A phrase I have often heard in relation to Peckham is that it’s a ‘melting pot’. But as a description of cities, it’s usually a false analogy, one that has globally given way to the metaphor of a ‘salad bowl’. And while some cities do better jobs than others of encouraging that salad to be fully mixed, in many cities we see fragmented communities segregated down lines of culture and interest, operating alone in the same space.
You drive through the clouds to get somewhere ... Outside, the road disappears into cloud as if into heavy snow. The air is thin and damp, your lungs feel infinite in their greed. All the colours were left behind at a certain altitude and you will go back for them.
So, there we were, tearing round bends, wind clawing at our hair, shrieking like cats in heat, and after each turn we’d look at each other and laugh, like – that was a good one, right? Only then, after one of those turns, somebody’s gone. Just, gone.
I spend my days on the roof of this fort. Looking for you. It’s how I fill time, in a sagging beach chair so low my backside rubs coarse ground. I did think of leaving, in our boat that I would fix. But I can’t ditch these forts – these stilts – that stand proud in the mist. Jagged metal and bird-waste stain. Weird, like a distant planet. Scarred by wear and wave.
A few years ago, I briefly dated a man whose recent ex-girlfriend was the stuff of nightmares: an ethereal giantess and beauty, an artist and musician. He was telling me about one of their arguments. “And then came the baby voice,” he finished. Wait. What? What?
As 1951 surrenders to the first breath of 1952, Albert Burton sits hunched at his kitchen table, spelling truths for his wife with a near-invisible hand. How he is able to grip the pen, to touch it to the paper, he does not understand ... Because Albert has been dead for exactly seven days.
At the edge of a ploughed field sits a burned-out Smart car. Its squat dimensions make it appear as if compacted in a Thames Estuary wrecker’s yard, prior to being set alight. The carcinogenic hulk against a pastoral backdrop is a particularly Essexian sight, as is the detritus scattered around it: a chalky, transparent baggie and a discarded Durex packet — Es and sex.
We’re in a labyrinth of ladders, arcing and curling around one another, following others’ routes, occasionally being given a hand over treacherous rungs. Some ladders lead to dead ends, others to platforms from where we can shout down encouragement, or ignore all beneath.
In the video for her song Criminal, I watch Fiona Apple’s body and wait for it to tell me how I should feel about her, or towards her, and in this video, the messages are mixed. Her body says that something is wrong, but what she sings is more complicated and as the way she is filmed renders her as a thing, I come back to thinking that her body, in its communicating that something is wrong, is where the attraction lies.