Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I picked up Kerouac's "On the Road" this weekend past, prompted by the 40th anniversary of his death; the departure of a friend's son to the States; and a general wanderlust... Not read him since school, oh, 23 years long ago. I don't remember him being so sweet - so innocent - so wide eyed. I must have been drawn to other aspects of his writing. Or maybe it was just sheer longing.

So, wafted into the Angel pub (Holborn) on Sunday night, to write a letter to a friend in San Francisco. It was quiet in the pub, and I was vaguely aware of a young pair that wandered in after me as I started writing: I sensed an attraction between them - flirtatious, somewhat coy. Anyway, I carried on writing.

My ears pricked when I heard her say "tell me something" - "what?" - "anything!" - the little coquette - I recognised this sly tactic...

So, he said he had had cancer two years ago... oh, she says... I drift out - and drift in and hear her say her boyfriend has asked to marry her - I sigh inwardly, how tiresome. Their conversation turns a little spiky... I still haven't looked up - and I soon forget them, immersed in writing.

I get another beer, and start writing again: I hear her ask "tell me something - what? - anything!". Again. He says he had cancer two years ago - good for him - that's perhaps how I would have responded too; perhaps.... I'm listening now - feigning reverie - and ... the conversation starts repeating itself. I thought I was going mad - I looked up - they were two drama students, reciting from a script.... it threw me for some time...

I've wondered whether it is possible to abandon scripts all together, and inhabit some kind of non-narrative, or even anti-narrative dimension; that thought, or perhaps wish, may have just been ... an escape ... from myself? But then I do seem to have an episodic existence - don't underestimate the tyranny of narrative - so perhaps that plain is where I will be dwelling more and more.

Anyway; Tonight I'm in a hotel in Peterborough, an entire town without a script. I managed to give my colleagues the slip, at least until my team bonding session tomorrow. Earlier, I was pleased to be under the waterline, in a bar, in a listing barge, listening to Bark Psychosis (honest).

Anyway; Don't follow scripts.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn't pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, but it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open windows and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.

Rainer Maria Rilke

The metaphysicians and notable reasoners about the nice matters of identity, affirm that if memory be taken away, the self is lost. And what matter for memory? What have I to do with that part? If, whilst I am, I am but as I should be, what do I care more? and thus let me lose self every hour, and be twenty successive selfs, or new selfs, ’tis all one to me: so I lose not my opinion. If I carry that with me ’tis I; all is well.

Philosophical Regimen - Earl of Shaftesbury

"There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come amongst those who shall come after"


Thursday, 15 October 2009

Nostalgia V

"I always think", he writes (Lost Property), "that one of the purist emotions is that of the banished man pining after the land of his birth. I would have liked to have shon him straining his memory to the utmost in a continuous effort to keep alive and bright the vision of his past: the blue remembered hills and the happy highways, the hedge with its unofficial rose and the field with its rabbits, the distant spire and the near bluebell. ... "


That special feeling of elation probably endured for quite a long time, but there was something else intermingled with it, and later on predominant. Sebastian in spite of himself realized with perhaps a kind of helpless amazement (for he had expected more from England than she could do for him) that no matter how wisely and sweetly his new surroundings played up to his old dreams, he himself, or rather still the most precious part of himself, would remain as hopelessly alone as it had always been. The keynote of Sebastian's life was solitude and the kindlier fate tried to make him feel at home by counterfeiting admirably the things he thought he wanted, the more he was aware of his inability to fit into the picture — into any kind of picture.

The real life of Sebastian Knight - Vladimir Nabokov