gurdeepmattu

Author and Publisher. I work in academic publishing. I live in London and am currently writing my second novel. I can be contacted at @gurdeepmattu and gurdeep.mattu@gmail.com and would especially like to hear from literary agents interested in representing my work.

Month: July, 2012

Olympics Diary: I

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I watch the Opening Ceremony and follow the comments on Twitter.  An MP from Cannock decides to ignite his own career, although its nothing worse that the stuff peddled every single day by the hateful Daily Mail.  Danny Boyle is touted as a knight of the realm.

The train journey in on the Friday is eerie.  It is oddly quiet.  The streets, so quiet.  A different kind of London.  Work is tense.  I am also compounding the tension with a hangover, from a night out, followed by a night in that was longer than it needed to be.  I concentrate on a spreadsheet and work my way through my correspondence.  I wander around the Square, at lunch and it is humid.  Sticky heat exarcebates our fatigue.

I go home, via the party, and the buses are full of tourists and people in three quarter cut offs in beige.  The night is lurid, bright and I sit and eat a sandwich listening to Twin Shadow, remembering the Dunn’s River hot sauce just in time.  There is well-spring of things to tell someone, with no real way of being precise without being hurtful.  I write an awful poem instead.

Turn

I turn, I turn, a
Broken thread
Around a finger.
It’s gone blue.
My fragments, my feelings,
I’ve kept setting fire to
You.
I stare, very tired,
Into glowing coals.
I rake them up
And know my words to you
Were desperate sparks
Hunting for scraps of new fuel.
Like hungry dirty children
With broken finger
Nails.

I know I have been
So very cruel
To you and
made you cry,
But you got the best of me
(Lie?)
And made wine, so much wine,
got drunk on a case load
Of my efferverscent Love.
Our hangover spanned the ages
I kneel down and knelt down
and press my face
And pressed my face
And would press my face still,
To your belly, soft there,
Cold silk, and the beat of your
Whispering blood,
And hear the whispered words
Of a thousand cynics I left
Behind, left behind! I did –
Not for long.
I’m left with the cynics
They are left with Me,
They want the worst of me to
Shine through,
My bitterness is that: a
Shattered
Stem cutting through me
And the panic
as I tread
Memories through a dread
City alive with electric girls
And a mocking irony
That makes a mockery
Of me:
I’m sorry.
Really,
Very sorry.

Malta: VI

i

The guys in the waiting staff talk in Maltese.  I don’t understand it, a heady of blend of Roman and Arabic syllables.  They do speak the universal language of getting things done.  One of them opens my bottle of Cisk with the back end of a heavy spoon.  I can appreciate this kind of knowledge.  It is real, and it is tangible, and it is useful.   We walk up to the main Bay Street Shopping Area.  Paceville (pronounced pah-chay-villé) is grubby and unkempt and full of undiscerning eateries.  I would later spend two euros on a very disappointing pizza slice from this exact place.  We stop at La Plage, next to Andrew’s Bar, and the man behind the bar prepares an amazing americano for me.  It is the first good coffee that I have had in Malta.  The teenagers sunbathe on the small beach, their lithe bodies in opposition to the corpulence on displace at the resort.  I wearily realise that I am included in the latter, my passion for ales and chocolate catching up with me.  I grimace and take a sip of the coffee.  The sun is so bright it is burning on impact.

ii

I go out, late, late, and the night ends with a barefoot midnight skip through the sea, sand in between my toes, the water warm, a couple night-swimming.  Dinner had been amazing, and then, some shisha, and then a return to the main club and bar drag.   Along the way on this night I have to listen to some earnest attempts on the part of a teenager to pull the person I am out drinking with.  I admire his persistence and tenacity in an unfamiliar language that is not his native tongue.  I am less impressed by her, not shutting it down, making it last longer by smiling, and hedging the conversation, until finally I sit and drink my beer and tell her that I want to leave.  I leave shortly afterwards, but not before I leave her with my bag, like she left me with hers, and take a long time in the toilet.  It is petty but it makes me feel better.  Someone has puked into the urinal netting.  The cubicle is best left unsketched.

iii

I sit in the extremely hot midday sun.  It is pitiless in its intensity.  I have relaxed on this trip, inasmuch as I am able to ‘relax’.  I stare at a blue horizon where there are no clouds and no threat of clouds.  I look at the incredibly misjudged boxy communications tower in the distance.  Underworld’s ‘Stagger’ makes no sense here.  People wear Ray Bans and designer polo shirts, their skin the colour of roasted walnuts.  Everyone has very badly judged shorts on.  I believe this is what is known as a ‘resort hotel’.  Someone I know told someone else I know that I am fuelled by my anger, and that I want to be a writer.   She might have been right.  An astute judge of character, as so many of us are, but reserving judgement on ourselves, for fear of what lies there.  Valetta turns out to be gaudy, garish, and a little bit depressing.  I am relieved to leave, although it is occasioned by a recurrence of my walking companion’s migraine.  There is a Peacocks outlet here.

iv

Now that we’ve found love
What are we going to do
With it?

I realise, somewhat belated, that this might be one of the most profound lines of the 90s pop scene.  Because as much as love is a search, and a journey, it is a destination.  And after the journey’s end?  A load of depressed fat, queasy travellers swapping stories and stroking each other’s bulging, rotund bellies.  A disgusting idea but one that resonates clearly in the echo chambers of my mind.   Flies settle on the lazy flesh and we retreat to a place where we don’t have to acknowledge our failings.

v

Another breathless chapter based on a brisk cross-wind on a terrace where ants crawl in Brownian patterns over a beige patio.  I listen to the same Saint Saviour song over and over like it contains some kind of totemic meaning, and perhaps it does.  Later, I get a White Russian and it tastes better than anything else I have had recently.   Like it contains some kind of totemic meaning, and perhaps it does.

vi

I stare up at what is either a planet or a very bright star as people are slingshot into the night sky in a capsule attached to heavy elastic ropes.  We sit, and then we lie, and there is a peace, somewhere, inherent, that comes to us, and I look over, and someone looks back at me, the person I am talking to, and we talk, freely, at ease, back and forth, and it is beautiful.  I try to remember what is said, but it doesn’t matter.  I think of Walt Whitman and I want to ask him a question, but I know that there’s an answer to it somewhere in his poem.  Everyone falls asleep, gently, and the crowd thins.  We notice the planet, or star, has moved, to the left, and then we know what this is.  It night-time, and people are being slingshot into the night sky, in a capsule, surrounded by bright, flashing lights, and that is all that I really have to say, about that.  The next day, at breakfast, I have honey and butter on wholemeal toast and it is reassuringly good.  The cab driver stops to fill up the tank and tells me that the a/c runs the petrol down very quickly.  I agree with him, because that’s what you do, in Malta, in the back of a cab, on the way to the airport, that’s just what you do.  I agree with him and he presses the accelerator after we move past a roundabout and somewhere in the entropic remnants of the words I wrote a long time ago I can feel a warmth that was like this sun, and I smiled at you, and you smiled back at me, and the world was our two hands joined, and the electricity between them.

The World We Live In

From The Guardian:

“The sheer size of the cash pile sitting out of reach of tax authorities is so great that it suggests standard measures of inequality radically underestimate the true gap between rich and poor. According to Henry’s* calculations, £6.3tn of assets is owned by only 92,000 people, or 0.001% of the world’s population – a tiny class of the mega-rich who have more in common with each other than those at the bottom of the income scale in their own societies.”

*[James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.]

Malta: V

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They are lighting up the city for a festa.  ____ develops a migraine after valiantly rallying at the Henry J. Beans Happy Hour.  I don’t know what to say to do but I am genuinely concerned and the depth of my concern itself concerns me, struggling to nail down the origin of a thought as I retreat down past Old Mint Street with a Cisk and a lit cigarette that I don’t smoke until close to the incongruous Pizza Hut outlet.  I sit and listen to the cabaret act play ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ in full over a red wine and it is only the smell of burning cotton that tells me I’ve burnt a cigarette hole through the hem of my purple polo shirt.  The cat that has been here previous nights is not here.  Where is she, I wonder?  What is she doing right now?  I sit, legs in the pool, close to midnight, receiving text messages and playing the Eurythmics on loop.  My new jam is ‘Fingers and Thumbs’ by Erasure.  A shattered heart it loves to breathe.

Malta: Pictoral Aside

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“Talk to me/ Like lovers do.  Walk with me: like lovers do”

Thinking: the lyrics don’t make sense unless she’s asking for a special kind of talking, and walking.  That ‘lovers’ do.

“Let’s hope the boats don’t capsize.” – someone says this as we clamber abord the Maltese row boats.

“We hate clubbing.  We have 50s vintage parties.” – Eren

“Your scarf offends me.  It’s July. In Malta” – Eren

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“Ah, so you must know Peter” – Derek Attridge

“We live on a rock.  Surrounded by the sea.” – Eren

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Malta: IV

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We walk, through Mdina, as so many others have done, the worn limestone, the cars taking up whole streets, the balmy air.  There is talk of criminology, discourse analysis, marriage, lactose-intolerance.  Someone is nearly run over by a reversing car.

We head back to St Julian’s and there are some nightclubs and groups of angular nut-brown teenagers smoking shisha pipes.  It smells of apple, of cherry, of deodorant and post-modern adolescent, all the knowledge with the same unfettered desires and unrequited passions.  It was torture, my time around, and I look at it like you might look at the Sun, blinking through nascent tears and a searing blockade of a decade of retreat and manoeuvre.

We drink a decaf on the balcony and I turn in for the night listening to hip-hop on my Sansa headphones.   They make MP3s sound like a tape deck and I’m back in front of the AIWA taping John Peel.

Malta: III

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The day drags on, or it goes quickly: it has always depended on your perspective.  The air con in the room where the coffee is situated is too strong for an empty room but unable to deal effectively with a massed crowd.  The sun is almost directly overhead and lavish in its heat and fizz.  The waves crash onto cliffs, noiseless, in the distance.

I meet ____  from _____ with whom I have a pleasant beer.   It is only afterwards I notice the ash from my cigarette has fallen over my jeans.  It is too hot for jeans but I simply cannot wear shorts in front of the delegates.  There is also no way 511s were made for these conditions, unless you count the baking hot American sun.

I think about America a lot these days.  I also think that this was the holiday you always wanted but that we were unable to agree on.

We are going on a tour of Mdina later.

Malta: II

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The island of Malta rises like a deluxe paving stone from the water, south of the Tyrrhenian Sea.  More southern even than Sicily and North of Africa’s Europe-facing coast, it is hot.  The air is alternately dry and humid, waves of wet and dry heat confusing the senses.  We arrive at around three.  The brother and sister next to me listen to music on their iPhone 4 handsets using the white headphones that they come bundled with.  They leak sound and remind me of a group of scientists reading results from the Large Hadron Collider on an Etch-a-Sketch, in candlelight.  I drift into lulls of sleep from the heat and the vibrations of the plane.

My cab driver insists I sit up front with him. There is a wallet on the back seat.  He either doesn’t hear me or ignores me but we drive on, at speed.  Cutting through the traffic, he tells me he has a son in Manchester.  “Rain and wind,” he says.  As we come into Valetta and St Julian’s Bay, he spots a friend of his and guns the engine, overtaking on the outside, then relaxing and his friend undertake on the left.  “My friend,” he says, laughing, and his playfulness lifts me.  The heat is incredible.  It is 36 degrees and rising.

Corinthia Hotel resembles a Tenerife resort, oddly out of place among the jagged rocks of the coastline and the serene yachts going slowly past in the sparkling sea.  I eat in an air-conditioned American bar and restaurant called J. J. Beans.  It could be anywhere. It is loaded with semiotics, I wryly note.  Nicolette, my waitress, has English that sounds American.  She is extremely good-looking, tan, and neat.

I eat, and half-finish a watery Diet Coke with ice and a slice.  Upon leaving, I’m confused – why is there mayonnaise on my headphone jack?  The suntan lotion has spilt into my bag, over everything I am carrying.  My mood has already been ruined by an autistic text from _____ blethering about my umbrella (it turns out not even to be mine).  She is infuriating.  I sit and compose a reply and marvel at the solidity of the veggie wrap.  It really is quite something.  I then wander, aimless, and realise: I could care less about the text.  Fuck the text message.  The sensation washes through me and I am the sensation and then, it is gone.  The sun, fat and orange and lazy, goes down over Valetta and up go the lights.  A cabaret act starts up.  I turn the TV on and they are trying to sell me erotica.  I turn it off and the band are playing ‘Your Song’.  I hope you don’t mind – I hope you don’t mind – that I put down in the words.

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Malta: I

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I pack, into a suitcase that might be too large for what I’m putting in there.  I prepare myself to encounter that antsy, angsty perpetual motion of air travellers.  For some reason I can’t listen to my headphones on the Gatwick Express.  Perhaps it is because of what happened this Friday, a reaching for an embrace, an embrace denied at the fag end of a long night spent somewhere near the predictably desolate Dalston Kingsland.  I reacted with: a shrug. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about Kingsland Road but my abiding memory is rain, kebab shops and a cash machine that said it would give me £20 but then refused to give me any actual paper money.

Gatwick is dreary.   The light is antiseptic and yet garish, and it has the air of an endeavour that has not managed to reach completion.  There is one runway at this airport, and it shows.  A girl joins the queue with curly blonde hair and I decide to put down my pen for a while.  She returns my look, disinterestedly.