One Hundred Happy Days. A hashtagged, instagramed trend filled with flowers and honey and crumpets, happy children half covered in the icing of pretty cupcakes, clouds, bright red vintage cars and heartfelt hand written notes slipped into quirky bags. The cynical me wanted to sneer at the curated, framed and filtered pictures, a world less bland and beige. Here is a life where no one sneezes on you on the bus, right on the back of your neck, where the council tax bill doesn’t glare at you from the kitchen table, where the tick tock monotony of the chores, and endless refreshing of the browser on your mobile phone to check for new notifications doesn’t leave you in a numb stupor.
So I did sneer. But then another, less jaded, more open minded part of me shyly admits to being delighted by the colours the light reflects on the river, the way the shadows of the trees look like lovers, the sharp contrast of the Shard against the looming thunderstorm, so rare in London. With millions of phones in millions of pockets we can capture these moments and share them, an intimacy blown wide open to the global masses. Here is what I think is beautiful. Here is what I think is special. Here is what I love. Show me yours. Follow me. I follow back.
Sharing this intimately, is as terrifying as it is addictive. I am no stranger to pouring my heart out onto the page, I have kept a journal haphazardly since I was a teenager. Back in the early 90’s it was mostly terrible poetry, Gothic and earnest and made up of (possibly) stolen lyrics from The Pixies in more than one case. I stopped while at university, channelling most of my energy into a creative portfolio of short stories for my dissertation, so agonisingly post modern I can no longer make head nor tale of where the narrative actually starts and who I was attempting to channel. Again probably The Pixies by way of Derrida. I graduated top of my class, and utterly out of touch with a real live audience that wasn’t made up of university professors.
I picked up my diary again when I moved London over 10 years ago back in 2003, knowing full well that I wanted some documentation of my first impressions of my new adopted city. I thought very smugly that one day I would reread these tomes of naïve wisdom and nod sagely at my astute observations of life as a young twenty something in the greatest city on earth. I would be satisfied that so much had changed and feel a nostalgic, protective affection for my 22 year old self, I would be older, wiser and happier.
Writing this post I went to dig it out, hoping I could find some cringe worthy quotes that I could laugh at. A bit of a mirror into the past that perhaps would give me that perspective of achievement and progress, a quick fix and a pat on the back, a good indication of how well I have done.
But here is the terrifying bit. Not a lot has changed.
Rereading a few of the entries I was struck by how I still feel a lot of these emotions as strongly as I did then. Time has not dulled them or made me less susceptible to the inscrutability of London life (and yes they are a bit cringe worthy, but I forgive my 22 year old self a bit more than I thought I would. I was drunk a fair amount of the time too. So fair enough)
May 2003 (Living in Island Gardens E14)
You and I travel here, pretending we are home and living in this bubble that is us. Outside of it we are different people. Would I know you in the afternoon, on a Wednesday, at work? Would we recognise each other then? Suddenly my focus is all wrong. The perspectives are no longer relevant, they are unfamiliar and tight fitting. Like new shoes.
July 2004 (Putney SW15)
I am disconnected and feeling I can find myself in books. Reading The Satanic Verses again. ‘You wear your accent wrapped around you like a flag’ says Rushdie, ‘…and it is slipping’. You see I can pick up your walk and talk your talk in the skip of a tongue… its all about the enunciation. So where exactly are you from dear? Can’t quite place your accent? Place and locate and define and name. One that they cannot pronounce. And I forgive it.
Over ten years later, so much has happened yet that unshakeable sense of displacement has never left. No matter how well I know the tube, the desirable postcodes or quirky alternative histories. There’s something else I need to get a handle on.
So what has this got to do with the 100 Hundred Happy Days trend? I am taking that and changing into 100 Days of Writing and I’m re purposing Blink and You’ll Miss it to host it. It actually fits rather well. Its almost as though I planned it. I have always found getting words onto the page the best way to figure out where I am. I want to explore more about what made me fall in love with London, as well as put down in black and white what I miss so much about my home, South Africa. And maybe between the two find some happy medium. My hearts speaks through my fingers often before my brain has time to process it – a quicker way to get to the skin beneath my skin. These posts may not be purely happy, but I am going to do my best not be morose.
I am going to aim for between 500 and 1000 words a day and I will be sharing this idea and these posts (although maybe not daily!). I have found with my running, sharing a goal can make it easier to achieve. It’s a guide rather than a rule. And I am going to try and keep to a topic so it’s not a rambling stream of consciousness. There may also be pictures. Because pictures are awesome (and are worth a thousand words, ahem)
I’d love your feedback – on writing, London, home towns, terrible diary musings – Any tips on writing daily also greatly appreciated