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Last night, in a sold out show in the basement of The Social on Little Portland Street, I heard some of the most entrancing, delectable, rich, shocking and emotional stories I have come across in a long, long time. No, I’m not exaggerating. The feeling in the room was exciting, and in the darkness, you could close your eyes and taste the words, or at least I felt like I could. A brilliant curation of writers whose styles and rhythms contrasted and complemented one another. I feel inspired and eager to write some stories of my own.

Sophie Mackintosh started the night, weaving an alternate universe, so clearly described it doesn’t seem odd or fantastical, but like it might be reality instead. Julianne Pachico, your professor, imprisoned in Columbia, made me dream and broke my heart. Adam O’Riordan’s teenage narrator reminded me of home. Then Chibundu Onuzo lit up the room, tambourine in hand with a call and response song. Her story aside, she is a radiant human being. Chibundu’s story of identity and hair punctured the space with grace and elegance and fire. Tom Morris made me want to call my mother. His story was hilarious and a bit ridiculous and honest. We finished the evening in transit to Belfast with Lucy Caldwell on to Cyprus Avenue, who also, incidentally, or not, made me want to call my mom in a story about memory, family, home.

But these few words don’t do any of it justice.

The Faber editor who hosted the evening shared a reflection at the beginning of the night that has stuck with me, that short stories are how we live our lives, and novels are the fictional versions. My past when I think back on it, does feel like a novel, and memory smooths out the blips and inconsistencies, but when you are in the thick of living, it’s exactly what a short story is.

Thank you Sophie Mackintosh, Julianne Pachico, Adam O’Riordan, Chibundu Onuzo, Tom Morris, and Lucy Caldwell. I am grateful for last night and would love to buy each of you a pint or two or three.

MAKING NATURE // Wellcome Collection


After gobbling up dim sum over on Baker street we meandered about and passed by the Wellcome Collection. We decided to wander into Making Nature: how we see animals. An unintentional exhibition visit seems to bring a magic to it just because I had not anticipated or expected anything.

I told myself that I would visit this exhibition differently than I normally do. I would glide through. I would not read every panel, I would not examine each item closely. I wanted to just experience it. This to me was a great way to encounter Making Nature.

Marcus Coates’ collaboration with Volker Sommer was a striking and powerful way to begin with a full wall of questions about shared traits between homini apes: humans, bonobos, and chimpanzees, (eg. Do you remember things from your past? Do you shake your fists in anger? Do you perform oral sex?).  I’m not so shocked that we’re not so different in our actions, abilities to form memories, but I am definitely amused. Palette whetted and interest piqued.

I stepped into the first room and one of the first things I am drawn to is a list of animal classifications that Jorge Borges references from a fictional”Chinese encyclopaedia”:

(a) those that belong to the Emperor
(b) embalmed ones
(c) those that are trained
(d) suckling pigs
(e) mermaids
(f) fabulous ones
(g) stray dogs
(h) those that are included in the present classification
(i) those that tremble as if they are mad
(j) innumerable ones
(k) those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush
(l) others
(m) those that have just broken a flower vase
(n) those that look like flies from a long way off

I saw this list first in college, and stumbling across it again, here, felt a little like giggling at an old joke or satisfying symmetry. I’m not sure if making nature had the whole list printed on the wall, but either way, it’s brilliant. We humans are magnificently ridiculous and arbitrary, and this list pokes at our idea of science and defining nature.

From some beautiful legless birds of paradise to taxidermied squirrels playing cards, to a tiger lapping up water in an apartment, our attempts at displaying nature feel so sad and absurd.

We attribute so much romanticism to the idea of the wild. We have romanticized what, from our moral, human perspective, is brutal and necessary for survival. We are animals ourselves, but we don’t know how we fit into it all, into our planet, into relationships with other animals. Why do we still tend to have a post-imperial attitude towards animals? Sorry for keeping you in a metal cage, bro, here’s a fake mountain with a “stream” pumped from municipal water, it’s just like Africa. I think that deserves a good pat on the back.

Image and video from Wellcome Collection.