part of Holding OPEN presentation 11 March 2017 @ Chisenhale

 Dance Space

contributions from Rajni Shah were read by Lucy Cash as Rajni was in Australia, the following is one of my contributions sat and written for delivery on the occasion of this presentation of Holding OPEN 

Feb 3rd 2017, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides

the wind is fierce
 and the ticking of the clock a prominent voice

50 min stillness and silence
20 min writing

he was a catalyst, witness-less
Sometimes his enthusiasm was not matched. He was a catalyst but with a faulty ticker. Sometimes he got the chronology wrong. He toasted the “roof we are under” and lived most of his life on the same island, in the same town, on the same street, in the same house. The house he died in. The house where the wind blows hard against stone walls and the water finds a way in and a soft tapping in the eaves continues all night long. The wind is a tangler, the sun smoothes it all down, the water lends a texture and the coal gives an odour to the smoke that is irresistible. He never smelled what I smelled. His nose was for the wine and for the apple a day and for keeping the doctor at bay. His nose was for the history of it. His nose was for adding lead to the petrol because these old cars can’t run without it. We had to stop driving at all to give a counterbalance to the consumption in his corner. You don’t stop loving a person because they use their time differently, would rather smell the oil than the roses, can’t seem to see it your way, won’t turn the heat up when they are dying of the cold—you don’t stop loving someone because they went away or stopped talking to you, or died. 
But the wind is a tangler and in this howling wind everything is tangling I can’t find the beginning. And me, here, the one who likes chronology, likes to fiddle with it until it wakes my own sense, the one I want it to do, my truth, in my own order. The story was predictable but some want to look back for the truth while others see it forward. I want to shift it and watch it change as the details are revealed in waves reconstruction pollutes the knowing and brings the foresight together with the hindsight and mixes the details in a three-part pot.

He was so appreciative of a hot meal, a fresh cake, a new loaf of bread, a soup on the stove top. Everyday magic. The secret handshake, the special rules, the roof we’re under. I always wanted a father, but not necessarily the one I had. It isn’t a choice though is it. He’s wrapped in a shroud, wrapped himself in it to tell me the same stories over and over again, out of the ward and into the drafty hallways of the hospital, he wanted to sit where he could speak freely. All he did from there was pretend he was famous one more time. Cast as the journalist begging for an exclusive I watched him live via hospital corridor, sheet shrouded captured on my phone, eye glinted and cuddled in three-square meals without lifting a finger. Clam happy and drunk with his own circulating fluids.

I’ve bent the two fathers—one should really only ever have one, they begin to confuse each other. One I know is dead nearby, the other most likely, though not definitely, alive far away. What makes either of them dear is me.


The TwoFold festival of duets was dedicated in memory of Ian Mitchell of Stornoway.

Holding OPEN was a private duet project by Karen Christopher and Rajni Shah.