Locked-Down And Out In London

 

May 1st

 

“Like ghosts, adders are something I have always wanted to but never seen,” I note down while intoxicated. White wine is a new addition to my diet, and it’s going down well. Later that evening I dream a ghost for the first time.

The woman next door not only does an excellent impression of a whale trapped in the bath, but in recent weeks she also does battle with the flush mechanism of her toilet. It is pumped as if the flush were billows and she is desperately trying to start a fire. Or possibly she is hoping to take off, and who can blame her under the circumstances. But something is deeply, darkly wrong in there and has been for some time. It, or she, may be possessed. Soon I will have to say something, it’s just a bit… What do you say?

“Excuse me, burly neighbour who could certainly do me some damage, what in God’s name are you doing to your toilet? Do either of you need an exorcist?”

Having done a week in bed like an unproductive Edith Sitwell, a fresh start is in order. I get up one morning and pull up the daisies planted with the wildflowers last summer; that lasted all autumn, all winter, all spring. They had taken on a sickly colour and smell, like rotting honey.

George Elliot’s The Lifted Veil proves a perfect companion to the melancholy and hard-done by mood I experienced this last week. I am a misunderstood clairvoyant. A fragile poet muddling my way through life in Italy and a bucolic rural estate on my father’s money, waiting to be poisoned in quite a passive aggressive manner.

The first part’s accurate and anyway, it doesn’t matter now, the mood’s passed.

Over the last couple of weeks a large number of people have become fixated with lockdown ending, aggressively so. It’s a bit like saying: well we burnt all the bottom half of the rice but since we put a lid on it we can’t smell the smoke so might as well turn the heat back up.

The problem with stupid is not that stupid gets angry, but that stupid acts on it.

Meanwhile in South Africa, people queue for over two and a half miles for food parcels.

The vista has flashed parakeet green, with the occasional blood blister of red and pink. It seems likely all, or at least the pioneers of Impressionism had myopia. The rest just copied, like when your friend breaks their arm at school and you’re jealous of their signed cast. So maybe you pretend to have an accident too.

My bi-weekly runs are filled with beauty and poetry, albeit fantasised sometimes. Having admired two paired swans in the lake, I am on my way home again. I pass two teenage boys on bikes dressed in Adidas tracksuits and hoodies, who are loitering dodgily outside the park. I must have misheard their conversation because in parting one calls to the other, “Seventh in line to reign, my love!”

This week I have learned that chess is not a game of instinct; it requires a lot of thought. And having played it as a game of instinct three times, I have lost three times.

In a thrilling twist of fate, I sell a (clean) top for £5 on eBay to a charmless woman called Ann. This may prove to be divisive, but I’m afraid I firmly believe you should never fraternise with an Ann without an ‘e’ at the end of her name, it suggests a lack of levity and this woman is confirmation of this. I regret the extra, unnecessary 6p spent on the postage of the top. What’s it called? Nominal determinism, where the name dictates the fate of the person. But Fate also has a twisted sense of irony, so watch what you call your offspring.

It’s gone from Animals of Farthing Wood to Animal Farm here. The pigeons and squirrels I welcomed St Francis-like last year, have gone from friends to pest to nemeses, and no longer respect me just because I am human. They’ve heard on the winds of change a rumour. The bastards.

There is a long queue of people outside Tesco that I join. We wait in line and step forward our allocated two meters, then stop, forward two meters, then stop, timed as if in procession down the aisle of a church rather than the supermarket.

There’s a rainbow and then it’s blown away, leaving half the sky blue and half the sky dark with a shroud of black cloud. Seagulls appear from nowhere and drift and wheel on the wind, it’s like I’m back in Barnstaple again, by the estuary, the wrecked ships and the wading birds.

I miss home not in the sense of a house, that went a long time ago, but the landscape of home.

 

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Finding Quartz Down In Devon One Summer (pic: Alexandra Waespi)

 

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