You don’t resolve to go. You say to yourself you will go and when it comes to it you’ve readied another text to say you can’t. But really, come on? You know yourself: can you face the neds? Maybe he’s a ned? Some of his friends probably are neds? How well do you know him? Well enough to meet him, but not there. Not Maryhill and after last time, not a pub. You’ll ask him round because you’ve got leftovers and weed and drink and tea and that should cover every eventuality. You’ve had some disastrous evenings recently after inviting men round to yours, but those have been outweighed by the disastrous evenings you’ve had going out in public. So, half hoping he’ll cancel, you text to ask him round instead.

He’s late and he’s eaten, which you’d normally mind like cancer, but it’s given you time to clean up a bit and eat something yourself. That he’s dressed up (mental inventory: black jeans and chukka boots, knitted woollen jumper over a purple t-shirt, neatly trimmed beard) and brought a bottle of wine means all is forgiven. You will curse his absence from the project tomorrow, but while you are together all is forgiven. You are a very forgiving person like that.

You are also a hard worker and little time is spared before you get down to it: spliffs and wine facilitate this as you fire off questions. You ask about Scotland and repeatedly demand explanations for his lack of an accent, as if going to a Glasgow café should make him incomprehensible. That he has not dressed up for you but has been to see his “granda” is disconcerting as you are partially
jealous, but also vaguely outraged that he should be able to call the man “granda” without the accent! You make him draw Scotland. Then your chin.

You are like a chugger as you grill him. You pump him for information, but when he goes dry you offer your own observations, and somehow this seems to plug any gaps in conversation. You bring up some more work; you are going to some openings tomorrow and maybe you’ll see him there? He thinks not. He says he’s going to take the night off. The picture of your jaw hits the floor. Your
questions falter. You think this is incredible; this is beautiful; this is crazy. You think you admire people that can do that; that they are sooo brave; that they are sooo reckless. You must know how and why.

The how is easy. The why is not. You have to drag it out of him, wheedling and prodding him with more and more questions until the whole ugly thing is on the table between you. His dad is unwell. So unwell Howie must go to Edinburgh tomorrow to sign some legal documents.

You absolute bastard. You insensitive shit. How’s that for getting to know someone? You force him into a project he’s not interested in because you like his face? Really!? Because you like his face?! And then you subject him to what must be some of the most uncomfortable meetings of his young life – while his dad… I mean Jesus! You are a piece of work! What if his dad used to take him to Jaconelli’s? I mean, you know that has to be the case – why else would someone… And you shot that plan down! He would have opened up in Jaconelli’s; everything would have been different in Jaconelli’s; in Jaconelli’s he would have drawn Scotland and your chin because he wanted to not because you forced him to!

You mumble apologies, commiserations, expiate your flaws as you’ve just had work on the brain recently and… and it’s not enough, clearly not enough.

Is it all your fault though? You’re not angry, but you are embarrassed, ashamed and know you have been put in this situation because he didn’t tell you anything. You know he’s from Scotland but can’t draw it –should you applaud? Why the fuck didn’t he say – first thing, blub it out or not? Or why didn’t he cancel like you nearly did a dozen times? Maybe he feels as guilty as you do – you would have felt guilty if you cancelled and now you’re devastated that you didn’t.

You apologise for interrogating, tell him he can stay if he wants, that you’ll make him a tea, that he can talk to you… but possibly there’s that look in your eyes that the clock hasn’t stopped; that this is still work time.

He doesn’t look annoyed but he does look sad and stoned. He seems about to speak to you, but stops, gulps and in a small voice says,

“Can I go now?”

Written by Sam Ball

Howie Guest edited by Sam Ball

Picture you’re Oliver – gay, glasses, voice, art – the works. You’ve been working hard and you’ve always felt that the notion of playing hard sounds like hard work; so rather than working hard all over again as soon as you finish your fourteen hour days, you’ve decided to incorporate the playing into your proper work. Couldn’t do that if you were an accountant! The upside is you don’t have to try hard at playing, because it’s all work and you always work hard. The downside is people don’t want to play with you when you’re working.

Nevertheless… you’ve set this process in motion and then one of the cogs just drops out. The machine goes on clanking and whirring but you know everyone’s eyes are drawn to this absence –“oho,” they go. “We see what’s going to happen there, don’t we?” With any luck this is titillating for those rubberneckers. They get to guess what might happen and brag to others if it does. They get to see the whole chain of events leading up to the car crash. This is all sport for them, you hope, but for you, it’s like being in a plane and the captain calmly indicating that “if folks look out the left hand side they will see one engine has started to smoke”. Can anything carry on after that? Can it after three engines have started to smoke?

You can. You are. Some of your subjects are now distant, or plainly antagonistic, but you are working at it. The cogs that drop out are not replaced but are gently picked up, dusted down and with a bit of luck and elbowing, they are crammed back into the machine without anyone noticing. Even the most wilfully disobedient individuals will have a presence when the whole kit and caboodle trundles into Liverpool. However one part has been missing from the start and you wonder now if it has a place?

This piece is about you and him:

You did finally get to meet Howie properly. It was late in the process and you’d a dozen different machines up and running: you were doing a talk the other day, you have a window display that has to be conjured out of thin air, and over the year since you started ‘Five Friends’ you’ve been involved in so many projects that it’s now becoming a point of yours not to brag about it… but you can’t help yourself: You have been sooooo busy!

The last time you met Howie was six months ago and you were on your first drinks or first date or first something with Colin, so Howie, in your mind, was a third wheel. You may have been rude to him. You don’t want to dwell as it is embarrassing. It has been embarrassing meeting him a few times now, and whether it’s his embarrassment, your embarrassment or your embarrassment at his embarrassment is immaterial. It’s difficult to picture this evening’s meeting as any different, because you know you will dwell on the previous ones.

Also, let’s not beat about the bush, you are busy. You are maybe too busy. You will finish up in the studio, invariably later than you wanted to, and then hike over to an ice-cream parlour /café in Maryhill, Jaconelli’s – someplace he went as a kid (you know he is still a kid). If you were in another mood you might see it as romantic, but the notion of meeting in October, in a Glaswegian ice-cream shop, once used as a set in Trainspotting is horrific; it is not the place for work. Can you think of anything worse than sitting in a booth surrounded by intimidating neds? Perhaps for the Liverpool show you could recreate the scene with local equivalents – scallies – but that possibility aside, you don’t relish the idea.

In amongst being terrifically busy, you talk this through with Dele and Alan (– what do they look like? I don’t know – they’re your friends!) You talk this through with them at some length; about the embarrassment, that despite being stoned he doesn’t seem relaxed around you, that he just doesn’t seem interested in the work – and this is a major sticking point for you, forgetting that the work and you are synonymous, and how difficult it might be for somebody to like one if they didn’t like the other – and you talk about the embarrassment again but this time because it has begun to prey on your mind that he is fourteen years your junior and taking you to an ice-cream shop. All this you have already condensed into a text message ready to send Howie, until Dele reminds you that it is work. Meeting these guys and giving a chance for friendship is the work. So you delete the message and resolve to go.

Along the outer edges of the table, Marie had arranged some plastic cups, each filled about an inch or so with cider. If the measures hadn't been near identical, he'd have guessed that it was the leftovers table.

I'd recommend the cider, Marie had said. Her voice had been strong and bell-clear, but she'd flicked her cigarette uncertainly, almost as though it was slipping from her fingers and the flick had been a last attempt to save it.

He'd took a glass and sniffed it. Oh lovely, he'd said. What a spread!

In the third and final room on that floor, they'd found a group of girls in the corner, surrounded by a pile of pink balloons—passing them amongst themselves, rubbing them on their hair to make static. Beyond these girls and their lively fringes, there'd been a series of croquet hoops, with photocopied images of obvious, and obviously hirsute, celebrities stuck to them. Some boys, with their backs to them, were rolling shaved peaches at the hoops. Bin Laden, Nietzche, Hitler, and the boy who'd called to Oliver on the street; Howie's friend; the leader. Oliver had watched as he kicked a peach hard at Saddam, tearing a hole in his face.

How long do we have to stay here?, Ellie had asked. The paper cup crumpled in her hand. Do you have to speak to Howie or anything?

The bathroom had been emptier then, as people had moved off into the kitchen or downstairs. From the doorway they'd looked at the hair scoring the white tiled floor. Howie had lay down the bath with a bottle of vodka on his chest. A small group stood around him, chatting quietly.

It's really good, Howie, Oliver had said.

The group had parted then, they'd looked at one another. Howie had smiled and spoke to the hair on the floor. Thanks, he'd told it. It's went okay. Thanks for coming.

When the hair hadn't replied, Oliver had left.

I'm not sure I understood that, Ellie had said. What was the point?

Written by Stephen O'Toole

He lay in bed listening to the ringing in his ears. What was it? Could he make any sense of it? Conversation—other peoples—or the music Howie had played at the opening. No, he thought, as he pressed his ear into the pillow, not blood either. He'd read once that it was the sound of one pitch in particular; a frequency that, when it stopped, the listener would never hear again. Overexposure had worn it away, and it went out with one last burst. The saddest part was, of course, that you'd never known you'd heard or had it until then.

Rejection, he thought. This sound, understood, is the sound of No thanks, that's enough. With people too, there's a pitch that is rejected. A frequency that's pleasing for a while, to certain sorts of people, some combination of dress shirt, anecdote, and eye contact—and then all of it: gone; reduced to a meaningless vibration in the air. It'd linger for a while, for some irritating, unspecified, period of time, and then it would just disappear. The next time that they passed one another in the street, Howie wouldn't even turn his head—not to him in recognition, or away from him in polite, feigned ignorance. Oliver just wouldn't register.

He'd arrived at the opening at eight. A flat on West Princes Street. The raised vein on the arm that stretched from St George's Cross into the West End. Ellie had been with him, and though he hadn't mentioned this to her, he'd been worried that they'd have to be buzzed in. What would he say to that arrogant undergraduate voice through the intercom? Would they expect some password? Would he have to mention Howie's name? What, in fact, was Howie's surname? Luckily, the door had been open.

The stairs had sounded dusty as they climbed, he charging ahead for some reason and Ellie coming casually behind. On the first floor, in a dark, and otherwise empty room, there'd been a couple, a girl and a boy, with their faces lit in the glow of a silent laptop.

Sorry, he'd said.

The boy and the girl hadn't blinked.

Ellie, from behind, had tried to push him into the room. He'd gripped the grooved coolness of the door frame, terrified to go in further, but unable to reverse through Ellie.

Then the girl had closed the laptop, clicking it, sharply, and stood, shoving past them both onto the landing. The boy had sat on, alone, in the darkness; the only sound the tinkling of a belt buckle fastening.

They'd turned their heads to follow her upstairs. That's where the real party had been. The landing there choked with people, where a queue for the bar met a crowd watching boys being shaved in the bathroom. Over this clot of heads he'd seen Howie standing in the bath sipping a Kronenbourg. At one point, he'd bent down and plucked some hair from the floor and blew it off the palm of his hand.

Ellie had nudged him. She'd needed a drink. Her hands hovering over his hips, not touching but moving him, he'd supposed, with the power of her mind, through the crowd and into the kitchen. Queueing, patiently, and then, well, It hadn't been a bar as such—just another spill of people, on either side of a trestle table, and, in the middle, Nick's girlfriend. She was holding a cigarette near her mouth in such a way that her elbow was bent with her wrist tilted backwards. He'd thought of the broken lamppost.

Oliver had looked away from Marie, then, at Ellie, who was being buffeted back from the table. He'd squeezed her shoulders reassuringly, shoving her forward.


HOWIE Guest edited by Stephen O'Toole

There was smoke from the windows of the building on fire and there was smoke from the mouths of the boys watching it burn. Between these smokes stood sullen, squinting, smoked at, men. Uniformed men, officials in whatever their fields were—squinting or being smoked at or something, all for the sake of public safety. High vis men, these men. Pillars in the middle of the road. Some of them had hoses.

A fire, thought Oliver redundantly. I think that there's been a fire.

One of the boys on the pavement sat down. As he went, he dragged a girl down with him. She fell across his lap like wonderful news. The boy lay back, head on the concrete, and gave his new girl a big tickle. His mates turned from watching the building and cheered.

It all seemed very suspicious as far as Oliver was concerned. He remembered a time with Ellie. They were sitting in the front room. Dinner, chatting quietly. The curtains were open and early evening came in. Then horribly, brakes, and a crash—the unmistakeable sound of metal cushioning metal; a cinematic sound, some special effect. Both of them had jumped to the window. Underneath, there was a car curled tightly round a lamppost, and the lamppost was bent back over itself, head upwards, into their garden. At an angle, Oliver thought, that looked painful.

Ollie and Ellie had watched as the driver and the passengers—boys, three boys, and thin boys—had slipped themselves out of the windows, wiggling and whistling, like steam escaping a kettle. They didn't flee the scene. Instead, they sat down across the road, in the sun. And then, when the police had finally arrived, the boys were still sitting there, watching their own crumpled car calmly. Somehow no one had come forward to link them to the car, and the boys, of course, hadn't owned up to anything.

Why is no one taking their details?, Ellie'd asked. Isn't this some sort of crime? We should go out there and tell them. The police.

But neither of them had moved. He'd said, Ellie, please. He'd held her tensed bicep. Why did she always have to dominate?

So suspect the boys in the background, he thought, as he walked towards the fire. Just look at them. Fiddling this girl as it burned. It's the louche ones like this that are arsonists. A lit cigarette's just flicked away—and that's that.

Oh, it's cold, he thought. And they're staring at me now.

The leader's head lolling on the pavement.

I started it, thought Oliver, by staring at them in the first place. Why can't I be more dominant? But I'm tired. They're so young. Better looking. And I'm sober, I've been working—is there paint on my cords?

He locked eyes with the leader. They'd seen each other before. This boy. This firestarter. On the steps outside the art school. Quiet nods. No eye contact. Passing meekly round one another in its narrow corridors. Careful not to each other's arms. Looking through his photos on Facebook because he's Howie's friend.

Howie, said the leader, staring directly at Oliver. Howie. Howie. Howie. Howie.

The girl on his lap looked up joined in. Two voices, out of sync, Howie-ing, louder and louder as he passed. Two policeman turned their heads to the noise, like cows leaning over a fence.

He pretends he hasn't heard. His stride breaking down only slightly. He hid it by adjusting his bag. Has anyone, he thought, ever murdered someone out of embarrassment? Motive, your honour? I was embarrassed that I fancied his friend, and he knew. In his mind Oliver punched the leader in the nose and when his fist came back, the boy's face looked clotted and gloopy, like paint on a grey piece of card. He stuck a brush in. Swirled it. I make you in my own image, he thought. HOWIE, he wrote, where the boy's beady eyes used to be.

Howie's here somewhere, he thought, I know it. But as he passed he kept his head firmly forward.



Sitting at the back of the gallery I’m talking to anyone I can corner. Some German philosopher is doing a performance in the main gallery but I’m too busy touching people who don’t want to be touched or talking to people who don’t want to listen. I’m sat next to Brent, who I hardly know, and somehow infer to him that his wife is an inferior being. Actually I’m just jealous because she’s managed to acquire a husband and a baby. I think if I was a heterosexual woman I would have almost definitely grown up, got married and had children. I’d have probably had a Girl’s World too. Realistically I would have still probably felt hard done by and become a militant feminist.
Joe comes over to say hello and I request, drunkenly, that he stands in front of me and Brent while I describe how beautiful he is. I talk about him like he is an object, a beautiful cross between (as always) Macaulay Culkin and a dinosaur, or a Macaulay Culkin costume twinned with a dinosaur costume. Or if Macaulay Culkin’s face was stretched over a dinosaur’s skeleton.
If I’d been born a woman I wouldn’t fancy Joe. There is nothing powerful or threatening about him. I forget that not everyone wants to be looked after; it’s just all that I’m looking for.
I’m in the middle of finding other ways to describe Joe’s beauty when another guy comes over to the conversation. He’s older and he’s wearing a red t-shirt with the LEGO logo on it, only it’s been ‘humorously’ altered to say L’Ego. Slightly worse, it turns out he’s a mature student. I ask him if he knows Gail, another mature student. I describe her as the kind of person you can’t talk to without being aware that she has a vagina. It seems like her work is always vaguely connected to the horrors of fucking. He tells me that he has no idea what I’m talking about and obviously has no interest in talking to me. He looks away and talks to Brent instead, asking him what it’s like to be on the MFA. I forget that now I’ve graduated I’m nobody.
By the time I’ve recovered I realised Joe has managed to escape.
Without much dignity I follow him over to the other side of the room where he’s standing chatting to friends. It feels like they really want me to fuck off, I forget when I’m the drunk how antagonistic pushy drunks can be. Katie comes over to get me and takes me out of the gallery.


Is it humiliating to keep on pursuing him? I suppose I planned to experience humiliation and desperation, so that at the end of it I might learn not to keep repeating this over and over again in my life.

I spent a lot of the week just creeping around the streets of Glasgow, always with the hope that I might come across someone to be nice to me, mostly love me. Bruce at work told me that he doesn’t think I’m interested in men or women, just attention.

I can feel something in my stomach, the same feeling you might have before Christmas, or before an exam. The feeling I get of anticipating something bad is also the feeling I get when I’m obsessed with men and feel sick when I think that they aren’t thinking about me.

I mistake emotional responses for anxious responses. When I think I feel emotionally about someone I’m really feeling anxiously about them; anxious that they won’t keep giving me what I want, or nervous and sick that they won’t look after me and treat me as if I’m a real person.


I’m on the third floor of the art school. There is a white string hanging down between the stairs. The stairs are in a square formation. Start at the floor you’re on and you walk down a half flight of stairs, then there is a tiny landing. Turn 180 degrees right and go down another half flight of stairs. The next floor. Walk down half flight of stairs. A tiny landing. Turn 180 degrees right and go down a half flight of stairs. The next floor and so on.

If this shape I have described is like a square, in the middle of the square is a gap of space. From the third floor right to the ground, it’s so thin it’s almost pointless. Its ten centimetres wide across. Hanging down through that space is a single white string. It’s obviously an artwork. I just can’t believe that anyone thought it would be useful to make it. Useful is the wrong word because I know a lot of people think that art doesn’t have to have a use value.

It’s such a simple yet concrete and familiar vision of an artwork about architectural space. The person who made it will end up being a lot more successful than me because they can make things so pared down. Not paring down has always been a downfall for me.

I’m following the string. I’m thinking about what is happening by me following it. I’m following the string down and trying to make it a magical experience. At the bottom of the stairs I can hear the knocking back and forth of the bats and the hollow ball of the Ping-Pong table that is in the main entrance to the building.

I’ve got it into my head that maybe it will be Howie. When I get to the bottom of the stairs, it really is. He’s got pretty bushy hair at the minute, it’s curly and blonde. Near his crown it always seems to be a bit thinner but as I am so balding already it’s not like I’m complaining.

He’s wearing all black, but faded black, washed and washed black. He’s always in such old clothes. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen him looking that smart. I think that’s what I liked about him when I first starting noticing him around.

He’s at the bottom of the stairs. He’s wearing all black. He’s playing table tennis with another boy. To get out of the door I have to cross them. I have to talk to him in order to leave the building.

All the time we’re talking he keeps playing. His interest in the game is never distracted. He keeps playing, even if badly. He can’t get into the full swing of it because he has to keep looking at me in order to talk whilst also trying to keep an eye on the ball, only it’s more out of politeness rather than specific interest. I apologise about the other night.


I’m in Katie’s studio drinking wine that cost three pounds a bottle. When I got to Co-op earlier Gary was behind the counter. I don’t know him beyond him serving me at Co-op, but something about him feels very demanding. He asks where I’ve been recently when I’m paying for the wine. He thought I’d deserted him for Tesco.

I’m instantly creeped out about why he cares. Why is he always so friendly to me? I guess it’s because he’s doing his job well. But he’s simultaneously so shy and awkward that I think he must fancy me. I think he probably stalks me in his spare time. I feel arrogant for thinking this, but I always think that any man who shows interest in me must want to have sex with me.

In terms of creepiness I can imagine that he definitely lives with his grandma. He acts a bit like a fussy old woman and I can’t imagine him ever going to a pub. The only thing I can really imagine him doing is eating a roast dinner every night. I imagine his house smells just like roast dinners. I imagine he smells like roast dinners. Maybe one day he will actually break into my house and kill me and then I’ll feel annoyed at feeling guilty for thinking these things about him.

If it was any other cashier I’d have gone for a better class of wine, but I take advantage of how I feel about Gary and go for the cheapest option.

(Maybe I’m thinking in this way because I was assessed by my new therapist today. They have to assess my suitability before going any further and I’m anxious about ‘passing’. I had to rate myself between one to five on how suicidal I felt; but I only gave myself a one. I had to rate myself between one to four on how anxious I felt; but I only gave myself a one point five. I tell my potential new therapist that I think my old therapist used to fancy me. Then I worry that she might be his girlfriend. She thinks there is too much going on inside my head.)

The wine tastes like yoghurt and biscuits, but the taste of yoghurt and biscuits is quite nice. I go through my first mugful really quickly and afterwards it doesn’t taste like anything. I’m having a hard time persuading everyone else that this is the case. I try to force the wine onto other people whilst continuing a monologue about my thoughts on January as a month. On the walk down to the gallery opening someone fills a plastic bottle with more cheap wine for me.

Inside the gallery I’m drinking more and talking to all these people that I want to talk to and who I think want me to talk to them. I tell Zara about how elegant she is, but how it’s a sort of dirty elegance. I tell Matthew about how his coat makes him look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. He tells me how he wasn’t allowed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a child and I tell him how I wasn’t allowed a Girl’s World.

I went to the art school to drop off a sculpture for their auction. A fifteen minute track there and back, when I get there I leave it in the small office on the top floor. It’s the same office that in summer 2009, when I thought I might be in love with Paul, I used to get drunk on my own every night on whisky and do tarot card readings and read Morvern Callar. I expect a real intense dedication from everyone I know. I get angry when I fear abandonment, but this generally quickens it on. I can’t stop myself from pushing people further away.

At school I ran into the other beautiful Alex. He is serious but also flaccid. Like Ted Hughes and Charlie Chaplin.

After delivering the object and seeing Katie and talking to Alex, I was walking through the corridor to the exit – past the kitchen – when someone else called my name. Hi Oliver. I had seen someone there, standing in the fire exit smoking, but had assumed it was this overweight guy with blond hair who is a mixture between a fat surfer and an art student. Hi Oliver. It was actually Howie, looking beautiful with short cut hair and tidy side burns. He is very short and his face is sculpted in an unusual fashion. He’s the one that no-one really agrees on. That makes me inclined to find him more attractive. It’s the blondness, the red lips and the really calm manner, like he’s permanently stoned. He does dress like a bit of a hippy.

There is a four year age difference between us. But there is a fourteen year age difference between Simon Cowell and his new fiancé.

He’s just started smoking a rollie. I join in, rolling and smoking. We stand outside the fire exit in a cold cubicle of air that houses bikes and isn’t supposed to be smoked it. He’s got on winter clothes, beige trousers and a beige jumper with red or blue stripes across the front, in a chunky knit and a zip half way down the front. Anyone wearing this and smoking rolled cigarettes is always going to look like a hippy.

I ask him how work is going. I seem to be like a ghost, just haunting around the school, not being able to get over graduating. I still feel welcome, but also I feel like Ricky Gervais’ character in The Office who continually returns to work even after being fired. He only ceases when he’s told officially not to come back. Not only being told off, but being reminded of your desperation and loneliness.

I’ve been running old scenes of shame through my head. A particular emphasis is on a holiday in Lanzarote when I was about nine. I was ‘friends’ with a girl who was probably about six or seven. She was really into crying. I must have hated her a bit, perhaps I was jealous, perceiving her to be more spoilt than I was. During ‘Kids Club’ one day I pushed her off a stool we were sharing and she cried. One of the staff came to tell me off, but all I could feel was injustice. I wanted to say ‘Can’t you see what a bitch she is.’ I don’t remember feeling indecisive. I’ve become more controlled but perhaps this is the experience of everyone. It might have been because she had received more attention from a male member of staff than I did. That lack of control hasn’t stopped.

You might mature faster if there were fewer restrictions on behaviour. You’d be more gregarious and the wider experiences would develop your character much quicker.

I asked Howie how his dissertation was going. His reply confused me. He told me the names of three artists I’d never heard of. I didn’t confirm or deny my knowledge of these people. Our cigarettes finished and I had to go home. I said we should spend more time together and he agreed. But what people say and what they do is always different.


Awkward and brief encounter with Howie at the opening for a group exhibition featuring Ged Quinn. Katie and I were walking around the paintings not drunk enough to deal with people. As we moved to one corner I notice Howie surrounded by friends. I tried to hide my face in mock embarrassment when we caught each other’s eye. He did the same but I don’t think his embarrassment was mock.

Twelve months ago I thought he fancied me. I noticed him at an opening once just looking at me. We started to see each other around campus and acknowledge each other. I wondered, as with everyone, if he was attracted to me. He looked a bit like Macaulay Culkin to me, not structurally, but his red lips and his blonde hair. He appeared gentle and always in odd clothes. Cut-off trousers in natural colours made him seem like the German exchange student that you knew when you were fourteen.

In winter 2009 we started to say hello to each other. Could someone actually be interested in me. It was definitely winter because it was dark outside when I was walking up the studio stairs and he stopped me to say hello. I said hello back but because I’m so shy I just carried on walking. But then he asked how it was going. Because I thought that now was my chance I just went straight in and asked if he wanted to go and smoke a spliff with me on the roof.

We went into the studios to roll and were talking. While we were talking we alerted Peter next door, which meant he poked his head around the corner. He must have sensed we were about to go smoke. The situation tore me between telling Peter to go away because I wanted to smoke with Howie alone, or letting Peter come so that Howie wouldn’t think I was mean. Peter came with us and also invited Jamie along, who I don’t even think likes me.

I already knew Howie’s name because I’d searched him out on Facebook. I had to wait one day until I saw him using a computer at school. Then after he’d finished I logged on to it and visited Facebook to get the email address of the last person who had used it. Then I entered this email address into the Facebook search engine and came up with his profile. This was a pseudonym, so I had to then get his surname by matching his first name and class year up with the lists of people on his course. Because I hadn’t formally asked his name, or knew it to his knowledge, it felt weird to ask it in front of Peter and Jamie. Instead I just never introduced him.

I’m sure that Peter and I dominated the whole conversation talking about ourselves. When we went back inside I got Howie to show me his studio. Afterwards I would visit sporadically to see if he was there. But he was never in and being in the empty space made me feel like a stalker.

My original point in telling this back story was to demonstrate that at one point we were cool with each other. Now I think I’ve fucked it up.


I should be spending tonight preparing for Spain. Instead I go to the studio to pick up a drawing that I need to transport tomorrow. I meet a new studio member called Alex, who is 22 and very blond. I wonder if he is homosexual and if that would be enough to stop me from giving up my studio. I wonder if that is a practical example of behavioural economics.

Meeting Alex made it hard for me to concentrate when I got back to my house. I am haunted by a school report that I received when I was eight. It said I was clever but never tried hard enough to realise my potential. This is what still keeps me working now, feeling it is never enough. But still, my energies aren’t always active in the best direction.


I went to the library to print off some application forms.

On my way out Howie was stood talking to some people. This is the first time we’ve seen each other in person, we’ve been speaking via email a few times over the summer. He looked messy. It made me think about how maybe everyone else was right; that he was the least attractive of all the boys I drew.

I used to see him around school and think he was so beautiful, red lips and blonde curly hair.

Today, looking at his lips, they’re not exactly cracked, but they looked dusty; covered in little bits of white dust or skin. He had on a very ugly jumper. It was something you might think, before you leave the house, is cool, but then later you’d think ‘oh actually this is just a bad jumper’. When I saw Howie later on Friday night he was wearing it again, he must actually like it. It goes with that whole fisherman look he’s going for.

His hair was pretty long too and his sideburns were massive. It felt so weird seeing him, combined with being so hung over. Personally I prefer his sideburns less bulky. I think bulky facial hair doesn’t ever look very good.

Well bulky sideburns anyway; maybe a beard, but only if you’ve got a really skinny face and neat short hair.

Where do I get these unofficial opinions? I feel like I’m probably being pretty influenced by ‘how to be cool’.

He was with a girl and a boy. They seemed a bit awkward around me. It made me feel even more awkward, as usual. I wasn’t in the mood to see him, or anyone else. I wasn’t really mentally prepared. I didn’t like having to talk to him for the first time whilst trying to think about not being rude by excluding those two other people, who I wasn’t interested in.

He hugged me and said Happy Summer. I think it was because he felt as insane as I did and didn’t know how else to react. I’m getting really bad at physical contact.

I tried to ask him to come for dinner this week. He said he would, but only if I baked a massive cake. It seemed like a covert way of saying no. It seemed like it was supposed to be humourous. But I didn’t find it funny, so I didn’t even fake a laugh. I think he knew it wasn’t humourous either. If I can find the money I’ll bake a massive cake.

Hello Oliver,

I am once again, very, very sorry for being shit at replying to things but here is a first attempt. Not really sure what you are looking for, so here is a small selection of pictures and words. Get back at me if there is other things you need or if this is just not the right format. A portfolio? I don't really know how to make one, but I'll try.

This selection of work represents my recent fumblings into the dark arts. I haven't included anything older than last summer but I can if you want.

As a bit of a daydreamer and a lover of celluloid life impressions, the mingling of fantasy and reality is a
constant distraction from the more important things I am apparently supposed to be doing as an adult, and as such is how I think about, or at least describe, my playwork.

My research technique is basically just to immerse myself in the film, music and literature surrounding a
particular subject, the spectacular representations which so easily catch my imagination, and in some way try to identify and re-represent the dominant fantasy accordingly. This has been mostly through sculptural installations, frequently with a looped soundtrack or sound recording, where I have been trying to give material form to specific fictions. I think of it as re-organising the constituent elements to try and present the truth of what is being represented and to understand what the reality of the specific fantasy may be. Symbolic reconfiguration or something. Here is some of the stuff I have been playing with lately.

Pretty Vacunt, 2009. A toilet occupied by a stuffed suit person. It is vacant until you glimpse a body at the sink looking into the mirror and mistakenly assume it to be a real person. You imagine this fake person as a real identity. The toilet is then occupied by the fantasy which you project onto this person. Nick's girlfriend Marie waited for about half an hour until she seen someone else going in. Overly active imagination.

Untitled, 2009. A partially autobiographical (shame on me) work inspired by the film Blue Velvet, which I know you don't like, but which profoundly chills me to the bone. All about obscene fantasy dreamt up to make up for a lack in reality. This was just cryptic nonsense and I disown it to a certain extent. Way too obscure.

The Mole, 2010. Last term our Public art project was in Bellahouston Park. My site was a little circular
flowerbed. I made work which I felt represented something of the ideological truth of gardening. I made a
sound system which played mole recordings to mimic the manipulation of natural forces and create a
perverted spectacle of nature, worms fleeing the earth.

At the moment I'm surrounded by the sea and boats and fisherman, and so I've been learning some of the reality of a rural fishing community. Not being a fisherman, and being slightly scared of open water, I have no experience of this reality, only the technical terms, techniques, equipment and tales which are being passed on to me via the pub. Drunken self-representation, translated through my drunken imaginings, has resulted in a series of futile gestures and sexually charged forays into realising the world of isolation, bating and wetness of a life at sea.

lots of love,


Oh and even an unnofficial artist residency, I really liked some of the things on your facebook, I can't wait to see the edited versions. You never really explained about why you are so sea themed right now, and aren't there loads of sex references as well? Or is that me being kind of Freudian or something. I think the cooking combinations sound like great work though too. I wouldn't worry about feeling like you've been pretentious for the last three years, I;m sure you'll think that next year about what you did this year, and then the year after you'll think it about the year before that and so on and so on. It's okay, people only don't feel pretentious anymore when their work is legitmised by some kind of external body I think. Before that I think you always feel like that, I think it's something to do with just the fact that no-one is really asking you to do art or anything, like you don't have to. But if you want to then you have the right to do it and not feel bad about it. Although I still feel bad about it all the time, or sort of embarrassed. But maybe that just goes on for the rest of your life. Maybe there are bank managers as well who are embarrassed?

I haven't been to Berlin yet, the installation team goes over there on Monday to start installing it. I'm a bit
worried because one of my works neeeds a wall painting to be made and i have to leave that in the capable hands of the team. Hopefully it will be okay though because I've sent fairly strict instructions. I'll send you photos of the work, because of course you'll be in one of the pieces. The only thing I do wish though was that I was sending over a piece of each of your works as well to accompany. But I'll do something like this next time hopefully.

My real life adult studio is at SWG3, it's going to be very cold but it's really big for the money and that's what matters. I went to see some others, but none of them were really the right size, I need quite a lot of room to dance about and I have a really big work table that I love and don't want to give up. I'm sharing a big 30 meter square space with Ellie Harrison and Darren Tesar. I love them both, but you never know how this sharing stuff will work out and I'm not really used to it. But it is cheap and i think defo's worth a go. Plus I love having other people around me.

When are you coming back to Glasgow? Have you been researching for dissertation or final show? Maybe it's too early for final show yet, but A.J. talks about it a lot, so I though maybe you might too.

Enjoy the island and mail me soon (with illustrations)

Love Oliver


Hi Howie!

It's really nice for you to write such a long email, I too am wild about talking to myself in letter form. I think it makes for a much better read, I think actually that that is what good writing consists of!

It's really great that you're managing to balance working with making things, I think I was always quite lazy in my summers when I was on undergraduate, well maybe until third year anyway and then i started to get more and more scared of not doing anything, which was really the start of a neurosis about always working which i still can't really shake off. But it does keep me busy, if i didn;t do this then I'd probably have to think about getting a more regualr job and I just think that would eventually be quite depressing. Although there are times when I fantasize about just not having to make art anymore, but then I'd probably have to get rid off all of my books because they'd keep making me feel sad or guilty. It would be so wild if I gave up now, because by the time i was thirty i wouldnt even remember it and when i met new people they wouldn't even know. I don't know what I'd talk about though, I sometimes find it quite hard at work to make and effort to talk about Eastenders or something to people - althou summer is easier because I love Big Brother and I've been so dedicated to it this year which means I can talk for ages about it to work people. Although my opinions of housemates are usually different to everyone, I always want someone to win that everyone else hates.

Do you guys even have a television up there in the islands? Sometimes nothaving on can be really good because it helps you work, but then there are other times when having it can be super inspirational - for instance, for me, with Big Brother. I guess you're tooo busy being a barman, do they just take loads of people off the mainland to work there in the summer? Is this the first time you did it? How come you're not at Oran Mor anymore, or will you go back there in autumn. You must be earning so much money! And actually I haven't done it for a really long time but I did used to really love being a barman when I was 18/19, more the after hours parties and stuff but it was still really fun. Well, unless it got a bit rough some nights and then I'd be really scared. Or actually I used to work for this women who was quite wild, nice but also frightening and she was super pro-drinking on the job, so before the Friday and Saturday night shifts she'd always send me out to buy bottles of white wine and we'd drink them all through the shift. It was okay because she was the landlady, but sometimes I didn't really want it because I'd be really fucked behind the bar - but I didn't really have much choice because I'd be too scared to say no to her. And then she always used to make me smoke really cheap King Size menthols so by the end of the night I'd be sooooooo dry. Once my friends made this big weed cake and we had it on the bar, i think it was at a pajama party theme night, (oh and it was a tiny country pub, in a little town, so you could sort of have drugs on the bar) and i wasn't really thinking and just ate nearly all of it and then they kept making me drink dry white wine and smoke menthols and then half way through a conversation I just realised I was so out of it, like I couldn't really walk and then just had to be escorted to the outside steps to sit and laugh for about an hour, before being taken home because everything was starting to swim around me. So yeah, drugs and barman is a nice combination, I'm glad you can fit both of these into your stay.


Oh and even an unnofficial artist residency, I really liked some of the things on your facebook, I can't wait to see the edited versions. You never really explained about why you are so sea themed right now, and aren't there loads of sex references as well? Or is that me being kind of Freudian or something. I think the cooking combinations sound like great work though too. I wouldn't worry about feeling like you've been pretentious for the last three years, I;m sure you'll think that next year about what you did this year, and then the year after you'll think it about the year before that and so on and so on. It's okay, people only don't feel pretentious anymore when their work is legitmised by some kind of external body I think. Before that I think you always feel like that, I think it's something to do with just the fact that no-one is really asking you to do art or anything, like you don't have to. But if you want to then you have the right to do it and not feel bad about it. Although I still feel bad about it all the time, or sort of embarrassed. But maybe that just goes on for the rest of your life. Maybe there are bank managers as well who are embarrassed?

I haven't been to Berlin yet, the installation team goes over there on Monday to start installing it. I'm a bit
worried because one of my works neeeds a wall painting to be made and i have to leave that in the capable hands of the team. Hopefully it will be okay though because I've sent fairly strict instructions. I'll send you photos of the work, because of course you'll be in one of the pieces. The only thing I do wish though was that I was sending over a piece of each of your works as well to accompany. But I'll do something like this next time hopefully.

My real life adult studio is at SWG3, it's going to be very cold but it's really big for the money and that's what matters. I went to see some others, but none of them were really the right size, I need quite a lot of room to dance about and I have a really big work table that I love and don't want to give up. I'm sharing a big 30 meter square space with Ellie Harrison and Darren Tesar. I love them both, but you never know how this sharing stuff will work out and I'm not really used to it. But it is cheap and i think defo's worth a go. Plus I love having other people around me.

When are you coming back to Glasgow? Have you been researching for dissertation or final show? Maybe it's too early for final show yet, but A.J. talks about it a lot, so I though maybe you might too.

Enjoy the island and mail me soon (with illustrations)

Love Oliver

Hey Howie!!!!
It's been so long. How's mull, you didnt get swept into the sea did you?
When you've dried yourself off write to me about the islands!
How did that portfolio go? I saw all your work is now on FB but it'd be really good to have a selected version with some details. When are you coming back to the big city? You should come see my new studio when you're home, that'd be really nice. I'm back from Berlin on the 16th and then we're moving in. Aaargh!

I sent a picture of you to Berlin the other day, it's really beautiful. Of course!

Let me know all your recent exciting adventures
Love Oliver


Hello, hello. Many, many apologies. It has been a very long time with no reply and I can only partially excuse myself with temporary rural breaking internet connection. The other time is just laziness. Sorry. I've been keeping myself very busy though. Very, very busy. Mostly just listening to the Beach Boys, drinking with people who are still learning English and pissing about quite generally. I should clarify that I am no longer in a shed, though I was for about a month and a half. Now I'm sharing a room above the pub, sleeping about a foot away from the other barman. It's intense but we've been getting on grand. Weed helped, but that has been out for about a week and a half now and the only way to fall alseep is to be almost paralytically drunk. It feels like being sixteen again. On the up side, if we travel about an hour and a half to the world famously quaint and picturesque village of Tobermory, site of the popular children's tv show Balamory, we can pick up bad coke or bottles (no tabs) of acid. Thats it though. Intense fuckers over here. You just have to know they're names, here they're voices and see they're teeth, and you'll realise.

Initially I was here out of financial necessity, however now, while still only breaking even, this wee summer jaunt has turned into an unofficial artist residency. I'm a cook, and while I amn't trusted to make real food for customers, I am aloud to force shit on staff. So I've been making lots of very tasty, but dodgilly named foods. They'res been Sweet ButNut Soup, Yeasty Hole Rings with Cream Cheese, and I'm working on a special new invention, a condiment for fresh fish, cos theyres loads of it here, which I really want to call JoySauce. But this is only really for fun, I've been having much more fun forcing my school work on this tiny community and they seem to be lapping it up. Of course nothing is really being forced on these kids, but I'm in the middle of making a fibre glass canoe trawler, a seaside seasaw holiday snapper, a twelve foot wicker seaman, and am in negotaiations/persuasions for making a psuedo-metaphysical documentary on board one of the prawn boats, and a public info type coastguard awareness video with the local coatguard guys who're hopefully going to rescue me in their helicopter. If I finish any of these things I will be happy, but I don't even have a proper camera. At least I'm trying though.

How did/is your Berlin show going? If it is any better than you're sewing workshop or your aztec mishap, I'm sure it will be grand. Although they both sound pretty funny if only in an unfortunate mishap type of a way. Where is your real independant adult studio? That sounds exiting. Kind of like moving out of home for the first time, although I'm sure MFA wasn't exactly like living under lock and key. Well, I will compile a few photos, a few words and a few informations and get them sent at you post haste. I don't really know if what I think I've been doing these past few years is really actually what I've ever made so you may have to forgive the slight discrepancies between what you can see and what I might describe it as. Basically I've just recently realised that I've been very pretentious these past learning curves and slightly need to get my head out of my arse a wee bit. But its good because its a lot brighter out here and smells a lot nicer, and I have been bumping into things a lot less.

Well, this was a fun ramble to write, good luck reading it. Talking to myself in letter form is a speciality, making it readable is not much of a special concern so I apologise. Hope all is well, good luck with your show, and all other closing letter pleasantries,


P.s. As someone who has made wee films before, what should I be looking for in a video camera? I need one which has an image quality better than a mobile phone but in spite of legitimate attempts to research and understand camera tech jargon, I just can't do it. Any advice? Peace.

P.p.s. If you see Nick any time soon send him and Adam my love and encouragement to be happier and less miserable about the shitness. Love Howie. X


1 Howieeeee,

Are you having a wild time where ever you are in the world? Is it still sunny? Glasgow's weather became quite ambiguous in the last few days.

So, I've been trying to resolve the problem of you not being here for photographing and this is what I came up with. I think I can make stickers of you and Alex and stick them on top of the main print. BUT to do this I'd really like you to take a picture of yourself especially for it and email it to me. Is that okay? I'd be so grateful.

I've also made you a special t-shirt to wear in the photograph, as a way of proving we've had some dialogue and I haven't just stolen another picture of you from Facebook. It's just a cheap quick transfer of the photocollage I made the drawing from. Is that cool? If you send me your out of town address I'll post it to you this week. Arggh, thankyou thankyou.

Love Oliver



The Keel Row
Isle Of Mull
Argyle And Bute