I’ve been thinking about Matt a lot recently and I feel so lucky that I have a whole bunch of his words to read. His writing was as precise, smart and funny as he was in person, so it’s a conjuring trick of sorts – I can magic him back for a while. I have the worst memory, so to read through our joint LiveJournal (I had forgotten we ever did that – what a curious thing that we did) is to visit a place in time where for a couple of years Matt and I entertained each other online. His posts were a mixture of words and pictures, someone cancelled his Photobucket account so the drawings are lost forever, but the words remain. His replies to me were witty and wise. His advice still feels relevant today and it’s a bittersweet pleasure to revisit a world where he was very much alive.
i see everyone as holding a sealed envelope with a date on it…….the good thing is to see the inevitable conclusion as a call to be as much alive as possible, which i think is the best possible use of death phobia. It would be, and is, so easy to give up and see it as the ultimate in wet blanket and never bother doing anything else again…. but surely then every minute and every second should be made to count and have the fullest meaning wrung out of it………. Not everyone can handle an awareness of death, and actually gravitating towards it as a disposition, as perhaps i do, is wholly off the menu for most people..too scary…too debilitating….too deathy. All the work is being done one way or another..Some think of death, some of beer, still others of pupae and fauna..and what stories we’ll have to tell on the other side… I was greatly struck by this conversation with my dentist: DENTIST: “You might well die of cancer……..and you know why that will be?” ME: “No.” DENTIST: “Because you didn’t die of something else.”
Matt Kinnison 7/12/2005
The older I become the more I feel like there’s this clatter of dead people in my heart/mind and sometimes it’s fine and sometimes it’s distracting and sometimes it makes me feel lonely. Perhaps not lonely, maybe nostalgic for lost relationships. I imagine there’s a word for that feeling, but I don’t know what it is. True connections in life are rare and I’m so pissed that I don’t get to speak with Matt any more but remain truly grateful for the words we had, the words I still have.
I send love to all who knew Matt and all who navigate lives with loss.
(Picture of Matt by Matt – on the front on an envelope containing a letter that he delivered to me “by hand”.)
I visited the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens on Friday. This wonderful tree, a Davidia involucrata – informally known as a handkerchief tree, a dove tree, or a ghost tree, because of its beautiful white “bracts” which flutter in the breeze – is in full bloom, and truly a glorious sight.
Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I kept thinking about it. What a tree! How brilliant that I didn’t know it existed and then there it was; perfect, astonishing, surprising.
It’s nine years today since Matt Kinnison died. I bet he’d have liked this tree. He’d probably have known all about it because he knew a LOT of things. He’d have liked the informal names and the floaty shapes and the fact it’s named after Father Amand David, a French missionary who lived in China and discovered the Giant Panda.
Nine years passing means the sting, the grief, the pain, has gone. Not having Matt in my life is the norm now. Such a bloody shame though.
Matt died six years ago. Ghastly fucking anniversary. My world remains all the poorer for the lack of his friendship. I am fortunate that I have letters, emails, cards, drawings, online stuff, that bring him back to me. He had such a distinctive style; I only have to read a couple of sentences he wrote to hear him.
I have an A5 envelope that he marked “For the attention of: ” with a wee cartoon face that he drew to signify me. It has a few bits and bobs from him inside and I keep it on my writing desk. It’s not a talisman or a lucky thing. I don’t keep it to memorialise him. It’s just there, next to me. I look at the envelope often, the contents rarely.
Six years on I discover I can’t make peace with his death. We say, “It’s a blessing” when someone is released from the agony they are in, but obviously it’s not a fucking blessing they suffered in the first place. What a shabby platitude “It’s a blessing” is. I think we live trying to convince ourselves that things can be fair and logical. We cushion ourselves against the reality of mortality. We’re all going to die. It’s the 3 AM terror that pitches at me through the darkness. Some of us die sooner than others. Some of us die of old age, in our sleep. Some die sudden, violent deaths. Some get terribly, dreadfully, fatally ill. Fuck all to do with fair.
There are expectations about grief. A hierarchy of grief. A sense that a death belongs to so and so more because they were xyz to the deceased. They have an ownership of that loss. Yet each death ripples out to all the people who knew that person. Each grief is unique and valid. Time heals. And it does. Thank goodness for time. With distance our losses become manageable. I don’t think about Matt every day, instead he floats in and out of my mind in a beautifully natural way, as and when. Remembering him doesn’t hurt. He’s part of my past, part of my history, another person who shaped me. Tonight though, I’m fucking furious that he’s dead.
It’s hard to believe that there have been five years without Matt. I’m lucky, he’s still in my heart, and my head, I can read his words and listen to his music, I can still conjure him, but damn, he’s missed. This is track 7 from his album Evenings of Ordinary Sand – 15 Yayli Tanbur Taksimleri, and it’d be good if you took the time to listen (if you feel like it). Matt played the Yayli Tanbur beautifully. Not only was he the best bass player I’ve ever heard, he also adored more unusual instruments too, the oddest being the trumpet marine. The illustrations are his too.
I am kinda astonished that it has been 4 years since Matt died. It feels both long ago and very recent. I send my best wishes to Matt’s friends and family, and I send huge, squishy love to Matt. This is a piece he wrote for our joint LiveJournal:
Yes, time again for my weekend nature ramble. Regular readers will note that i was right in my last bulletin about the early pine cone migration. Mr.C. of Whitford reports seeing them as far afield as the bus depot where they were scamming tourists for change. Two words: Global Warming!! In happier news, the stone lions outside the library have flown away by themselves…i don’t believe that they suddenly became light and decreased in mass, but favour the now rather old fashioned theory that everything else got much heavier. I don’t expect to see them again until the leaves turn yellow. Or Autumn, whichever comes first. I wonder if anyone else has heard the unmistakable song of the Albino Plate Finch? You have to get up very early, but your dog will appreciate the walk without a lot of other dogs about. The Finch has a unique high trilling punctuated with bull like roars and old fashioned car horns.
?????? ~ DID YOU KNOW ~ ?????? i) Sea horses have no internal organs but are filled with a rich putty that hardens like iron on contact with the air. Their only natural predator, crispy ducks in an orange sauce, drag them to the surface of the pond but are unable to return to their nest of larval young with the catch as the increased weight makes it impossible for them to fly.
ii) Ears are a natural Macaque repellent, as are melons, if thrown with sufficient force.
iii) Keep cats off your lawn by living at an appreciable distance from any cats.
iv) Before bullets were invented, soldiers used to shoot snails from their muskets.
v) Horses are colour blind. That sofa with those curtains!!!
vi) Komodo Dragons used to walk about on their hind legs like retired sea captains, but the paucity of tables and plethora of large newspapers in their natural environment forced the remarkable evolutionary change that sees them flattened “For Broadsheet”, to use the Naturalist’s lingo.
vii) Henry VI, Henry VII, George III, Anson Williams and Pope Gargantua II were all hatched from eggs. George III kept the bits of shell from his and consulted them about matters of state.
viii) The Italian word for Cuttlefish translates as “Shoes”.
ix) In marked contrast to sea horses, the stately Tree Almond has far too many internal organs, the surplus of which it carries in a pouch.
x) Cat skeletons can still walk, given sufficient motivation.
NEWS ~ EVENTS ~ NEWS ~ EVENTS ~ NEWS ~ EVENTS Congratulations are in order to Ms. Phlegniss for her convincing win in the Potato Salad Dressage event at last month’s Fish Wash. We couldn’t fit mention of it in last week, with the sad news about Roy “Gate” Arnold taking up so much space, but no less do our envious thoughts turn on her like a tank turret. It seems that back bacon is back in local schools. The “I’m Backing Back Bacon” campaign has bought back back, backed by local councillor Roger Bax. The slogan “Bax Backs Back Bacon” and the Backing Back Bacon campaign itself raised awareness and made bringing back bacon back an issue, particularly after so much streaky. Errata: This story appeared last week under an erroneous headline which actually referred to the return of a kidnapped toddler (“Baby Got Back”).
MARCH DIARY: Those of us lucky enough to have the soil for growing “Living” Cucumbers should start talking to them now, as it is nearly pox season, and they will need to be got under polythene and lectured about naval history until late May. While you’re doing that you might want to re-seal the beading on the chicken whips, as the frost will have taken it’s toll, and tie up the pie husks, noting that bundles of THREE are now standard. Thank you, Europe! Finally, the night sky. Mr. V. has contacted me to point out that the constellations “Donkey” and “Supermousse” are both high in the east around midnight. They are immediately below and slightly to the left of the planet Asda, which is very bright at the moment. Note this year’s “Flapper’s” Moon is three quarters full early on account of the extra season added to the calender. Thank you, Tadjikistan!
NEXT WEEK : Comforting and ultimately infantilising nostalgia masquerading as post modern, corroborative and knowing irony: “The 70’s : Aren’t Spangles Funny?”
Cindytalk’s new album – Hold Everything Dear – has been released. You can read reviews, and listen to sound clips here. These are beautiful, shimmering musics – ripe with melancholy and strange other worldliness. Cindytalk is Gordon Sharp, and he has a long and wondrous musical history – (here is his wiki page and here is Cindytalk’s site). My dear, oh so missed friend, Matt Kinnison, contributed to these tracks in his final musical project and the album is dedicated to him, and to John Berger.
This is an album that’s beautiful to have, to hold, to hear. Big thanks to Cinder. It’s a truly special recording and I find myself entranced by the sounds of light smudged with dark, happy spliced with pain, and human hope. I think.
If you wish to purchase it yourself it is available here or at HMV for only £8.99.
Matt died three years ago today. It seems a long time and no time at all. I have a glass of bubbly wine and I am toasting Matt and all who miss him. His friend Andie posted this track on her facebook page in memory of him – it’s a track that Matt wrote for Cindytalk and, as far as I know, the instrumentation is Matt’s and the vocals are Gordon Sharp’s. (If anyone knows different please let me know.)
I have a thing published at Beat The Dust. It is called “Sweeties like radioactive worms” and is the fictionalised account of the real life death of the author of the coffee reviews and recipe it contains. Regular readers here will guess that my co-author is Matt Kinnison.
I’m really pleased that Melissa Mann decided to run with this. I know it’s a bit odd. I also know that Matt would freakin’ love it!
Matt was Mr Caffeine, he loved coffee more than any other substance and was a real aficionado. A few birthdays back he sent me a package containing 4 bags of freshly ground coffee and a card containing descriptions, ratings and reviews of the coffees. He also wrote the turkish coffee recipe for me on our shared (now defunct) Live Journal. We had spoken about the possibility of us collaborating on some words. We wondered about him maybe illustrating a children’s story I would write called “The Bear and the Pickle” – only when we tried, his Pickle looked too phallic for a kids book. We ran out of time. We had wildly differing styles too – he was surreal and funny and abstract and, erm, I’m none of those things. But he loved my writing and encouraged me enormously. I said I would write a coffee story for him and asked permission to use his words.
After he died I set out to write the deepest, most awesome tribute to him. And failed. And failed again. And again. The coffee story became too important. However I wrote it was wrong. It became soggy where it should have been sharp, reportage where it should have been fiction, and the more I worked at it the worse it became. I put it away.
I got it out months later, looked at its blahness, its 5,000 words of well intentioned bad, and I cut it to shreds. Sliced and diced. Spliced in Matt’s words – et voila!
Matt loved William Burroughs cut ups and would love the fact that I have done this. I have no clue what anyone else will make of it, but that’s not so much the point. It’s the last of my Matt writings, and it feels good.
By the way, the very awesome title comes from Matt’s coffee recipe. Boy did he have a way with words.
When Matt died I somewhat inevitably found myself writing about grief. Not as straightforward reportage, rather I wrote tiny, odd flashes of misery and loss. Three pieces in particular seem to belong together despite their differences. I call them Grief Triptych and am pleased to have found a good home for them at Neon Magazine ( a place that states it looks for “…the new, the experimental and the strange.”)
My second story at Neon is called “Inside VS. Out” and ostensibly has nothing to do with Matt at all. However, it was using his words “evenings of ordinary sand” and “moon worms” as prompts that was my inspiration. He wanted us to collaborate and write together and I hope that he’s cool with what I did.
Matt was very supportive of my writing and had an especial fondness for my concise flashes. Anyone who knew him knows from his music, artworks and humour that the weird, surreal and grotesque appealed to him. I hope he would approve of these fictions. I think he would.
The main thing I would like to say if any of his friends or family read them is that I wrote and published them in memory of Matt, but they are not about Matt. Rather, they are about me.
It is two years today since Matt died. Crummy kinda day. I send love out to Matt’s friends and family.
I have a few flash fictions forthcoming in Neon Magazine that I have written in memory of Matt and I had hoped that some magic would come into play and they would be published in time for this ghastly anniversary. They haven’t, and really I’m at a loss for anything new to say. I miss Matt and time passing merely highlights to me how rare and true a friend he was.
Matt’s small list of impossible things : cheese bow ties, stinging nettles with fingerprints, someone posting Jupiter through your letterbox, 50 year old babies, November being knighted, pudding before main course, tying a knot in tap water etc etc etc.