2011 – my year

My mother died on the 9th of January this year. I scattered her ashes at Easby by the river outside Richmond. I carry her photo with me. I talk to my dad every Sunday on Skype. My 14 year relationship with Isobel came to an end. I feel a little more in control of my own life. I feel more settled in this house and Highams Park, this nowhere place. I don’t know anyone here and that’s okay. I began a new life, not so very different in some respects from my old one and in others very different indeed. I’m still running – I ran 22 km the other week, all the way out to the other side of the M25 and back. After a recent health day at work I’ve begun to eat more healthily – protein supplement to compensate for running, nuts, fruit. My life alternates between a week with Amy and Gabriel and a week of predominant solitariness. At the grand old age of 45 I realise I’m mostly happy being solitary. On my weekends on my own I visit exhibitions (Saturdays) and the next day I get a train to explore somewhere: The City, Thamesmead, Beckton, Purfleet, Tilbury, Sheppey, Folkestone, Margate. Many more places still to visit. Most recently I took the train to Burnham-on-Crouch and marched along the estuary on the Dengie Peninsula for two hours until I faced the North Sea. Then I marched back again. I passed nobody in that time. I take lots of pictures on my trips, I’m passionate about taking photographs. I’ve also begun to pick up and take home little mementos like a strand of seaweed or some leaves. I visited Isobel and the kids in the Lake District for a few days this summer. I stayed in my cousin’s chalet in Chamonix for a week with Amy and Gabriel, we had a lovely time making day trips to Italy (Turin) and Switzerland in our rented car, going for walks, visiting a glacier and watching movies in the evening. In the autumn half term the three of us visited Robin and Vered in Matta, Israel. We visited and swam in the Dead Sea, caught the bus to Jerusalem, drove in Vered’s old car to the Sea of Galilee and Nimrod’s Castle in the Golan Heights. It was fabulous. I’d like to travel more. The flight to Israel used up all my freelance earnings from designing theweaveshed.org. After a lifetime spent not wanting to travel alone, I can imagine doing so now. I want to take more photos. I’d like to begin to make prints or books of some of my pictures, I can’t imagine being able to do so, but maybe in 2012 I’ll make a start. I’m as passionate as ever about music, perhaps more so. I’m not reading as vigorously as I used to, but I did read Thomas Pynchon’s wonderful Against The Day, no mean feat, at least for me. I also read some Slavoj Žižek and Robert Adams’ On Beauty In Photography. I lost interest in Twitter, but still read the web via RSS most days. I’m horrified by the erosion of so many worthwhile things: public housing, the NHS, free speech. The Con-Dem alliance without mandate. I marched with Amy and Gabriel at least once this year in protest. I met up with Lis at her Buddhist temple for the first time in more than 20 years. I corresponded with Inkeri after a gap of more than 25 years. I almost gave up publishing Hard Format after doing a weekly post for four and a half years, but then changed my mind. I just about make ends meet, but I live in a rented house and am crap at stuff like pensions. What happens in 20 years? I became increasingly anxious about my memory which seems to have deteriorated recently, but beginning to eat nuts, seeds, etc is at least helping me to feel less anxious by doing something. I became a web manager. My employer, Central Saint Martins, moved from its premises in Holborn and Charing Cross Road to the Granary at King’s Cross. Before the final departure, over the summer, I took more than 3,000 pictures of Southampton Row (100+ photos of the sinks, 200+ of windows, etc.) and I became deeply immersed in the emptiness of the place, the sense of its history, the dust and the light. I would like to publish a book with Steve of a small selection of the images, but that seems an uphill struggle at the moment. At King’s Cross I discovered Camley Street Natural Park and fell in love with its slender two acres, surrounded by a seemingly endless building site bent upon throwing up more dull architecture in the name of late capitalism. I try to take my camera there at least once a week in my lunch hour. I wonder whether I’ll ever meet someone again or was that it for me? I think of Robin Williamson’s Lament of the Old Man. I wonder whether I’m a little too bent out of shape. I wish I could control the muscle spasms that assail the right side of my face and cause my eye to partially close. I crease my face up to try to make it less obvious. This was the year I saw Gaspar Noe’s Into The Void with Dan and was enthralled. I watched Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev for the first time in a number of years and felt like I’d been knocked down, such was the power of the film. I visited some great exhibitions including Postmodernism at the V&A and Paul Graham and Thomas Struth at The Whitechapel. I went to very few concerts. Amy is busy most weekends with her friends. It’s heaven and hell at the moment, perhaps in large part the impact of the separation. I see almost none of the adults I used to see when I still lived with Isobel. Amy is only half a head shorter than me now. Gabes struggled to make friends in his secondary school and a place has come up in the other school. I hope and pray he’s able to settle in this time. I can increasingly share my pleasure in films with them both: Bladerunner, Brothers Quay, the Bourne Trilogy… They’re really growing up, exploring and establishing themselves more and more. I’ve found some peace now, at least some of the time.

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