It’s all about the journey.

I’m off to the South Bank.  Get a morning call from Henry Normal. Henry is the
top of the comedy tree in England and runs babycow productions – more
importantly for my needs he’s also a fantastic poet. He is unusually a
millionaire poet and has just confirmed that he’ll read at my event at The
South Bank on November 9th. It’s a wonderful start to the day.

We did some memorable tours of Britian, Henry, Johnny,  the lead singer of  I am Kloot,   and I.   I  decide to stay the morning at home working on the City Commission poem that will be inlaid into a sculptor in the heart of the financial district of London and finish the writing section of the day by noon. Off to The South Bank.  My bike  has a feckin flat tyre,
the valve’s bust. Not to be deflated we, bike and I, walk  to London cycles  meanwhile speak to Jo, the owner who is a friend of a friend of mine in Manchester who helped Jo acquire  his squat  years ago. 

An hours delay but the bike’s sorted.  It needed a new inner tube. We all need a new inner tube every now and then and maybe a little air.  I’m off to The South Bank in central London but haven’t got further than half a mile from my front door in two hours. By now I
am hungry – Writing does that, makes me forget to eat.  Just a few minutes from London Cycles is Broadway market,  by the canal just on the edge of London Fields.  Lunch is in order so I  chain up and sit outside  La Bouche  a fine deli and order   Ciabatta, chicken cheese salad and mayo with misty coffee and read the paper.  Nothing wrong with a lunch break. I can get to South Bank later I tell myself.  There’s a massive picture of the  journalist in the paper I call her to tell her that both the article she wrote and the picture are on the money.

The staff at La Bouche are friendly and sociable and a cute young woman fromo the staff  sporadically helps me with my crossword.  The woman and guy sat next to me are
entertaining rather than hilarious. I yawn and the guy yawns. “ I got your yawn” he says. I told him there was only one travelling yawn in the world that dives from one person to another and suggested that a person in a passing car may have seen him and taken the yawn further. “I like the idea” he says. 

She’s from Canada and the guy a sort of Englishman, both late twenties. She seems not to come up for air and her Canadian sentences run into each other as if linked in one continuous square dance to a violin loop caught in a sample machine. And he being English is talking little and accepting her unending filling in of gaps like a linguistic
bricklayer on speed. In truth, she’s doing the work and he’s being lazy. And the more conversationally lazy he becomes the more socially panicky she becomes and the two seem to be getting along fine. And maybe, just maybe, he’s listening and maybe she likes that. It’s a tricky contract.  I like her though, her hell-go-for-it-ness. She’s squeezing London for all it’s worth. It’s gallery this and exhibition that. He is not bringing much to the table though and I remind myself that I was on my way to the South Bank.

A  while ago a colleague asked me to be a director of her theatre company.   I’ve come to realise that I haven’t got the time to do it. I’m really bad at this but  I pluck up the courage to call her to see if we can meet at the café in Clapton near my home. I’m only ten minutes
from home here at La Bouche.  I bike it past the hairdresser and get my hair cut buy a ghanain man called Champagne who always gives me a warm welcome. The hairdressers is like the Ghanain embassy and I absolutely love it. Kids run in circles with braids flying. Large African women come in slap hands with champagne. He takes a call on his mobile while shaving my head. I absolutely love it. I leave and outside meet Meerha the owner and new father of Asphendos –  we catch up and say goodbye. Wave to my Nigerian neighbour who is waiting at the bus stop.  I know, the south Bank, I tell myself.

I chain up  at the Turkish cafe and corner shop that serves as a sort of community centre for a certain Claptonian.  Sarah arrives in her gold retro porche and parks up. I order her latte and water for myself and deliver the news face to face that I can’t be a director because of commitments – she is cool with it. Meanwhile The Journalist arrives from the bus stop with a smile.  We both go home and outside are the shop owners from around the corner back from Jamaica where they both retired a year or so ago. He is Jamaican and she is east London through and through and a nicer couple of people you could not meet. He gives me a hat that says Jamaica on the front of it and I give him Ethiopian paper money to take back to Jamaica. 

The entire day has happened within a mile of where I live. The sun is shining for the
first time this weeka dn it’s the end of the day. The shadows from the beech trees in the park in front of my apartment are stretching as if yawning before sleeping in the darkness of night.  It’s warm. My self and the journalist order Friday food from Lemongrass and the night falls.

This evening  I write an introduction for an exhibition catalogue of work by looked after people – people from the care system for an organisation called Flourish.  Here it is.  


“If I  could explain my  emotions I wouldn’t have emotions I’d have great explanations. Art is the ultimate interpretation or communication of emotion in action which is  why to be an
artist is a startling and powerful act. 

The greatness of the imagination is its lack of boundaries:  the limitless space for exploration and discovery,  the endless far reaching wealth of possibility, the creation of worlds of interest and intrigue. That something you create can also be unexpected – the wonder of surprise at your own creation – is a gift to behold.   

We are all dictated to by rules regulation and reforms. Exploring imagination through the
engine of  emotion   through art is priceless.  In viewing this work you, as I,   have a looking glass into that astounding and vital world. Flourish.

Lemn Sissay Artist in Residence The South Bank

 On BBC 2  while I wrote the above I spot pilot Dave Slow – wonderful name for a pilot –  who took me into the sky in an acrobatic plane to commemorate the poem High Flight and its writer, for a piece I was making for BBC 2. The documentary is called Inside the red arrows. I try and call my ex raf pilot friend but he’s in the pub. I’m glad I don’t drink anymore. I would’ve been there too. Not that there is anything wrong with him being there.

2 thoughts on “It’s all about the journey.

  1. Chris – thanks for this. I had an Italian friend translate the article which says my mother came to england for economic reasons. This is incorrect. She came as a student for a short stay.
    I do hope Robin L Fernandez will be able to correct it. As I m sure you know there is a big eritrean and ethiopian community in Italy and these things really matter. Otherwise, great piece.

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