Black Octopus

This dark time of year can get into our hearts. Even if we are up with the light, as I have been, the cold squeezes our bodies and stealthily tires us out. Our muscles are constantly tensed against it. Also we make ourselves smaller to keep ourselves warmer. Our breath shrinks into us and we shrink with it. In this hemisphere we should be cocooned into little warm hideyholes for the whole season, waiting for nature to come back and shake us awake. We shouldn’t fannying around with a freezing cold van on the weekend. But, moan about it all I want, it’s fun. If it wasn’t so bloody damn damn bloody cold I’d be having a whale of a time. As is, just remembering to breathe fully is a full time job.

I’ve had the Black Octopus for the last few days. The weird many legged clever squashy sense that … everything is just slightly off kilter. Dread, and a bit of sadness. It’s hard to shake it once it gets its tentacles into your ventricles. I keep on just stopping, sighing deeply and moving on without really knowing why I’m sad. But that’s the nature of the octopus. It just comes and perches on your head. For its own reasons. Sometimes I find myself thinking of exchanges that took place decades ago forgotten by all involved except for me, pulled out of my ear by one of those sucking appendages. Other times today I’ve gone back on the groove of missed opportunities. What might have been. Then I remember my walk in the autumn and how all of that stuff fell into sharp relief. What does any of that matter? I’ve wrestled that leggy twat long enough that it won’t get its beak into me this time. But it wasted some of my time today camouflaging itself.

I went to try and work in the van, realised I’d left the cable runner at Gatsby last night in an almost heroically deliberate unconscious act of self-sabotage. Well done that octopus. No power would’ve meant another freezing day. No. Not three in a row.

But rather than stagnate, a change of plan: Mel went to the warehouse to get the cable, I took the van for a wash. We couldn’t stick things on it and expect them to hold as it was. The whole thing was grimed in crap. I wasn’t washing it myself in this weather. I paid someone even more damn money, and then spent some on a hot coffee and sat there reading my book while they worked. Perfect opportunity to get something done that needed doing. You couldn’t touch it without grease.

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Now I’m at Mel’s. I put myself to bed early because there are covers and it’s warm. We’ve been clarifying ideas and running scenarios. It’s a simple thing we’re making really, and it’s important to remember why we’re making it. Despite a million complicated forms we had to fill in, in the end we are just making a pleasant moment for people. It’s not even acting. It’s just responding. It’s just a thing. I’m just getting chased by my own darkness a little bit. I think I can feel the suckers popping off now though. I’ll make polpetto nero of the bastard like they do in Astorga. Omnomnom.

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Today was the last day building outside the warehouse in Borough. The problem with using Gatsby is that we are beholden to them in terms of arrival time. I have to be there at 8am to fend off the trafficbastards, but they don’t really have to be there until 4 and they hold the keys to the inner space. And they weren’t coming in. No money is changing hands, you see. We’re there on sufferance. It’s a favour, and we can’t expect them to change their patterns for us, much as we wished we could today.

I had to reschedule my friend the carpenter when it became clear nobody was going to let us in. Now I’m worried we won’t get stairs made in time for people to get into the van which will mean fun with stepladders. Hopefully it’ll work out. But oh dear God it was a cold morning, until with the artifice of desperation we found a way to get a wire to a plug socket. We ran a cable through a hole in a window cage, then into the building through a gap in the window where the long dead ventilator should be, then through a working loo, up four flights of stairs in a working office building, and boom! Into the socket that the cleaner uses for their Hoover. Just as well I know the code to the outer door and that the loo was unlocked today. I got power to the van just in time for my friend Suzanne to arrive clutching an oil heater to lend us. Bliss. Finally.

The good news is, it takes very little time to heat up. Two hours later we are in a warm van, but complet exhausted from cold, attempting to string sentences together while instead getting fractious because we are both just shattered by shivering. But nobody tripped on the wire and died. That’s a win. And Holly came and got some photos taken of us in weird masks and stuff. So now we have images. And then finally, 8 hours into the day, Gatsby opened their space. We disconsolately shuffled in, returned some stuff, painted a couple of chalk boards, and stopped trying to pretend to be real humans because it was far too much effort. Mel left. I sat in the van and waited for the congestion charge to end, and then drove off too, causing controlled carnage in the back of the van. Barely caring.

The last thing in the world I felt like after that rancid day of ice and disappointment was an ecstatic dance class. I drove the van home full of emotions, mostly sad and weird and unvalued and low and heavy. I shuffled up into my flat, grabbed my tracksuit bottoms, and walked back out before my brain could stop me. I got on the tube, went to Camden, and danced like a maniac for 2 hours despite really really not wanting to do anything of the sort.

It sort of helped, sort of didn’t. I still feel sad but I don’t feel so tense anymore, or so cold. It’s a good workout and I was in excellent company. I think it’ll set me up better for the weekend, which will involve more cold vans but self determined now instead of in somebody else’s space. I’ll probably have to run cable down three floors through a window, but at least I’m expecting that going in.

And when I got home Brian had run me a bath. I’m in it now restoring heat to my bone marrow.

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