An Accidental Life
An Accidental Life and other pieces by Hereford-based, London-born writer Nicholas
Swingler, is poetry about family, nuclear or otherwise, fathers, sons, mothers, daughters,
brothers, sisters and their relationships birth to death. This subversive, partly-autobiographical
collection ranges over themes of love and hate, forgiveness and catharsis, and has
been endorsed by Sir Derek Jacobi.
In his collection of sixty-something pieces – poems, near-poems, a mini-play called
Zimmer and almost-total-ellipses – Nicholas Swingler delivers a verdict on more than
his ‘accidental life’.
“Swingler’s voice is instantly recognizable…these poems are as fresh and as mordant
Where I Live
Where I live is not where I want to live.
Some six years ago, suddenly very ill with my leukaemia, I signed an assured non-shorthold
tenancy agreement, swapping a Camden Council flat in London that had been made uninhabitable
with lead dust by council contractors, for an Anchor Trust studio-flat in a block
– or scheme, in Anchorspeak – of 36 flats in Drybridge House in St Martin’s Street,
The move was inadequately researched but at least there was the hospital in city-centre
and Drybridge was, and is, a walkable distance into town.
Number 5 is bed-sitting room with kitchen and bathroom. A few strides from front
door and you’ve covered the square footage; ceilings are low, too. There’s a communal
laundry, yes, but the greatest – if not only – landlord-provided luxury is the snooker
I carpeted and curtained my new address (no help from Anchor) and am still up-to-date
with my rent etc (now £485 monthly).
For most of my tenure I’ve been so ill and on-and-off so close-to-death that where
I lived was scarcely a priority, but seeming return to health has coincided with
Anchor spectacularly mismanaging major building works.
Had it not been for HCS and me objecting at planning stage to Herefordshire Council,
Drybridge could have been ruined with new windows-that-had-almost-forgotten-the-true-purposes-of-windows
(it was extremely arguable whether new windows were needed at all).
Had it not been for much protest from several tenants, me included, every single
flat would – in a surge of landlordly barbarism – have lost its bath.
And before these thoroughly invasive, dirty, noisy, works Anchor had already redecorated
common parts, surely an affront to any kind of ordinary thoughtfulness.
Tenants’ front doors are now repainted in what I, from childhood memory, would call
an undercoat shade of grey.
Where I live is not where I want to. Yes, Drybridge is incontestably my address but
it’s not home; it feels like a place to die.
To live, meet others, read, write, yes (seriously) to do arithmetic, I’m off, away,
to café, hotel lobby or railway carriage. Still, unhomely as I seem to be, I would
like a better address.
A great empty cube of space in a city-centre flat with a place-for-everything and
everything-in-its-place (I’m careless whether I rent or buy). Oh, and no car-parking
…my new, bespoke, boots were made for walking.