George Pringle

George Pringle writes…

York Road

Excerpt from my London Volume.  “Steel & Industry” 2016

The climax of this London walk, is York Road. And what is York Road made of? Well, there are many kinds of shops. There are the ones will the tourist tat, then there is a dry cleaners. There is a locksmiths and a cobblers. A lopsided “open” sign has slid behind the glass outside, it hangs loose, valiantly flashing away. In this dystopian arcade, there are City Tour offices and two private healthcare clinics. Then there is a betting shop, a charity shop and two branches of competitive car hire.

The feet of a receptionist wear patent court shoes. They hover over an extension lead and a Thatcher blue carpet. Her identity remains concealed behind the frosty glass. At night, three palms wistfully stand to attention, in a dark office facade.

Passengers for Easyjet collect with their cases before a small bus stand. The London Eye shines her lights, only they confuse with the cranes of the Shell site. The buildings lever themselves from the ground, growing every week.  Vigorous and fresh as wisdom teeth.

What is York Road made of? It is made of all of the glory of London.

 

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Waterloo – Oxford Street

 

Excerpt from my London Volume.  “Steel & Industry” 2016

When it rains, a lake gathers on the road where the tarmac slopes. Reflected faces of office workers move on a smooth conveyor and under the railway bridges nearby are pubs. They smell of varnish, ale and carpets. An alley behind the station acts as a bus depot. “Not in Service” they rise against the high office block that leans on the station entrance. In this firmament of florescence, of ceiling tiles…you hardly notice Britannia, bearing her trident and torch of newfound liberty. War and Peace sit wretched either side to survey the many cranes which occupy the Shell site.

I always walk over Waterloo Bridge, “The Women’s Bridge”. Hungerford is full of tourists and swallows you into a mall with a gym. Westminster is un-walkable too except for after dark when returning from the West End. Only then, can you feel the enormity of the city. Then it’s really best, winter nights when there’s nobody save a stray tourist with a tripod. The city is really yours, then. But by day it is made of selfie sticks and candied nuts, gypsy heather grows in the gutter, glinting within its tinfoil. Brides and Grooms pose before parliament and a bagpipe player furiously blows, his oscillating siren dopplers, as you thunder past on a bus.

Waterloo Bridge is best for walking, though. It leads you in past the IMAX on a narrow strip of pavement. Buses jostle you, they make you feel small as you walk alongside a wall which conceals an underpass. People often leave things on this wall, like cans of cola or bottles of beer. Occasionally a tide of trash is sucked into a sandstone bay and in a divot on the bridge, people leave their gum to collect amongst the cigarettes and rotten rinds of tangerines.

People always leave these sacred three together: Butts, gum and rind. This matrix only broken by the one true rebel, who every month or so tosses a banana skin as though it has never been done before. This “Banana Revolutionary” is quite the character, always thinking what they do, an original activity. But little do they know, I’ve been walking this road for three years now and sure as anything, each time the skin shrinks, another “individual” catches wind and comes to crowns this thing with fresh, yellow flesh.

There’s a indent on the bridge where at a certain time in the morning the silhouettes of commuters bend and distort in the young sun. How they hurry across, never to stop and survey: To the right, the East and then, left, to the West. Past and future is what they mean to me. The right, Hackney…Walkie Talkie…Land of Warehouse Living and left to Westminster, Chelsea. Polished brass and foyer plants. Houses and bridges like wedding cake.

Gulls circle Waterloo Bridge. Sometimes they zoom alongside and sometimes they play that game where they perch on a lamppost before launching themselves to the wind. They gain momentum, circling wildly. They follow this “runway” like the airplanes, which follow the river, too. And at the very end of the bridge, a Shag is always sat on a mooring post in the river. The post drips with shit. The Shag always sits with regal importance.

The traffic lights at Strand attract strange combinations of people. Tourists in trainers, business types, dancers with duffle bags. They all linger, with aimless energy before the doors to Maplin.

Up in Covent Garden, Penhaligon wafts Oud. A waxwork of Connery stands by the door to “The James Bond Experience”. The person flogging tickets at the desk and the guy dispensing flyers outside have nothing to indicate, in their eyes that they are slowly losing their minds.

And it is here, after the Opera House, on the corner of Long Acre, that you will slip into a true consumerist paradise. To the right, is a “Pret” and then two minutes along, another, towards Leicester Square. There’s another, too, I didn’t mention at the end of Waterloo Bridge. They split, like atoms across the city, dividing and multiplying. And inside, people hunch over smartphones, hands move to mouthes without glancing down. For they know exactly what will go in, how it will taste, how long it will take, to consume.

The charm of secondhand book shops, the Chinese Apothecary, of doomed Denmark Street, all contrived respite before I decide which way to go. You see, from here, on Charing Cross Road, there are two possibilities. Either I will throw myself to the throng of Oxford Street or I will creep down the alleyway alongside where Foyles used to be. Under that arch, I will find myself suddenly in Soho.

If I choose Oxford Street, though, then I will pass the Crossrail Site. It sprawls, all fallen Troy, buildings, like open circuitry. Sharp on the left past the tube are noodle bars and phone accessory shops. Strident, synthetic music blasts to a fleet of emojis. Strips of LEDs convulse and flash like christmas on meth. Sunglasses cascade on carousels that nudge shoulders spookily in the wind and mannequins wearing “fine leather jackets”, blanch, faceless and white.

Halfway down, stands a building site, on the right. The facade of a period building hangs like scenery for a missing set. And behind it is Hanway Street, which bends, to conceal Bradley’s and Flamenco Clubs. For how long will they be there…A crane peers from the site of a former language school and two doors down the Bar that felt like swinging London got gutted and made-over. It now feel’s like an Oligarch’s jet.

Oxford Street is more sleek these days. More metal. There are fewer Hare Krishnas, or maybe I just miss them. Maybe their chorus blends, disappearing amongst the hacksaws and banging steel poles. But new disciples, dressed in Orange gather here. Construction workers guard their sites, they move in luminous packs. The Orange Agents drum to a walking crescendo which will end at the corner with the crossroads to Regent Street and as you walk this street the shops will only get bigger and brighter. Cavernous, on the corner is Topshop, our orchestral pit. A symphony of writhing limbs, of hangers that slide and click across spectral autotune frequencies.

 

 

 

 

Holiday Reader

Q:  “Do you know what it is like to be a person with a limited attention span?”

I’ll let you in on something

A:  “It’s hell.”

As you are reading a page, you begin to notice how the paper smells.  Does it smell like chemical coleslaw? The slippery kind of paper is like that…but more often, a paperback is slightly denser, musty with a top note of PVA, something lived-in and faintly raisin. A little like un-smoked cigarettes.

And then you notice how raised the print is, how it catches on your fingertips.

You start to read a paragraph and then you go back because you drift a bit and suddenly all you see is the sun in the sky, the grass in the wind, how your legs look on the sun lounger, the way they bristle and slide. The grease of sunscreen, the compounds therein that give it that agreeable smell.

Like plastic apricots

And then how funny…the slight way the shifting clouds can hide the sun

The momentarily blue universe

And then you go back and read the same paragraph again

It means the same nothing again

Now the sun is out

And you think about the word “Furtively”. You just read it…

How great the writer must have felt, using a word like that!

 

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Belsize Park, March 2008

You drop like crystalline from the trees

I  listened to that album in the shower and whilst I scrubbed I danced

You wonderful loon, sham-pain-shampoo, fresh-fresh-full bloom

I’d been dancing in Ashley’s flat, in a golden dress and a Russian hat

I wore no bra, superstar because she told me not to

 

And cuts for cuts

(the time is prime)

And sluts for fucks

(the time is nigh)

And teeth for teeth

(I ate too much)

And sweets for sweets

My eye’s a slut

 

When the curtains were drawn, the world was grey so we kept on dancing, dance away…There wasn’t much left to drink, so I crooked my neck in the kitchen sink and between chews, we choose Crème de cassis

No I’m not M-D-M-A-ZING tonight

(but you’re dropping like crystalline)

Primrose Hill looks to kill

A girl with a clammy fist of pills

(somewhere in the dark I saw her)

I slept so hard, I couldn’t dream

6am, this cheer-leads me here

(and you’re dropping like crystalline)

 

Affogato

(I’m drowned)

Ice Cream

(the northern line)

Coffee in a can

(I can’t understand some things)

Bruised up legs and an unmade bed, oh greeting me like lover’s arms

All grey today

 

And cuts for cuts

(The time is prime)

And sluts for fucks

(The time is nigh)

And teeth for teeth

(I ate too much)

And sweets for sweets

My eye’s a slut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darling, are we a funeral party?

She looked up from the wreath she was making, stapling the lavender satin –

The ribbons fell over her skirt and curled around her feet.

It looked like a giant rosette

This memorial wreath

 

From over her spectacles, she said, with a smooth deliberation

…in a song that sounded of cigarettes

“You know you can be very lonely with another person.  You can beat a woman down without beating her up.  Some poor bastard snoring away beside you…and you’re paying for the privilege”

Outside on the street was a straw hat.  It slid along the pavement.

It’s frayed edges said

“Summer is over.  Go home”

So I did.

 

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A Poor Man’s Roses

Oh to be a cheap carnation

A cheap carnation that’s never been bought

Sitting in a plastic bucket

Outside of the corner shop

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And then one day I woke up and I no longer wished to be loved.

Like a dark little conker –

Somehow, rattling against the felt of her shell.

“Ha” I laughed

These were the days of being hard

Wonderful days

 

Very, very dry, like a quick comment on the side

After something far too sincere.

P.S. I Hate You

Dear Generation,

Flat White

Laptop

Soya

“Startup”

Cocktail

“Friends”

Meme

Horny

Porn

“Chill”

Sportswear

Boxset

 

“Curated”

Death

 

Love George

London, May 2011

Excerpt from “Bible for a Hopeless Girl”

“Are you George Pringle?” the plump boy asked.

He was quite sweet looking, very young and had come forth from a group of friends. They lurked in the background with thinly veiled anticipation.

Understanding the power of this transaction I suddenly clicked in and became her again. I lifted my lids slowly and said, in a slightly crisper, lower voice “I used to be” before sort of ironically smiling and then, subconsciously checking my face in the mirror to the right of the coffee machine. I was always doing that. Something a customer with a crush had mentioned, probably to put me down. My brown fringe hid half of my face, how had he even recognised me?

I sunk back behind the counter and pretended to read a book. That’s what George Pringle would do, she would read a book.

It couldn’t get worse than this.

I am serving them coffee.

And then I thought of what that woman had said, that manager of that big band. She was a terrible woman. I remember very clearly the first time I met her. I went to shake her hand in the auditorium canteen, I put it out and I knocked my glass of wine clean across the table. I was mortified.

Later that night she was lying on a sofa in my dressing room, her pale, fat little legs suspended over the arm. Her red, straight hair hung flat on her forehead. She said: “They don’t like that. They hate it when you say you work in a shop. Don’t tell them you work in a shop, they won’t take you seriously.”

Well, I had worked in a shop the whole time, so why should I lie? That was the reality.

You had to survive.

But with hindsight, perhaps she was right.

Holiday Inn, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, December 2008

Excerpt From “Lone Stranger – Tour Diaries”

I lay in bed staring at the styrofoam box which had contained the fish and chips. Outside was unanimously grey and by now the hangover had kicked in.  My chest was struggling to breathe again but still I went looking for my cigarettes which were invariably in my coat pocket, the packet collapsed, the cigarettes tatty and flaccid within.  I knew I shouldn’t smoke on account of my tooth.  My tooth was now intolerably painful, the gum throbbed.  I went to the bathroom to look in the mirror and noticed a large, yellow bump on my gum.

I got back into bed and lay there, wondering if it were an abscess.  I wasn’t even sure what an abscess was but I knew that this must be one.  What a miserable morning.   I had recollections from the night before, of the O2 Academy and then of walking about drunkenly, trying to find my hotel key and I remembered the fish and chips which were now sitting on the formica sideboard in a deadpan way.  I hadn’t eaten a meal for days and had felt great the whole time, simply snacking on modest sandwiches or bits of dried fruit.  I glanced in the mirror next to the bed. I was sure my face looked fatter, already.  I turned on the TV and lay there, one finger on my gum, feeling around the hole in my tooth.

What an irony, to have such bad teeth and to never find money for fillings.  Across the bed were strewn my thrift shop shirts, ballet pumps, skinny jeans and CDs in cardboard sleeves with travel-worn edges.  Pink ribbons from their wrapping were tangled up in the sheets.  I was sure never to sell them. Only in Scotland had I sold some and that was probably because of my surname.  People in Scotland liked me, people in Newcastle were indifferent.  My GeoMap of popularity continued as I thought of the tour.  The audience in Leeds were not nice, the South Coast was a joke and London, even worse.

I wondered about all these clothes on the bed and how I had found the money for them and then I thought about the tooth again and the cigarettes and how I always had money for them and how I had better get the tooth fixed.  Really, this was karmic.

I threw everything, indiscriminately into a canvas bag.  I didn’t care anymore and so I abandoned my usual systematic packing.  This month had been the longest and the loneliest of my life.  It was easy to feel that way.  It was December, I was cold, I still didn’t have a pair of socks.  I had to go back to London and do one last date. I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted not to sleep on a floor or in a room with people I didn’t know or in a hotel off a ring-road.

I got on the train. The Tyne bridge disappeared.  Seagulls, flying high, dropped suddenly between its girders.  Or did I make that bit up?  Rain lashed the window, falling in fast, expressive lines.

When I did get home, I returned to a filthy flat.  Islands of dirty laundry.  Surfaces covered in mugs, all filled with green tea bags and soggy cigarette butts.  Silver Fish were still swimming the sadness of my bathroom floor.

I had never truly gotten to grips with housework.

In the fridge there were two things, an apple and bottle of Champagne.

Half the lightbulbs were blown. I did my makeup for the last show in the dim,  smoking and resting my cigarette on the dresser.  When I left the house, I worried that I hadn’t put it out.  I went back and checked but it was extinguished and as I walked out the door, I worried again, that somehow I hadn’t seen right so I went back in to check one more time.

My boyfriend met me and told me that my face was a funny colour. He was right. In the half-light I had overdone it.

I looked like a clementine.