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Paintings and text by Tess Glen


Middle-ground It’s a dreary room really. It used to be called the living room but as you can see it doesn’t really live up to that name. Not by my standards anyway. We came to blows in the paint aisle of B&Q. The more he set his heart on red the more I demanded blue, the more he made a case for yellow, the more I insisted on green. In the end we both conceded and sent our swatches to be whirled together in the shop’s infamous Valspar machine. Out poured this lacklustre scheme. I like to breeze in in the grey evening still towelled up. I lie across the sofa looking up at the ceiling, counting the cornices and calculating how I can possibly triumph.


Serve Yourself ******* We asked each other who preferred who but neither of us spoke up. Strange and awkward, when will you grow out of it.

Limond He moved in in October, an unleashed boy. No more kennels, he thought, that’s it.


Hi-Graine It came on quite suddenly, appeared at the corner of my eye then crossed me like an apparition. A headache of perfect happiness.


Bedtime Theatre The kindest thing the critics said about her was that she lived in a Downton Abbey sort of a world, my mother. Now I understand that she was the best of a generation of that type. Anyway, you can’t deny that her books were read and read with pleasure.


I don’t think I ever told anyone about this but up until my 14th birthday she’d make quite a show and tell out of my bedtime. Pretending I was an orphan she had just come across, she’d tuck me in with a glass of hot milk then stand over me reading from diaries kept in her phenomenal youth. I’d fall asleep listening to her shrill voice running through an episode in Paris or London. The affair with the Russian lasted a week of bedtimes. She liked to make sure I hadn’t missed a thing. No commentary ever followed and I was never to ask her anything about them. Other than that she really was quite a shy woman.


My Friends! They are all here! Sometimes I feel as if I cannot stroke my brush without a clap, a pat, an inhale of breath or an outhale guffaw. Mostly they spur me on trying to drown out the scrags at the back. I can hear their incessant jeers no matter how loud my flesh and blood dear friends are.


Crooked Influence She claimed her new friend was teaching her the ways but this girl was dead behind the eyes. My sweet Mabel was being soured under my very own roof. I don’t know what they got up to up there. Every day after school they’d bring home more equipment, expensive stuff like tripods and those large umbrellas that they use when they film stuff on the streets. The last straw was when I found a few feathers on the staircase and a bill in a foreign language.


Lunch Date With Lydia Despite knowing she would be late, I came up early just to give myself a moment to breathe in the open air. I had tidied my den the way I like it so that when it was time for me to sink back down I could just relax for the evening. Above, the lunchtime rush was just beginning, the tiles vibrating with the movements of the violent chef in the kitchen and here I was snatching a moment of peace. Soon Lydia would arrive and sling her leather bag on the table. She’d order fish and chips without looking at the menu and it would arrive with it’s accompanying tartar sauce in a dainty little milk jug. We’d talk of old friends and her ambitions, she’d tell me of her adventures in the bedroom. When the last chip had disappeared behind her exhausted lips, she’d slug a glug of tartar from the jug, and in doing so summon the waiter and the bill. Such were the habits of my friends.


Bruisers That summer was a good breeding year for them. Everywhere you’d go they’d flit past you in dyspraxic cantors. The boys, the boys, they run and run, was how the reporters brushed it off on the news. It was a dangerous time and it wasn’t just me who was scared and locked themselves up in their tenement flat. No city should brim with so much life that isn’t human.


Little sister and the mystery They turned up at midday, the sister and her friend in the obnoxious hat, demanding lunch and bringing with them a jungle of foreign manners.


On Bellini’s Terrace We all had longer concentration spans back then and there was a tile for everyone or a few for each to get their business done. Depending on how many arrived in the morning, some had to be content to look in paternally over the fence, others would pay extra to sit high and lifted. It was a good time, those days, us all living very separate lives but existing together in harmony. When the sun went behind a cloud, we could see it illuminating a very far off part of the land, and often, a unanimous sigh would break out.


Fanged Gallery The path can only be lit by oneself, they told them in the art school. He remembered this occasionally whilst spooning mud and bran flakes onto a canvas, or slicing the hairs off the cat to give texture to the paint. A painting is a very strange thing when it’s at home, alone and unfinished. A pathetic, demanding presence with no friends and no idea who it is. Now his objective was to paint himself out of the picture, ensnare the viewer while he himself was frolicking outside in nightdress and parasol, purged.


Waiting For our Slow Dances We found some common ground in there. Companions in competition we became, vying for love. She was more experienced than I and I watched her up there, licking her paws and clicking her lips. But what if he might love us all? I asked, or What if none of us love him? She looked at me and tutted. And then later she said They’ve been out there for quite a while now And we resigned ourselves to the silence that signalled intimacy.


The Invalid They diagnosed a vagueness in my heart that would stop me from forming any meaningful relationships. And so I made my bed to lie in. The worst part, according to my visitors, was that I had no appetite. Despite the strawberry jam patterned wallpaper, the apple green bedclothes, the walnut wood features, and my visitor’s Danish pastry plait hairdo, I was not interested in what she was suggesting - Burger & a Pint. No. And I would shove a takeaway in her face if she tried to bring it round.


The craft of eloquent listening (Household) At any rate she didn’t mind this severe approach, as long as he had cut it out, the anti-social haircut and the anti-capitalist rants at least, according to her plan which dictated a baby and a larger, more comfortable space towards its 4th year. Family dinners were uncomfortable but it gave her some grout amongst the girls.


High and haughty They saw you coming from a mile off. Who did? They did, the women! I can’t see them. No, well keep your eyes on the tray. You’ve not got far. They’re rooting for you, they like your hair and your humble demeanour. The waiter trembles as if he is delivering poison, but it is only that he is tip-toeing around virtue.


@teddglen tessglen@outlook.com https://cargocollective.com/tessglen

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Worship in the Neighbours House  

Worship in the Neighbours House comprises a series of paintings and an accompanying pamphlet of short stories. The project was started in M...

Worship in the Neighbours House  

Worship in the Neighbours House comprises a series of paintings and an accompanying pamphlet of short stories. The project was started in M...

Profile for tglen95
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