If I look at my shoes and boots, lined up I guess I don't know what they achieve either, or what this achieves, this writing. I think it was William Morris who said something along the lines of “If a thing is neither beautiful nor useful then one should throw it away”. I'm not convinced that I'm able to make those distinctions. I feel like I need to purge something from my system, but what? I mean maybe that's it. Perhaps there isn't any grand answer or ever a sense of pure comprehension. I'm probably meant to be confused. It's odd how we search for meanings in everything though. We make these little decisions about what shoes to wear with what outfit and … and … it's like the big stuff doesn't get done.
Apparently, I was hard on my shoes, consequently, from the age of 11 I was forced to wear monkey boots. I wasn't very happy about this. Everyone else at school had normal footwear. It's kind of unfair to make a kid different to their peers. But, I got used to it, so used to it that I continued to wear monkey boots even when I didn't have to.
What I love about the monkey boot is its indestructibility. They're bomb proof. In the wet, they keep your feet dry. In the summer, they let your feet breathe. And they look peculiarly sexy with white ankle socks – well I think so.
At the age of 18 I graduated from monkey boots to para boots. That was a punk thing, a definite construction of image. I'm not sure what it is about punks and para boots, or why essentially we all copy each other while insisting we're anarchically different … I was listening to some Snuff today though, remembering that gig at the Albert, when we nearly brought the ceiling down, and you've got to wear para boots to something like that. You've got to be up for it.
I had a few pairs of DMs as well, but those are for socialists [laughs], white woolly liberals …
My boots stopped being a fashion accessory and started being a necessity when I was working as a builder. I'm the dropsiest cow on earth and there's a limit to what you want landing on your feet. I could've withstood a screwdriver or a spirit level, but a large hammer or an angle grinder would've been a different matter.
There was this one day Steve and I were building a wall. The hippies, who owned the house, wanted it all done with reclaimed bricks, most of which were scattered throughout their huge garden. My job was to toddle about with a wheelbarrow, pick up said bricks, chisel off the old crappy mortar and scrub them clean with a wire brush. It was also my job to get lunch from the deli down the road.
I was surprised to see shocked faces greet my entrance. I looked a bit of a sight, dusty and everything, but not that bad. Mouths were hanging open. The woman behind the counter was crying. I smiled. Everyone frowned. Silence hung in the air like a noxious fart.
“Er, hello,” I ventured cautiously.
“Have you heard?” Five pairs of hungry eyes were upon me.
“About the bombings?”
I hadn't heard. I'd been furtling about in the undergrowth of a mansion garden all morning looking for bricks. I raced back with our sandwiches (beef and horseraddish) and Steve and I sat in his Transit van, eating and listening to the radio.
In common with most people, I found the whole thing completely surreal. The woman from inside the house kept rushing out, tears streaming down her face, asking if we wanted to watch the TV. We didn't. Steve rolled another spliff. At about three O clock we staggered out of his van and carried on building the wall. That afternoon he showed me how to lay bricks perfectly and finish them with a scutch hammer. He was more patient than usual. We'd sort of hit this silent meditation time. A few thousand miles away people were jumping out of collapsing buildings (einsturzende neubauten) and we were here, in this quiet garden, gently reconstructing some antique architecture.
Life's just so weird innit?
I don't wear para boots as a fashion statement anymore. It seems sort of wrong somehow. They're for soldiers' feet and I'm not a soldier and never will be. The ones I have at the moment are German. My Dad would've hated that. Brilliant design though. Perhaps the only boots you can shove your feet straight into and run without doing them up. Didn't occur to me, until relatively recently, that it's probably because that's what soldiers have to do, ie, get woken up in the middle of the night and start fighting 10 seconds later. I don't have to do that. Even if I'm working physically hard, shifting kilos of crap, breaking my back, it's just not the same sort of labour.
Sometimes I wonder who wore my boots before me, because I always buy them second hand, I don't even know if you can get them new. She must have been a woman, because men aren't often a size four. Maybe she was called Greta or Freya or Brunhilde. I'm curious as to how she came to be wearing them. What choices she made in her life. I don't really understand people I suppose. I don't know how those men came to the conclusion that it was a good idea to drive those planes into those buildings. As a spectacle it worked, because it was damned spectacular, but I'm not entirely sure what else it achieved.
I'm wearing my trainers today, and a pair of ripped jeans. This is how I am most of the time. Regular. Like a reasonably sized drink. Like a period. Like a heart beat.
Normality has its appeals, the greatest of which is anonymity. No-one notices me when I'm dressed like this. I'm just some woman, mediocre in appearances and tendencies. Invisible. That's cool. That's cool because I like the sneakiness of sneakers. I'm nobody. Really. I do my shopping and my nails. I clean the toilet. Every six weeks or two months I wax my legs. I help my kids with their homework. Sometimes I burn the dinner to the bottom of a pan (usually rice). This is how it is, you know, slip on, slip off, tune in, drop out. There's nothing to see here, move on, move on.
Kinky boots, I reckon every woman should have a pair, even if she doesn't wear them. I have tiny feet, so winklepickers suit me and they go with anything. Despite appearances they're actually very comfortable, although when I run in the them things do tend to get a bit wobbly.
Strangely, or perhaps not, winklepickers gained notoriety in the 1960s, due to their weapon like qualities. Boots like these are usually made out of soft leather. It's possible to roll the leg length into a ball and use the stiletto heel as a sharp, jabbing thing. Apparently, many testicular injuries were caused in this manner – [giggles].
The thing about wearing heels, even low heels, is they automatically set my hips to hinge swing mode. Of course I know I'm doing it. Obviously I can accentuate it. WHAT? Look, I can't sing, play a musical instrument (well), realistically I have to admit to a slight double chin and my hair doesn't always behave itself properly, so I use what I've got. It stinks doesn't it? The way I avoid potential finger pointing is by saying that at least I'M using it. I mean it's MY ass and if I want to wiggle it surely that's MY choice.
Do men perceive me differently if I'm wearing kinky boots and a pencil skirt? Yes. I'd like to think that most don't automatically assume that I'm advertising availability. But that's the thing with stilettos, they give out two messages simultaneously; 'Look at me,' and 'I can have your eye out'. Maybe it ties into the whole submission and domination thing. I really don't know.
Anyway, these are my kinky boots, my click clack hear me coming down the street heels, my nod to the classic game between the sexes/genders …
There are rules, most notably: Permission is explicit, by implication 'No' doesn't mean maybe and 'Yes' can mean everything.
A question frequently asked in BDSM circles is “When did you know /first realise/become aware that you were into being hurt/restrained/owned??? For years I never had a ready answer. How do you explain pain and submission – FUCKING FREAK? The most dangerous consideration is that you're being manipulated by an/other. Of course, we all want to satisfy those we love. I'm clipping my sentences in an attempt to prevent mutilation …
I cycle pretty much everywhere. Big, black bike, handmade frame, basket strapped to the front. I like the straps, brown leather, little chrome buckles. I use a flexible lock, tensile steel coated in thick, shiny plastic. I fetishise objects …
My bike has a low step over, and frequently I dismount while still in motion. The paving slabs by the supermarket are slightly uneven. I jumped to walk, pushing my bike to the entrance. Red bricks remind me of Birmingham, where I grew up, threw up, escaped from. There aren't any stands here, so I always lock her to some brushed steel architectural detail. As I was doing it my knuckles caught on the wall, scraping skin off. It didn't sting until I sucked it. The metallic taste of blood in my mouth. Flicking my tongue over ragged cuts. And then I remembered …
I fetishised him, Adam, the boy who barely noticed me. He was an angry young man. Yes. I was there. He was there. We were both there. And even though it seemed as if only a hair's breadth separated us …
Pubescent fantasies, I wrote them all down. My notebooks would get passed around the class. Red bricks. The side of a house. A dark alley way. The sweet stench of stale piss. I put him there, Adam, with me pressed against the wall. I was resistant, a good Catholic girl always is, so he pushed harder, gripping my hands in his and scraping them against the bricks, repeatedly, until my skin was torn and bleeding, and I was gasping and begging, wanting what I didn't want …
These days it's an organised reality. Contracts are drawn and signed. From the point I'm collared (literally, not metaphorically) I belong to him. He can do anything to me. I submit. But he's earned that trust. I've only ever met two men my whole life through who could be the master of me. I crave it. I don't want to be responsible, accountable or liable. I want someone else to take that entire weight from my shoulders. The sheer relief. It's like gravity doesn't exist …
But, I'm not a 24/7 sub. I don't do slavery. I'm a costumed whore. I like the corsets and expensive fripperies. We went to a cocktail party the other week and I got dressed up. I knew I looked stunning. Men couldn't approach me. No-one would've dared touch me. Sirens scare the shit out of people …
And there's the paradox, submission is domination, a highly complex art form, one I'm still learning. The shoes, those kitten heels, they're part of the process. It's difficult to attempt a transformation from fury to furry. I'm such a goddamn hellcat most of the time. But they're my Audrey Hepburn shoes, my tie me up tie me down shoes, my tamed defiance, my comfortable silence. They represent a refuge, where my no means no and my yes means yes. Does that make sense?
i'm trying, really, i'm trying. jesus wept, and so did i this afternoon, after edmund white, cos he's so much better than me, at writing … he has vision … i can't even fight my way out of a paper bag.
i did a fire labyrinth once, flames licking right up to my shoulders. i was naked, except for thigh length stripy socks (pink and black) and boots. walking through cold, with hot either side of me. straight, straight, corner, more straight, another corner. afterwards i ran round the outside, so fast, my legs making big steps. i didn't see the woodpile and i fell flat on my face. it didn't hurt though. i picked myself right up and carried on running. no-one laughed.
i've been submitting, and getting rejected, all over the place. obviously, it's either not good enough, or the wrong sort of enough. 'we don't want you,' that doesn't exactly need a lot of deciphering.
next week (hurrah, a para starting with something other than mememe) i'm going to give notice at my studio. i can't even face going there anymore. it's stuffed full with things i've done and things i thought i'd do. it's like walking into a failure room. somewhere along the line i had a cardiac arrest and my heart broke in that creative cell.
i'll bring my stuff home, computer, a million tapes. maybe i'll work here, i'm hoping so, i need to. i don't know what i'm doing. really, i comb the jobs vacant section in the local newspaper and i think i want to be in an office, as an audio typist. you get there, in the morning, you make coffee, instant, bad, you sit down, some bugger brings you a tape, you put your headphones on and you just do it and then it's done, if you're lucky they say thank you. i liked that. there's no negotiation. you don't have to believe anything about yourself. you don't have to try. it's like a switch. yes/no. a binary code. 0/1. uncomplicated. i don't have to be me. all that's needed are my fingers and a basic understanding of the english language and grammar. there aren't any equations. satisfaction. finishing. completion. and then i used to come home and the day would be over. in the end i had a nervous breakdown. trevor was quite nice about it.
duncan was saying, last saturday, that he's been rejected by every agent, so he's given up his job. it's like a perverse determined success. i'm not sure i can handle that …
this is me, hey, i've been wanting to write it, in terms of it being in my head and it needing to be elsewhere, for about 10 days. 'oi,' i was going to say, 'i'm just a regular woman, like a coke, or a period, and i wear trainers, wax my legs, paint my nails, condition my hair. i shit almost on a daily basis. every once in a while i get athlete's foot, but i'm not an athlete. i burn stuff to the bottom of pans, mainly rice. i cry at stupid movies. some mornings i don't have clean socks or knickers, cos things get away from me. i prefer baths to showers, even though it's like sitting in my own dirt. i pick my nose when i don't think anyone's looking at me. i dance in the lounge, imagining somehow, somewhere, at some point, i was, or am, pretty and vital. i don't like bananas. i drink too much. i like fighting and believing i'm righteous. i still talk to god, but he's changed. i avoid mirrors. there's this one mole i have on my jaw, hairs grow out of it. if i drink too much coffee i go mad. my blood sugar does weird shit to my head, if i need to eat i need to eat, otherwise i faint. i wish i could paint better. i'll never be anyone. my hands give away my age' …
i don't know, really, i don't, i make out like i do, but i don't. someone once told me my life was a rainbow. i never see the indigo and violet. i think colours have this frequency thing going on, so i'm blind to some stuff. same happens with me and music. but there again, i hear sub-bass noise, a constant buzzing. for years i thought it was a low hum thrum hallucination, turns out it's actually there, and cos of ear damage i managed to sustain as a kid i can hear it.
what do you do with the rejections and failures? i don't know where to put them. i've got these boxes under my bed, full of assorted shit. there's one, containing all the passports and birth certificates, etc. life condensed into a shoe box. that's all there is really. a few small indicators. this is who you are, these are your children, your next of kin. it all fits into one shoe box, that's torn at the corner, like a ripped lip, flapping, gasping.
i'm not sure how much longer i can keep picking myself up. i stand here, oftentimes screaming, naked, except for the weird socks and boots. always it's about 'look at me'. i should put some clothes on, cover myself up, realise it's not funny and it's not clever. who the hell cares? i don't think anyone cares. i been trying with the happy bus, even though the power steering went, along with the rest of the electrics. i ain't no mechanic. i'm just some lazy arsed cow, with too much and not enough time all at once. i imagine an intellect beyond my capability, a talent beyond my capacity and a vision beyond my veracity.
what do you do? what the hell do i do? i don't have the resources anymore. i'm not going to make it. and yet, there are people starving, in pain, trying to manage a living hell, and here i am, whining and moaning, in some self obsessed, oh so terrible, western delusion. i don't have to run from bombs and bullets. worse thing that happened to me today is that carrying my shopping nearly broke my arms …
i been sitting on a film for 18 mos, can't post the script because it's so violent and homo-centric, was talking to a guy about it, asking cos the main character's been ill – non contagious TB. god, the guy's HIV+, has been for seven years. if i don't pull my finger out of my ass soon he's going to be dead. i love being around him, everything's so urgent with him. he has rimbaud quotes tattooed up his arms. he showed me how to put blusher on, i never knew the dark had to go under your cheekbones and then the light on top. i'm 38 years old and i didn't know how to put my own make-up on. maybe a death sentence gets you to learn faster, live faster. i'm going to watch this guy die, when i have a life that i'm not even living. goddamn. godfuckingdamn. how can you be nothing to everyone else and something to yourself?
that woodpile. i never saw it. in the dark it didn't look like anything. you can't run through something like that, or even over it, cos it's uneven. maybe that's what happens, you have to fall. is that what happens? at some point you got to eat dirt? then pick yourself up? if you fall right then you don't get injured? how do you fall right? should i have seen it coming?
i'm just a normal woman, stretch marks, bad breath in the morning, wind if i eat lentils, calf ache if i wear high heels. i'm not going to be extra ordinary. i'm not going to be anything. i don't know what to do. it's raining and the wipers on the happy bus aren't working properly. i can't see where i'm going. i'm guessing at corners. the heater's fucked too, as is the radio. maybe i should park up. i could probably figure it out given some time. i'm 38, i should know this shit by now.
oh, and i found this, kind of, i remembered this:-
& I used to do the I Ching
but then I had to feed the meter.
Now I can't see into the future
but at least I can use the heater.
Oh it doesn't get much better than this 'cos this is how we live our glory days.
Oh & I could be a genius
if I just put my mind to it
& I, I could do anything
if only I could get 'round to it.
Oh we were brought up on the Space-Race,
now they expect you to clean toilets.
When you have seen how big the world is how can you make do with this?