There’s a word to conjure with.
The first thing that springs to mind is the ankh worn by Jessica in Logan’s Run. Perhaps the Iron Maiden song* playing in the background as Francis bears down on her and the reformed Sandman. I was always a sucker for sci fi and heavy metal.
I’m thinking about the word because my friend Alex posed a question:
Where do you find sanctuary?
It’s an interesting one. First I had to think about what it is that I’m trying to escape from when I look for the damn thing. The old chestnut it’s the journey that’s important and not the destination falls onto the page and I can’t argue with it. Partly because it looks so fragile it may break in two and I kinda like having it around. The scariest word I can think of, the one I keep in the closet next to the little dead Japanese kid who mews like a cat, is contentment.
I like the word sanctuary because it feels transient. It’s a rest stop along the way because the thing baring down on you is always only a few steps behind, but you can be smarter than the evil bastard as long as you don’t panic and give up. Throw a priest at it. Keep a nun to hand. The alternative is to be content. To give up. ‘This is it’, you’ll say. ‘I’m happy with my lot’, you’ll smile.
Right now I’m very happy, but I’m far from content. Happy malcontents make for the best commentators. Its the truly miserable cunts you have to stamp on hard.
I’m in my office at home listening to Judas Priest. It’s not turned to 11, but part of what makes this space a sanctuary is the ability to turn everything up to 11. Try and drag me back to a regular office environment now and I’ll be Damien Thorn, aged 4, in The Omen contemplating a church service**.
Within a week of moving here I did a not very grown up thing. I grabbed some left over black paint and scrawled a message on the office door:
It’s a reference from The Walking Dead, but it does its job for the most part***. It lets people know to keep the fuck out, but it also symbolises that I can do what I like.
And that’s the sanctuary that being a writer gives me. I never really enjoyed the conventional gigs I had. Even the first few years I was actually making a living from writing and doing well as a freelancer I found constraining. It’s the last year or so when I finally got to write exactly what I wanted to that felt like a real breakthrough.
This morning for example I got to fuck up a space shuttle.
But there’s always something just out of reach that looks perfect and indestructible and the challenge is to 1. get there 2. fuck it up and 3. move on.
So Alex, the short answer to is that I find sanctuary not in a specific place (as those places by their very nature crumble away) but in a specific mind set. The consciousness that probably began to establish itself when I was a kid and my bedroom really was a sanctuary. The drabness I saw every day out of that window is the thing I’m running from.
It’s Francis screaming “Run, runner!”
I always found that to be damn good advice.
*I love that Derek Riggs had to write to the Conservative Party for a photo of Thatcher to draw the Sanctuary single’s cover.
**That kid got the part because he kicked Richard Donner in the balls. Fucking heroic.
***It doesn’t go down too well when we have lots of people stay over and the office becomes a bedroom.