Sunday, 2 December 2012

The last time I went to church


Writing in the style of 'An Idiot Abroad' - I'm not just being ignorant, promise!



India is hot. It’s not the usual hot, it’s big-style hot.

I’ve been in warm places before; Dave and I went to Magaluf in 2010 and had those big glassed cocktails with the little umbrellas by the pool for a week straight. Coming from Wolverhampton, where God puts a layer of cloud between him and the people on a constant basis so as to not see the misery of human kind, Dave didn't understand suncream. He managed to burn nothing other than his nose and his man-boobs and looked like Santa wearing a bikini for the best part of the week.

But India isn’t a Magaluf type of hot at all. India is the type of hot which means your trousers are sticking to parts of you that you didn’t even think they could stick to and having an ice cream every ten minutes is not just a holiday indulgence: it’s a life or death necessity.

So the thought of going into the midst of Delhi on one of those HOT afternoons was not at the top of my “to do” list, but Mayank, my tour guide told me we needed to see the Karunya Mahaganapathi Temple. Today was the beginning of Ganesh Chaturthi, a festival where Hindu’s drown loads of statues of the elephant god Ganesh for ten days and the temple was Ganesh's Delhi HQ. 

We walked towards the temple and I was stopped by what looked like a beggar who told me to give him my shoes. After living in Birmingham all my life, I knew what to do. Immediately, I put my hand in my bag and shuffled round for the pepper spray, only to be abruptly stopped by my tour guide himself on his hands and knees pulling at my laces.

After I forced Mayank off my shoes, he told me, at pepper-spray point, everyone had to take their shoes off 100 meters before the temple. He said I should give my new Timberland trainers to this grubby man on the side of the street, contently sat next to a chap selling chickens. Otherwise, he said, we would be cursing ourselves and the house of Ganesh.  

I told him I’d only leave them with this man if we got a receipt – like when you go to the cloak room. Mayank rolled his eyes at me and translated to the shoe-hoarder, who looked bemused and then pulled two chicken feathers out of a bird from his neighbour’s stock and put one in my shoes and another in my hand.

‘Now you know you are the one with chicken shoes’ he smiled. 

I don’t know why he thought it was funny. I knew that this wasn’t exactly ‘Tesco customer promise’, but I put the feather in my pocket; I didn’t want any old person with a feather coming in and rocking my Timberlands. 

So dodging the cows, people and rikshaws, Mayank and I made our way to the temple with the heat of Indian concrete against our feet. About 50 metres before the entrance, a busting crowd of people appeared to come from nowhere. Everyone here had no shoes on and were scrambling towards the temple, desperate to see Ganesh. 

We moved through the crowd of people which seemed to be circulating around a central object. Slowly, as we pushed on, we saw that this object was a statue of Ganesh. This statue was open at one side where two monks sat before a large table on which there was a container of prayer water and a bowl full of tika. People were queuing towards this opening and then being blessed by the holy men. Their prayer bowls (a load of coconut and flowers) were then put by the monks on the side of a small, beautifully ornate version of Ganesh that sat inside the opening.  

I got to the front of the queue. My bowl was taken from me by what was the holy man but who had the sentiment of a conveyor belt teen. Whilst chewing chud-like pan, I handed him my bowl, threw the contents on the statue with the vigor of a man who was getting repetitive strain, and then motioned me to greet his neighbour to be blessed.

Now, this guy looked more promising. He was tall but slightly narly looking. I don’t know what it is about people who haven't aged well, they always seem to be more wise, which is absurd as they're clearly not wise enough to wear sun protection. Which reminds me, must teach Dave the value of skincare. I don't want people thinking he's wise when we get older. 

The old man talked animatedly to me in Hindi, which Mayank translated in my ear. He said that I should drink the holy water from the bowl in front of him. Now, I'd already seen a load of people drink from this bowl and wasn't entirely certain of the health and safety regime they had in place, but nevertheless I took a gulp. It tasted sweet and slightly musty, kinda like kissing my nan. The man looked at me, smiled and then put the tika on my forehead. I don't know what it was, whether it was the heady incense smell or the bacteria in the water, but I felt...well...pretty good, actually. 

Surprisingly, when we returned to the outside world, the shoe collector was still there. I gave him my feather and in return was greeted with my timberlands. They seemed a little moist when I put them on but I was dead chuffed to have them back in one piece.

I told Mayank that he should tell the shoe-man that this method of receipts clearly worked and perhaps he should subject other foreigners to this in the future. But I don’t think he did tell him, as the man only smiled and proceeded to absentmindedly pluck a chicken through the holes in the cage.


We went home and I had my third curry of the day. At least I’m staying hydrated I suppose, having to guzzle down so much water after eating a particularly hot chutney. Now to bed with a dicky tummy and an aching head.  Don’t know how much longer I can just eat curry for, at night I'm dreaming about being attacked by Pan and masala.  

But, no rest for the wicked, I’ve already seen the maid preparing what I’m eating in the morning and it sure isn't coco-pops.


The end.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Sam Quigley Exhibition

Sam Quigley did a pretty stunning exhibition today, here are a few snapshots from it...review to come:







Tuesday, 6 November 2012

And then, she undid her belt.


So this is a short story on 'a belt'....What do you think? Does it end too abruptly? 

She grasped the steering wheel gently, allowing her fingertips to caress the worn leather. The hum of the engine filledher body, vibrating upon her stuttering lungs, each stutter an echo of  the horror of that night. It’s true, the marks ofher actions presented themselves clearly on her body. The peeling paint, the marks, the blood acted like pins on a map, showcasing her night in full glory. But her face, her face was somehow wrong. Her face did not show the seawater trademarks of unhappiness; it was clear. Clear of all thought and presence, clear of all sense and understanding.

Her eyes dropped to the glimmer on her left hand, a diamond stood mockingly on her third finger. The clarity dropped from her face and was replaced by confusion. Pure desolate confusion as to how she had let this foreign object get on her body. She had a powerful urge, a need, to take it off,  to rid herself of the impurity. She let go of the steering wheel and put the finger in-between her teeth, twisting the invader with her molars, alarm and hysteria inher previously tranquil eyes, until the thing came off in a flurry and rattled onto the dashboard.
Emily drove on. Her fingers were pulsating from the force of her movements and a pale damp line replaced the sterility of the ring that was once there. She allowed herself to put her hand towards her lips, feeling the freedom ofher penned-in finger, feeling the dampness of the pale line drying slightly with her hot breath.
She did not allow herself to think. The haze that had replaced her sanity that night had taken full hold. Her skin still had the scrub marks of a persistent and harsh clean and the smell of white spirit filled the car. Her body slumped, with her one hand over her mouth, Emily carelessly wove through the dark night’s roads.
But through the numbness, a powerful icy blast made Emily tremble. Her hand, touching her heated lips, suddenly felt cold. Something was missing. It was like someone had ripped away her coat, her security, and thrown her into the cold, cold darkness. She needed it back.
And thenshe undid her beltHer icy, vulnerable hands stretched out towards the dashboard. She needed that ring.She needed her security.
Emily scrambled for her ring, clawing relentlessly at the greying dashboard.
And in one of those things that life calls "coincidence", at that moment, a lorry turned onto the road where Emily was driving. The driver’s eyes had grown heavy from a day of long, slow arduous working and he allowed himself to slacken off the steering wheel. Singing out of tune, the driver was merely thinking about simple things. He was thinking about his wife, how she probably hadn't remembered to video Top Gear, how she may have cooked that chicken dish, how she made him smile this morning. 
The lights of Emily’s car looked so small as they jolted across the road into the lorry’s path. In a way, the light's were like darting starlight, dancing. The lorry and the small car interlinked for a fearsome jig. The proud male vehicle bowed, taking the car by the hand, knowing he'd break her heart with his masculine power. 
They turned in unison, the lorry drawing the little car underneath with the force of the motion. Then she, the belle the of ball, ended her dance. She spun, clear of the lorry in a movement that can only be described as "gravity defiant" and the dance bitterly ended as it attempted to serenade the tree. 
Emily was slumped on the dashboard when the paramedics came, her hands streached, like they were searching for something, reaching for something. But nothing was there, only a small hole in the windscreen, pierced by something sharp.  

Bit of Art Like?

So here's some stuff I've touched up recently....Let me know your thoughts.








That's all. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Ooooof.... Words

Sup y'all. So, this was a poem I wrote when I was 15. Talk about teenage drama queen. Enjoy.



Words.


I’ve never been one to get my words out
Proper-
ly. When a class joke or banter fills the air my contribution is
A murmur. A silent added coin
In the trying money machine that makes but little difference to the mass already there.

I’m there
Sitting in that photograph. Putting on a fabulous smile
(With those ugly teeth)
And shifting closer to my oblivious neighbour, in an attempt to make it appear like

I am popular.

Clingfilm, bendable, chameleon. 
Funny. How these words are so structured.
But I’ve never been one to get my words out. Properly. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Cigarette




You Suck.
Suck on me, as pure white as the moon with a fire-head.
Your lips curl round my exposed skin;
Softening my harsh lines with your curled smile.

I’m putty, my legs cotton; I droop under your steamy breath.
As you draw your breath in, I come closer.
You, you monster, you Hephaistos, stripping me of my white
White white beauty. Drawing the flames
Down my black tar body.

As you suck,
Suck, suck my fire down
Towards the very core of me-
I merely smile. You addict. You are addicted to me.
I am your Pandora. Your thick, supple hands craft me.
Turn me into a woman, darling. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Poetry is for cool people. Honestz.




This poem is a bit "Posh and Poncy." I was watching Breathless, and it made me feel all french and shit. So I wrote it, yeah? What do you think?  


So you whisper in my ear on that evening. 
Deep, sweet breath engulfs my senses: ‘let’s have some fun’. 
We dance, we flirt with boys we don’t know - 
you have that shirt on, that one which creases at the chest.
I live in those creases on that night. 

We drum on tables as the music gets too much.
We talk shit. We talk sense. 
I choke on your Gauloises. But I still draw in the smog,
Smooth as silk  with a stifling aftertaste.
Much like you.

We move, we sway, we love, we fuck with our eyes,
Our teeth, our hair.
And as we dance, my darling, as we move, 
Your hands stretch towards heaven, towards the unknown,
As if by elongating your body you will feel more,
Touch more, be more, you'll grab 
a piece of the night 
and put it in your breast pocket.

Ma Cherie, vous avez ete parfait ce soir. 



Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Fear is in the eye of the beholder.

....When do you realise what it is? 

I sit up, stunned. Can it be? Please, not again. Please God, not again.

What's that noise? My body shudders, I find myself afraid even of my own raspy breath which heaves on my lungs vigorously.

Another sound? Another movement? All I know, all I'm certain of, is that I am no longer alone in this room. 

My bedlinen is tangled around me but I do not move it.  I cannot bare to make any other sounds; it may bring it closer to me.

THERE!

In the shadows, just by my dressing table, I’m sure I saw the outline of…oh God…please not tonight. I need to sleep. My body is aching, desperate for a night without this terror. I feel a single bead of sweat drip slowly down the curve of my spine. They say that they can smell fear. If they can, I bet I reek.

Wait! I’m sure I just saw….a huge black shadow has just moved across the floor. I'm sure of it. I know this time. My body convulses and I find my legs to be underneath me in a "preying mantus" position. Christ, my yoga teacher would be pleased; fear and not her nasal insistence for "deep calm breathing, Alanaaaaaaah" has finally taught me how to balance.

If I could just reach the door, I would not be alone with it. I’d be able to find someone, anyone, to help me. I know what they think of me, ‘oh that’s crazy Alanna who see’s shadows all night long’. Well I don’t care. More fool them. The shadows come after them as well you know, but they’re just asleep, asleep with their mouths wide open.

I must be brave, I must be brave. I peel my legs out of the bed, my heart racing. The door is three meters away. That mean three steps, four at the most. I can do this. I place my feet on the floor; the scratchy carpet instantly filling me with an itchy sensation that permeates my whole body and makes me shudder, as if something is crawling all over me.

One step down, I was close to the dressing table. To where it was. 

I must keep walking. Two steps down.

I am flush to the dressing table now. The third step is looming; freedom is in my grasp. I bring my foot up, pointing it as delicately as possible, as if my wide size eights would cause the terror to come out and punish me for having such un-lady like feet.

But I have to put it down, I have to leave. 

And then it appears. The object skims the floor with lightening speed - not keeping to the corners and skirting boards like it usually does, but brazenly dashes across the floor and stops before my door.

One leg, two, three, four...eight legs stood firmly still by the door, mockingly glaring at me with it’s huge beady  eyes, daring me to try and open the door, daring me to move.

"You move" it said, with it's creepy gross spider mouth, "and I will move so fast you'll shit yourself."

Stood on my one leg, with my other shaking violently in a pensive position (another yoga one actually, come to think of it, "saluting the sun" this time) the spider’s huge frame - at least the size of a jam jar lid - was like a prison guard, refusing my exit, mocking my feeble attempts at escape.

How would I ever get out? How would I ever be released from his grasp?

Suddenly, with a horrendous bang, the door opens wide, taking the spider with it. 

"What the bloody hell are you doing? I heard screaming?!"

My flatmate appears through the smog-like thickness of dark, an eye mask awkwardly pushed over her wiry hair and an unfriendly grimace on her usually smug face.

I can only point, still with one leg in the air. She sighs, and with her sleep deprived arms, she moves the door back, slowly, to reveal the squished reminent of the beast, its proud legs now not-so-proud, crinkled into the shape of the dressing table.

‘Well, that’s dealt with that then’. She said, arching her brow up. She turns and slides back into the darkness of the house. 

I put my foot down, walk three paces and get back into bed where I sleep soundly (with my mouth closed, though) all night.


Exercise - Writing on a "Spell" - short fiction


I kept walking, head down, focussing only on the tips of my Slush Puppies as they hit the cobbled streets. I could still hear them jeering behind me, mocking my maroon school blazer and clocking my feeble attempt to enter the club as the anecdote of the week. I pulled violently at my tie; an emblem of my weakness, my youth, and ripped it from my neck, stuffing it into my satchel where my homework lay, yet to be completed.
I turned right, tracing the outline of the club with my journey. My parka coat grazed along the mildewed walls. I could hear the music pounding inside and it vibrated my shivering, bitter body. This just wasn’t right, I couldn't leave. I had to see her, I couldn't leave without her.

I kicked a stone in my anger and it bounced off something metal with a clang – another door. My heart pounded; this must have been the back entrance. I looked around desperately; no bouncers in sight. The door was strange though; it was more of a metal panel than a door in itself having no visible handles. I ran my fingers down the edges and tried to find grip. It was hopeless. The door stood still, mockingly unscathed by my slippery hands. 

“Damn it!” I shouted, kicking the door in my petulance and turning away, covering my childish face with my hands.

“What do we have here then?”

I turned around; a man in his early twenties with bloodshot eyes and a penetrating glare had opened the door.

“Calm down mate” The words slurred through his languid lips, he looked me up and down, taking in my appearance; 
‘Though…always love a rebel me.” He smiled with big shiny teeth; all the better for eating me with, “you been kicked out? Come the fuck in!”

Thanking him silently, I moved past him into the smog of the club. I’d walked into a thin corridor where a thronging crowd pushed past each other– everyone around me was like the man I’d just seen – bright eyed, staring, grinning and sweating and moved in a convulsion, like a hot dark sea. I pushed and squirmed my way through until I reached what looked like the main room. She had to be in here somewhere. There was no going back now.

I was pushed at from all directions by a crowd by smiling strangers. The smell of weed and cigarettes singed my throat and made me long for the tranquillity of home. But I persisted. I had to. Behind me, the pounding music suddenly stopped to make way for a voice over. Jolting, I wrenched myself round to face the staging area. This was it. The smooth American voice called out the name I’d had on my lips all night and the crowd roared. My heart could have burst in my chest.  The woman next to me began to cry as the emotions overwhelmed her senses.

Heels, followed by a red dress and finished with a mouth of red lipstick tapped their way onto the stage. They were right. She was effervescent; mesmerising. The woman next to me fell to the ground, unable to look at her any longer through sheer want and desire. Me? I couldn't stop looking. She turned to the crowd and dazzled us with her white, sharp teeth and my body was no longer my own.

The crowd silenced.

“Darlings” The red lips said. “Are you ready for the most magical moment of your lives?”

The noise erupted. The woman next to me remained on the floor but in a praying position, silently mouthing her desires to her hands, never taking her eyes of the red vision on stage.

The crowds glee caused the red woman’s neck to fling back and a low laugh uttered from those lips. 

Then with a whip of her hand – we were silenced again. 

...Any thoughts on what happens next? 

Monday, 2 January 2012

India

So I thought I'd share with you a couple of memories from my trip to India...

Here is the Brady Bunch ourselves...right outside the Taj Mahal. 
This place isn't just stunning and beautiful. It has soul. It's the oldest love story; Shah Jahan built it in the memory of this third and most loved wife. A true demonstration of what the loss of love can do...better than any of this Disney rubbish, right? 
Being a white blonde Western girl was pretty interesting in India. What you don't see from this photo is a row of people taking photographs of Kriti and myself whilst a Wonder of the World is right behind them. People certainly have their priorities right. 
A native can get into see the Taj Mahal or the Crown Palace for a whole 20 Rupees, about 25p, but my frustratingly white skin meant that I had to cough up 400 Rupees for the privilege. But, hell, if it had been ten times, it's still worth it, just to see that marble palace of dreams. 



In New Delhi, Kriti and I went on a trip to see India Gate; an archway which is a memoriam for a fair few wars (google it, as I'm far too lazy to list them all). But the most amazing thing about this place was the people. There were street kids washing in the lake, tourists from all over the world, police guards, beggers... And this girl really stood out. She was begging with what looked like her mother right beside the gate. She had the confidence and practised cutey-ness of an actress. And at what? Five years old? She took my breath away. And it's safe to say I'm sure her shining eyes will make you look twice.

Here we both are outside Ghandi's place of rest. See, from the offset it looks like Kriti and I are pretty chilled and cool in this pic, but TRUST ME it was like being in a furnace.

Old Delhi here and in a bit of it called Parawthe Gulley - where they make the world's best parawthe. Cooked in pure Gee, it's pretty damn bad for you, but goodgod it tastes amazing. This place was just writhing with insanity; the wires, the stores, the people all looked like they were out of a movie and not in one of the famous areas of Delhi. However, although it may look a bit rough-and-ready, it was quite something to walk through.
This is the restaurant in which we had a parawthe. The guys make them in those massive pans you see at the bottom and the man in this picture is making up some more, as well as some chutneys.
Man oh man was this stuff a little teeny bit bizarre, but cool nonetheless. This guy here is selling Pan. If you go to India, in most lift corners/street corners/anywhere outside you will see splashes of red - and that is because of men and women spitting the Pan out after eating it. You'll see it everywhere; most people's teeth are stained with the colouring. So what exactly is it? Well, Pan is a very sweet and perfumed (usually with rose water) sugary treat which is then wrapped up in a palm leaf. Not to my taste but definitely worth a try. 
Such an awesome snapshot. Kriti and I were staying at her uncle's house who owned the only petrol station in the tiny village. Wherever you drive in India you see people bustling for room in trucks and cars with heads, arms and even whole bodies resting on the outsides of speeding vehicles. This tractor was taking some village people out and was so amazingly colourful and such an interesting site that I couldn't help taking a shot of it.
We went to a crocodile national park in Akaltara, here is the sign to the park.
A lady and her grandson selling candies outside the crocodile park.
What an experience this was! Kriti and I got the opportunity to teach students at a local school. They were so responsive and loved our talk about English life, finding it so funny and gross that we ate a big joint of beef for our Sunday Roast and that our movies didn't have singing and dancing in them.
So here are some of the school kids practicing for Independence Day celebrations.
This is Kriti's auntie. Here, we were at an arranged marriage Engagement Ceremony. We were all dressed in our finery and met up with the couple; the prospective wife having to sit at the front of the room and be questioned by all of her future husband's family. Then, both families arrange talks to see whether the union would work. And after a few hours, the engagement was announced!
Frustratingly, I cannot work out how to change this picture around! But this is a woman that I met on a bike ride around the villages.

On this bike ride, we stopped off at a local shop for a Thumbs Up! Check out my henna....!!!
Beautiful scene of village women going to bathe. The lake was already teaming with buffalo and men washing together, and the women were about to go in and bathe themselves. Awesome colours.
Our final stop off and I spotted these two ladies staring at me on the bike. I couldn't help but stare back!
Being rudely awoken at 7pm after my Indian siesta, Kriti shook me and said 'Hannah, Hannah, get out of your PJs and we're going to a family meal. Apparently they've made quite a fuss out of us'.
So, with a muggy head, I put a shirt on, not even bothering to brush my hair; Kriti slicked back her hair and donned her glasses over a makeup-less face and we headed off to this 'family meal'.
But, here comes the embarrassment. Instead of a family house, we were taken to the only hotel in the village where at the front door was a sign that said 'Welcome to the Singhania family'.

We walked in tentatively and could hear the familiar sound of Kriti's dad, Govind, chatting away. But not to any old person, to a room of over 200 people. We were pushed into the room by an exictable member of the hotel staff who couldn't stop looking at the 'white girl' and asked to sit at the top table.  Massive gulp.

Govind was chatting away in Hindi but Kriti was translating. The event was a welcome to the Singhania's and the 'Foreign visitor' who had come all this way to see Akatara. Govind was talking about his life in England; he was the first person from the village to move out of Akaltara, let alone go all the way to the golden streets of England...

Then a young boy came onto the stage and chatted, he was going to America as he had won a scholarship at an Ivy league University. They were talking and congratulating him when the boy said something and Govind stared and me; everyone went silent. The lad, who was a ridiculous super-genius, wanted to shake hands with ME, little blonde odd me, because he was 'blessed' to have a foreignor in his village. A boy who had won a scholarship to one of the most presitigious universities in the world wanted to shake hands with me because I was, well, blonde and foreign. That was the most awkward handshake of my life. He said in English: 'Thank you so much for coming, you have made us all very happy'. Um, erh...wow.

Now that I was in the limelight, Govind took this opportunity to seemingly make me want to murder him. Again he chatted away in Hindi and again the room went silent. But this time the microphone was shoved in my face. Kriti quickly said 'They want you to make a speech and then sing, go on they're waiting'. I could see her face desperately wanting to crease into a massive smile. I've only ever sung infront of her in the car and even then she abruptly turns the music up so she can't hear me.

HUH?!

So, through an urge to run for the hills and a minor murderous rage toward Kriti and her joy at my embarrassment, I chatted away (whilst Govind translated) about how happy I was to be there, turning a fantastic shade of BRIGHT, INSANELY BRIGHT RED BEETROOT at the same time.

And then as the crowd grew ansy, I was forced by no fault of my own to demonstrate how utterly untalented this so called 'foreign movie star Hannah from England' was.

Luckily, well, I say luckily, Kriti's cousin Tuktuk had taught me an Indian dance to a song which goes 'hush hush baby, I'm too sexy for you' the night before. Yes, after I did it she pronounced me 'rubbish' in her Indian accent and then shoved and pushed my legs and arms until I did it 'ok - ish' and yes, she is a five year old girl and yes, the song was the epitome of innappropriateness.  But, on that fateful night, I found myself dancing mock-sexily to a group of 200 admiring Indians, all waiting to see what the white girl could do.

And d'yknow what? They clapped. And then the kids all lined up to shake my hand.

Wow.  
Oh, and that picture was one of the many I had with some of the kids that turned up on that fateful night. Myself and Kriti were papped all night, as well as asked for our autographs, facebook accounts and telephone numbers.
So, as part of Hindu tradition, old statues are given to the sea as a gift to the gods. Here is one which was washed up on Mumbai beach.

A dancing monkey on the beaches of Mumbai
A homeless chap who seems to be posing here after begging for money.
A temple in Mumbai
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