The outdoor swimming pool was in the shape of a wonky figure of eight. A bridge crossed its middle. They said it was the biggest pool in Europe. The concrete border was patterned with circles in different sizes. If you fell, the surface was hard and unforgiving. Each bulb of the pool was pinned with two sets of diving boards; four and five boards layered on top of one another. It was an important moment for us children who lived at the school when we finally had the guts to jump off the top one.
One day, after my father’s death, I was in my parents’ house looking through his bookshelves. I thought about powdering the books for fingerprints so I’d have something left. I still think about that sometimes. What difference would it make to have a copy of fingerprints made by fingers that no longer exist? Those fingers were burned, and now they are dust.
I’ve been thinking a lot about dying recently. Not my own death, you understand, but the idea of dying as a cinematic experience. Like many generation Y-ers, I grew up on a diet of television shows such as Michael Aspel’s poltergeist extravaganza, Strange, But True? and BBC1’s 999 (remember the episode where the kid gets a javelin through the neck?).
I saw Tracey Emin in a pub once. It was in Spitalfields in London. She was standing by the bar, sipping red wine and surveying the room, her head rotating at irregular intervals like a broken lighthouse beacon. I remember she was drinking out of a very small glass. She was talking to the landlady of the pub, who is considered something of an institution, but who I find rude and slightly mad.
As my eyes move up from my book, I spot a dead ladybird – wings spread wide – floating gracefully in the residue of some blue watercolour in a little jar amid shards of gold glitter. I feel a sudden urgency to fix this fragile beauty in pixels as it unfolds in front of my eyes. Perfect composition by coincidence. Snap.
The day that Judy Garland attempted suicide for the second time, Katharine Hepburn elbowed her way through the throng of reporters and paparazzi outside the Minnelli house, shouting back at them from over her shoulder, “Don’t you have anything better to do?” She sat Judy down, one legendary actress to another, and said, unsmiling: “Now listen, you’re one of the three greatest talents in the world.
The urban village. A Jane Austen vision of pastoral Britain complete with farmers’ markets and bunting projected on to high streets up and down the country. Oblivious to the green beacon of the job centre; impervious to the homeless man asleep in the shop doorway; pro-bike, anti-lorry; in short, a regression.
Flatland is a social satire by Edwin Abbott Abbott, published in 1884. The book describes a world of only two dimensions, in which each character is a different class of geometric shape, and is narrated by a pseudonymous ‘Square’. One day, the Square is visited by a Sphere from Spaceland, a world that has three dimensions.
A decade after first watching Dazed and Confused, I still find myself trawling through rails in vintage shops with only the costumes of the cast in mind. And as soon as I spot an item that even slightly resembles something one of them might wear, I hear Steven Tyler’s voice in my head, singing loud and clear: “Sweeeeeeeeeeet emmooooooooootioooon”.
It wasn’t a Suzuki GSX-R750 – the bike I’d always wanted – that would come later. It was a Suzuki GSX-R600 – near enough, certainly for me, who’d never ridden anything faster than a Lambretta. I’d always had Lambrettas: GPs, Yorkshire style, no Moddy crap – race-tuned, stripped-down, 85 mph – fast for a scooter.