Niall O'Sullivan

high brow, low brow, none of that stuff in the middle


Posted on | December 10, 2017 | No Comments

There was a tiny snowman on a corner of the Denmark Hill estate with a little Tayto man smile and little stick hands just next to the broadband connection box. I took a few photos with my phone and then the bastard thing had me. No more slow strolling while taking in the sights of the first proper London snow of winter. I was pawing away at the little rectangle of light within my palm seeing what useless knowledge I could tease from it. Max Clifford died? Fuck him. I kept reading. Collapsed while cleaning his cell. Felt there was something sad about that description but then again, nah, fuck him. How many years did that shave off his sentence? Was he obsessive about cell cleanliness or was it something they made him do? They don’t like sex cases in prisons but then again Rolf Harris had a whale of a time, convicts lining up outside his cell for Rolf-a-Roo portraits in exchange for protection. Wrath and knee-jerk compassion chased each others’ heels within my head as I plodded away from the tiny snowman, still grinning despite the fact that his hours were numbered. He’d outlived at least one of these meat and bone assemblages. That was enough.


Posted on | December 10, 2017 | No Comments

One of the most beautiful things I ever saw was maybe nine months ago, on the estate behind Camberwell Grove, just next to the Pentecostal Church at the dead end of the side street. It wasn’t the church itself, with its posters and banners declaring some great event at that particular corner of South London, the ones with bombastic titles like “The Great Illumination 2017” or the exquisite “Keys to Divine Enlargement”, in chunky, gilded letters above the portraits of visiting ministers that prefer to be known as doctors. No, it was just a few metres away, dumped by the concrete bollards, a perfect spot to reverse your van, fly tip and run. It was an old arm chair and a footstool, both of them covered in cherry blossom. Perhaps it was the age of the furniture, combined with the newness of blossom. Something that once took pride of place within the heart of home and hearth, slowly moulding to the form of the body that owned it before it became too much of a thing of nature. Perhaps that was where the blossom came in, nature recognising the furniture’s place in her realm and baptising it. Maybe the gaudy claims of the church posters weren’t so wrong after all. There it was, a miracle, in a concrete cul-de-sac on a South London housing estate. Can I get a witness?


Posted on | December 8, 2017 | No Comments

My daughter has brought another little something back from the biochemical warfare lab that’s sometimes referred to as a primary school. She woke at 5am saying she could’t breathe through her nose. I, being the loving and supportive father, told her to breathe through her mouth instead. After ten minutes of sharing the bed with a pre-school Darth Vader I marched into the living room to return with some tissues and excavate the slimy little buggers from her nostrils with my fat fingertips. Then there was nothing I could do after that but lie back and listen to the traffic outside, the first wave of blue collar workers before the rush hour kicks in. The ambulances that often race past in the early hours of the morning are fewer in number, as if no-one ever chooses to have a heart attack between five and seven in the morning. Sometimes I catch the moment when the streetlights switch off. Once, as a child I stayed up all night in my bed and watched the passage of the hours illustrated by the shift in hues of my bedroom curtains. I thought that there was a specific moment when night clicks into day. Other times I kept myself up all night while looking for the specific moment when wakefulness clicked into sleep. It was torture enough to work me into fits of tears. When my mum came in I told her that I’d forgotten how to go to sleep. She told me to close my eyes and go to sleep. It’s still a terrible answer and yet I can’t think of a better one.


Posted on | December 7, 2017 | No Comments

When you get to a certain age the days blend into each other, there’s no denying it. What the young see as bitterness is in fact a grating over-familiarity. My yearning for youth is not so much a hankering for smooth, flawless skin or the ability to run up escalators. It is the wish for the moment of pisspants excitement when I saw my first Picasso in the Tate or took in the day’s last light beaming back from the hilly sandstone of Bath. Even the rising and falling grey nipple of the gasworks in the distance had me giddy at my halls of residence window. And while the town I grew up in was no future city of culture, a drop of cider, later weed and later still acid was enough to mine meaning from its straight, flat roads and red brick.The cranky old fart in me sometimes thinks the young of today don’t know it either. Their excitement never has the chance to build up its reserves with the drip drip dopamine fixes of a thumb repeatedly scrolling downwards. Back then my excitement was a rarefied thing that could get me beaten shitless in the place where I grew up and scared the crap out of people in the places where I ended up. What I want most from the man I was twenty years ago is all the ways that the world once appeared to me minus any trace of the urge to act on it.

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