Questions on Paper
I was asked a question by last week’s guest curator Pete Collins about the the smells and sounds and sights and touch and tastes of Newcastle. I have to say that this question makes me feel most of all the limitation of my awareness. Right now, Newcastle smells of Autumn leaves and feels like the nip of first snow. But that is just here, just now. So many other smells and touches are happening, of red brickwork roughing up fingertips trailing along; of a fart in a lift; of the muggy breath-smell on the bus; the comforting tug of a winter jumper coming into use again. And I smell the smoke machine that set off the fire alarm at last night’s gig, and the feel of paint in my toes from the game we were playing (wrestling in paint, don’t ask). And the way that my neighbour’s cat has never let me stroke it so I DO NOT KNOW HOW ITS GINGER & WHITE FUR FEELS and how that’s a strangely agonising soft sense in the back of my consciousness.
It is so hard to sum up a general answer. The sights are of faces, the creases of lines on my fellow-volunteers’ faces as they smile in tiredness in the act of mopping up, or pulling pints, and the constant reassurance of seeing my own familiar hands trail a pen across paper to try and make sense of this glut of sensation. A simple, contained black line on a little piece of white paper: now that I can understand, that I can sum up, that will be my filter for this week on the blog. It is my place of clarity. The cypher that simplifies this sheer profusion of reality that I otherwise find so hard to keep up with, or to know how properly to respond.
The sounds…the sounds of soundsystems, Hallowe’en partybabble and shouting to make ourselves heard. The bus pulling away from the bus stop. The melodic Bangladeshi unheard story going on behind me, and the taste of vegetable samosas. Greggs cheese pasties and the constant dosing with coffee that I rely upon to propel me round my rushing, unsettled days. One day I say I’ll cook me a proper healthy meal, but my mouth this morning tastes, frankly, rancid. Some of my senses, I guess, are suffering some neglect.
I think visually, and I don’t like thinking alone. So I often pester people to join me in drawing, in writing letters, in making comics together and so on. Last night, I sat down with an old friend and asked her to draw me a question. In return, I drew her a question. I do the same thing with postcards sometimes, and have even conducted an interview – entirely with postcards – with a cat who lives in Manchester, as a way to get to know him. He’s called Elvis and is apparently a bit of a legend on his street. I suspect his owner helped him with the writing.
So here are some more questions, in a not-very-linear order. Unplanned, open, like most of the creative encounters I’ll be talking about this week.
I explored this nostalgic theme a few days before, as part of a 24 Hour Comics Challenge at the Globe Gallery in Newcastle. The comic I made that day is here. My friend, with whom I have had a bittersweet relationship, has often talked about leaving, or no longer feeling at home in Newcastle, and this too influenced my first question of her:
We drew these on the first night that snow fell. We had snow in April AND October this year. A curry from the Brighton Tandoori was the perfect antidote to my wet feet, and collecting it took me past all the international students taking photos of the snowfall. Three separate snowball fights were taking place on the street – very gentle, very polite snowball fights. They were either between friends or, what I actually suspect, between neighbours who don’t know each other that well but kinda like each other.