A SPAR? A British convenience store that’s not quite as convenient as a 7/11? Is the consumer-etymology founded from a Dutch spruce, a Scando fir tree, something that never dies, like tinned goods, and Vesta meals? Or did you mean spa? A place to recover, are we unwell?
“Here’s Kirsty Allison, my old spar from the 90s…” introduced Salena Godden at a Book Club Boutique event, one of the St Barnabus gigs, or maybe Dick’s Bar? I wasn’t sure what it meant. I puzzled, replayed the words on occasion for several years – a spar – are we not friends? Are we thorns? Are we those silver-wheels at the back of cowboy boots?
And I thought back to the stabbing pain on the road to self-discovery, of the late nights and early mornings – the garden parties, the house parties, the This Is The Last Night Of Our Life parties and the wilds of ledges teetered, the wanderings towards experience, the asking for favours, the telling of secrets, of paths destructed and bombed by the quests to go beyond the sun and everyone before it.
And it was only when I was writing back to my old lover from the days when we met, that I knew what spars are.
See, I met Salena when I was even younger than her. She was sitting on the pavement opposite the Coach n Horses in Soho with beautiful Piers – who’s like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Gatsby, a great dancer and filmmaker, a lover of life, a giver of life. They were from Hastings, there were a lot of people from Hastings – but until then, most people I’d known had been from London, where I’m from. After the pub had rung its last bell we rode to the rooftop of a place in Bloomsbury that Salena was minding (a place with a room I remember crashing in where a woman kept perfect white, fetish shoes in boxes)…drinking pink Mateus from the bottle, looking out over the chimneys and aerials, towards Soho, Covent Garden and away to Fitzrovia, we listened to Tom Waits and surely shared stories from our different youths.
We hung out, went to poetry gigs, I was presenting on crappy late-night TV and editing on a fashion magazine – so wrote of Salena, the poet, and Jock Scot, and Murray Lachlan Young. We shared sofas, and floors and many more bottles of 1000 different lands but as our lives developed, like old fashioned photographs swilling in chemicals, I feared Salena and I’s wild times were over, until her book launch the other day at Sophie Parkin’s new club – the east end’s Colony Rooms In A Crypt, Vout O Reenees. I meet Dickie properly, the man who seems to have become the caretaker of her heart.
And for me, for the first time, I felt they’d fallen off, our old spars. Gone, like puppy’s teeth in the snow. So that was how I learned what they were in the first place.
Reading the intro to this proper collection of poetry, published by Burning Eye, available at Sophie’s club, signed, or online, via Salena’s shop or the larger ones, it strikes me that Salena (or Gloopy, as we used to call her, after Salena Saliva, her ol’ stage name – instigated, partly by Tim Wells, I’m sure) writes an inspiring call to arms. She was always ahead of me by some years, making a conscious committal to the life of writing: the up at 4am strides through the dawn to the get a start on the manuscript. All those hundreds of gigs. The busy-ness of the business of writing. And performing. And being. Radio presenting gigs giving her credibility, the establishment sending her the emails that say, yes, you are famous now. Her becoming a voice of Britain, with more stories than we will ever write, or tell.
This book spans 20 years – it rises from a pre-internet era to one of fear and terrorism, to putting all of those experiences together, and it reads like 20 years of a life well-written. There are poems I’ve heard many times, and those quieter ones with questions which none of us should ever forget to ask. There are the times I’ve missed out on, and times we’ve been together – the times we don’t talk about, can only write of.
Sitting at the bar drinking fizz at the end of the party, I know my old spar is in the place where she always wanted to be. And I hope, from the bottom of my heart, and our bookshelf wombs, that she will always feel this way.
Fishing in the Aftermath took me to unchartered waters – if you’ll forgive me, it is a right catch for those who have ever been lost at sea, or sailed into high winds. For sailors and creatures of the deep, but also, forever accessible with the ability to rattle into a new harbour and join the rebel pirates- always with an undercurrent that could swell voluptuously into tides new, or a changing, but spitting and laughing, sometimes dangerous, yet increasingly calm, collected and with a decent compass aboard the sparship enterprise…you could do far worse things with your cash.