Category Archives: Writing

Concentration

A foggy day, like a pause in time. A chill that gets under your clothes, under your skin. The rows of cabbage slope out of sight under the mist. A cow moans in the distance.

All this cant about the everyday… When what you really want is to escape the everyday, its endless tedium. To go home, play with your phone, drink beer, watch your friends’ TV.

You used to be able to concentrate, didn’t you? You used to be able to read a book to the end. The more distracted you get the heavier the everyday becomes, the less strength you have to face it.

The sun comes out, the mist lifts and little birds emerge from their places in the trees, hopping and tweeting. You take off your jumper and put it in your backpack.

You veer off the public footpaths, lose your way for a time in wild meadows, find the stream and try to get your bearings. A brief fear of straying from civilisation.

To see your life from the point of view of the everyday – to let the everyday live in you. Only then, perhaps, would these complaints and indignities stop. But that’s precisely what you fail to do every day, what you can’t but fail to do.

You hear road traffic and feel relieved.

Something quite different

A grey day after a spell of sun. Dark heavy clouds, but the farmers talk of a drought, the rain won’t come.

Your daily two-hour walk along the public footpaths and farmers’ roads, between ditches and razed copses littered with shredded branches and shrubs. A bare tree here and there. You startle a deer. It jumps over the stumps, surprisingly bony and powerful: something quite different. The deer in turn scares a flock of crows that wheel cawing over the field.

A huge charred tree, split by lightning.

The desolation of the everyday. What else can the everyday be for you? The ruination of all plans. That which wipes out the path behind and in front of you.

At the edge of a field you come across a strange sight: a dead pigeon tied to the arm of a mechanical device, moving in a circle. ‘I’ll never shoot no pigeons with you standing there, mate.’ You whirl round and see a man with a shotgun, disguised behind the thicket. You say sorry and move on. Crossing private land as you make for the road, you hear a shot ring out.

Chickens

Impatience: what blocks you from the everyday, keeps you at a remove. From the everyday which trumps all. Which has no opinion of you.

This old dusk-dread, this no man’s land between day and night. The sky is purple, ominous. You watch the chickens pecking away at the ground. What do they care about the dusk? They’ll shuffle into their coop and sleep easy. Will they dream, as they grow their eggs? They’ll dream of sweetcorn and warm straw perhaps; their favourite things. Dreams as natural as a stream’s currents.

The chickens are joined by wild birds, attracted by the feed you’ve put out: sparrows, a wood pigeon, a brilliantly coloured pheasant. Hidden in the everyday.

To stay in the everyday: nothing is harder.

The everyday

Holiday in the country. But first you must push throughLondon’s circles of hell. Shabby blocks of flats, scrapyards, the odd garish outlet with its promise of redemption.Stratford. Half-finished Olympic installations in the damp grey air,Westfieldmall, the Gherkin on the other side, the City behind it.  Suicide stretch, you think to yourself, the planet’s suicidal thoughts materialised. All hope abandon ye who enter here, written in soot across the sky. The train squeaks down the filthy tracks intoLiverpool Streetstation. Afternoon rush hour, the city shoving out its crowds. I had not though death had undone so many…

What does it take to get away, just for a week? It takes money you don’t have, it takes a train, bus and taxi to get to a cottage by a road with constant traffic that even earplugs can’t drown out. It takes half an hour’s walk between farmers’ fields to get the zooming and clanking out of your head. The clouds part to reveal the setting sun, it warms you, you sit down on the tractor verge with upturned head. A snippet of the everyday after a day of seeming everydayness, maybe the day isn’t wasted, you think. Long rows of budding cabbage. Rolls of hay. The sun going down behind the bare trees, behind the hills, its rays spreading across the fields…

Is this the everyday? The everyday isn’t a day like today, you think, a day of travel, split into departures and destinations. Yet it has something to do with time, you tell yourself: the world’s time. Inhuman time. The everyday is universal, you think, everyday tasks notwithstanding. It’s the shifting of seasons across the earth, the orbits of moons, the lives of stars… To merge with the everyday: to let your life extend beyond your everyday self. The difficulty is to empty your mind of the noises that assail it, you tell yourself, of the stains it makes on the silence of the day.

But you’ve only just arrived in the countryside, you think, as you walk back to the cottage by the road with its non-stop traffic – the countryside that’s supposed to give you a break. The animals you’re here to feed for your holidaying friends, the rabbits and chickens, they know about the everyday, go clean their litters, watch them.

Fire

Now an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a blazing fire —

a fire that devours fire;

a fire that burns in things dry and moist;

a fire that glows amid snow and ice;

a fire that is like a crouching lion;

a fire that reveals itself in many forms;

a fire that is, and never expires;

a fire that shines and roars;

a fire that blazes and sparkles;

a fire that flies in a storm wind;

a fire that burns without wood;

a fire that renews itself every day;

a fire that is not fanned by fire;

a fire that billows like palm branches;

a fire whose sparks are flashes of lightning;

a fire black as a raven;

a fire, curled, like the colours of the rainbow!

- Yannai, ‘The Celestial Fire’, from The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (via here)

You start to write

You start to write — writing is impossible. Then picture yourself writing like a criminal hiding in plain sight. Write as you’d write if you were really writing. Write of your troubles, such as they are. Write of what might relieve them. As you write, your troubles and their relief start to float into eternity. You don’t know if this means comfort or more trouble. You don’t know what any of these words mean as you write them, and when you paste them into this box, under this date, and click post, their journey is complete and never-ending.

There is an idea in Finland that it is good to sit in silence as the light goes, to observe nightfall as a time of contemplation – ‘pitaa hamaraa’, ‘keeping the twilight’.

- Peter Davidson, The Idea of North (via here)

‘Undersongs’ and ‘Waking Dreams’ added up top.

 

Story 3 cont.

She took to leaving for mysterious dam-related projects and in my new free time I learned to monitor the movements of shadows across my bed and walls; in the end I got out a tape measure and notebook. Tiring of this I invented knots and bows with the tape measure, finally getting it tangled beyond use. Time now was more like a giant gellid pool extending to all sides than a clean sealine in the distance, and to make up for it I declared war on each clock and watch in the house and by extension each electrical device. But when the items, dismounted and dismantled, lay spread out in all their scrambled quiddity I felt a wave of shame like never before. I looked for plates, throws, papers to cover the mess, asking myself how would I take my revenge if I came home this?

It was time to take some sort of action, we agreed. The dam too was leaking, the other night it was all they could do to plug it with poles, paper, leaves, she said. It was an emergency, she said. Have you been having a lot of those, I said. It’s always hanging over us, she said. Maybe you should look elsewhere, I said. Maybe you should look elsewhere, she said.

Now and then I tried my luck with one of the words we’d made up, sometimes she bit the hook and softened, let me have my catch again, it’s surprising what a made-up word in some corner can do now and then.

*

It was a simple question of whether you wanted to feel at home in the world, we agreed, then agreed it was meaningless question.

I’d never seen our neighbour until the afternoon I came home with a new kitchen clock; she entered her door at the same time as I did mine, leaving me obscurely annoyed. I refrained from dismantling the clock as soon as I laid it on the table but denied it its battery as long as I could.

*

The way they gridlocked time in the wine-bottling factory was as case-hardened as some of the line managers, some of whom played with speeding up the conveyor belt when certain combinations of packers and lifters they didn’t like were lined along it. We didn’t all enjoy it equally. For my part I knew I had to stay alert and ready. I gulped my lunch at the far side of the alley where I could watch the empty football field. At night I swallowed pills when cheap supermarket wine didn’t do the trick.

Most things were wrong when I heard the neighbour’s voice, nothing as they say had prepared me for it, and what seemed right after hearing it was out of reach. Some time later I detained her by the neutral curve of the stairwell banister on some point of municipal order. Our words wound right up through the stairwell as if it were a throat. She of course felt no such thing for all I knew.

Already lost

The days weren’t right when they should have been, in the days of your youth, when you had the energy of youth, just then the days were as wrong as they could have been, you were too stupid to benefit from your youth and your youth was wasted in waiting for your stupidity to end, in being put down, in being made to put yourself down, it was all the wrong way round. Only by waiting it out and thus weakening your resources, weakening your hope could you hope to find a way to begin again, so that when the time might come at last, when it looked at last as if you might overcome your youth it was too late, your youth had steered you wrong too often, steered you down certain winding rivers, down certain treacherous rivers, into certain whirlpools, you in your youth had steered yourself wrong too often, had been made to steer yourself away from calm  days on open seas.