere. Mostly wherever or whoever I was not.

But I have been places. Places I never dreamt of.

I wouldn’t change a day of it. But half a lifetime on, I am longing for the imagination and hope of my teenage years. Teenage years, that were mostly unique to me… alone, in fields and forest, with dog and book.

I came home. I came home often and spent many summer nights sitting or passing by that spot, often with soundtrack, frequently with beer. But I always departed again. From a young age I had a yearning to go. I wanted to get away from familiar life, but into my thirties, I realised all I wanted was home.

I do love the scent of foreign lands and to some extent I still need that scent to prevent my depression. Yet, if I had the freedom simply to live at home, I can no longer see the need for such desire. It is that I cannot afford to be at home, that I am not content.

Thoreau wrote much about straying too far from home. Kerouac wrote much about staying away. Both loved their mothers.

The modern world is a cruel world. We have overcome diseases, wars and famines. I am under no illusion that we have many benefits that our ancestors did not. Yet, we are rife with sickness too.

We need nature, homeliness and familiarity to be happy… but more so we need time. When I remember the banks of Almost Heaven, I realise that what I am missing is not so much the location, but the time. The freedom I had to walk across the land and read books all day…

I don’t know if I will ever reach that level of wealth again. I have reached a level of social debt that requires me to work fulltime with a meagre 28 days to myself. The weekends blur by as I recover and prepare for another week. I barely read, I barely write.

Those 28 days are not precious, they are rushed. I fly to some foreign corner of the world to force myself to forget my obligations. I succeed, but on return am met by a plague of darkness. Those memories of freedom are so beautiful, each and every one of them. But yet I live on in repetition, taking the trash out every Wednesday night, mowing the lawn on Sundays.


I get out of bed because I must. I work because without so, I will crumble. In my wildest dreams, I mow the lawn on Tuesday mornings, when everyone is at work and the supermarket aisles are empty. 

Saturday, 25 March 2017

It's not fair, darling.



They were dressed in sharp suits and gowns and the waiters wore black bow ties.
   There were ladies, there were gentlemen.
   He scanned across the room and sipped.
   The speaker rose to the stage. His belly bawled over his waistband, and his scalp shone between streaks of grey. A large HD television was next to the speaker. An oriental painting with a golden frame stood at the foot of an armchair. A table with jewellery and electronics took up half of the stage. A cherry red Stratocaster, far too kitsch, tacky, lent on one table leg. A set of china stood in a wooden cabinet with numerous small boxes and envelopes by it’s side. A computer console, potted plants, keys to a car, bottles of booze, ornaments and perfume, they were all there. That morning he’d placed them on the stage himself, except for the table, which was needed to place things on, all of the other stuff was donated. He even ran the wires out for the microphone and the lights. If it wasn’t for the marquee they could have been in Argos.
   Every once in a while the volume dropped and people sipped their wine. They never stopped eating. He knew they wouldn’t.

“Auction time,” said the speaker to the crowd.
   The crowd were raising money for schools in the Ivory Coast.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, lets see what you want the most,” he said.
   The room went silent but they continued to eat.
   “Lets start with the necklace from Tiffany,” he said.
   The room tucked themselves further into their tables and gazed up at the bright lights on the stage. They squinted.
   Their eyes scanned across the stage at the riches, artefacts and treasures. They whispered in each other’s ears, secretly tallying cash in their wallets, women ordered their husbands, men made small amendments to their cutlery and glasses. Every one of them had their eyes twinkling in the light of the stage.
   The speaker tapped a spoon on his glass to quieten the crowd. He raised his microphone, looked around, and smiled with his nicotine yellow teeth.
   In front of the stage a girl adjusted her seat. She took off her shoes and leant back.
   “Come here now then, Ladies and Gentlemen lets see your money!” The speaker spurted.
   The crowd erupted again, tables were shook.
   “How about this?” He said.
   “Come on now, its really beautiful.”
   All around, the tent was quiet. He saw a women whisper to her partner at the same table.
   “£300” she yelled.
   Her partner tapped her side.
   “Doesn’t it feel good, baby?” She said.
   Her giddy eyes bounced off the ceiling and back again.
   “Those kids in Africa and going to be so pleased,” she said.
   Another voice from across the room called four hundred pounds and the race was on. The man looked at his wife from the corner of his eye and smiled. His red face dipped back to his laden fork and he chomped.
   “£500” she yelled.
   “How does it feel?” The husband said.
   “It feels gracious,” she giggled.
   The race went all the way to £900 and she won.
   “Kiss me,” she said.
   “There’s people around,” he said.
   “I love you,” she said.
   He closed his eyes at the table and imagined them kissing.
   “…and next up is TV,” howled the speaker.
  
He imagined the woman weeks later. She said: “He was my hero that night. All these wonderful things to be sold and we bid for all of them. It’s the truth. We bid on all of them. Won quite a few. Can you believe it? What a wonderful night. We got really drunk and danced. Those kids in Africa must have been so happy with their new school.”
   She went on about it, she wouldn’t shut up. For weeks she told everyone. There was something behind it all, something more she wanted to get across. And she was dying to get it out.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Youth

From Bonny Wood (by Nathan Whittaker, 2002)

Youth


the utter carelessness of it, the brilliant
expanding film filtering into stories
etched in an exercise book, I haven't yet and
perhaps have forgotten how to find where
that place is, though I wish that it is
somewhere still attainable, or maybe
ultimately to return, somewhere on the
horizon, perhaps, though I don't know even,
what year it was, what day, which month,
which life.  



Sunday, 15 November 2015

Solitude

Solitude


Solitude
And no-one else now the lonesome progeny.
Solitude.
Hungover in the woods with drizzling ferns.
Solitude.
April 2009, between a canteen and the steering wheel.
Slumbering drunk, sloshed and cold,
Gazing forth antediluvian shadows of cows and monsters,
Creeping ever closer to my window shield.
New Zealand.
Solitude.
Quinipet, Long Island Sound.
3am, 2pm.
Watching waves, meditating with sorrow.
I gave you everything, alone.
Lost summers with forgotten girls.
On the road,
Mexico.
Solitude.
A dark empty room at 15 Main Street,
Flowers dying,
Bare flagons of booze,
Solitude.
Slide Mountain Wilderness,
Catskills, New York to Canada,
Black bears, rattlesnakes, bourbon and peanut nights,
A sniffing nose under my tent.
Solitude.
Reading desolation angels,
Antsirabe, Madagascar while lemurs whine,
And I run to the bush to squat.
Solitude.
Damp meadows of plaited grain, 7pm December 24th 2012,
Wet woodland at dusk,
Birds chirping their final hour tunes.
Solitude
Crashing seas, firing stars
Solitude,
Solitude,
The sub-zero streets of Shanghai and Tianjin.
Absent of people, cars,
Squall thrusting wreckage, unhappy down the boulevard,
Only a tunnel.
Solitude,
The rhythm of heavy feet outside my tent,
Alone, by the water,
Listening to the cavernous outside for the eerie sounds of life,
Alone.