silences

21 June 2006
In a small hotel facing the Atlantic ocean. The sky is black, or deep blue, deeper, and it is midday. Outside a gale has cleared the streets; the air is ice cold; the wind whips at the building, like paper cuts on skin or like the draft that sits on the empty horizon after the end of the world. I sit in the balance between sleep and the calm yellow light of this old room. In my stillness, everything I see from the window acquires a new intensity, a vehement relevance. It’s like Im caught in an interminable dream. Like Im in someones home movie and they are watching it backwards ( I can hear the rewind screech) at half or quarter speed. It is too cold to move.

22 June 2006
Blizzard today.

23 June 2006
The blizzard continues. Whiteout. I am hungry. It is put to me, by the dwarflike creature behind the reception desk, that I would be mad to leave the hotel; that there is no cafe for four miles, and even if I made it, it would be closed. In my hunger I suspect she is lying. She (or someone, the manager?) is trying to keep me at the hotel. What plans do they have? I stare at her for a very long time. She does not budge. Finally, I mutter something about lizards, about the third mind, and about irregular procedures in major drug companies, and walk backwards to the front doors, pointing my finger at her as I continue my outburst.
Outside, I lift the collar of my coat up, bow my head and walk into the tempest. I cross the road and onto the white beach. My boots chew at the snow and make the sound of a huge wooden door closing slowly; a door that is most definitely behind me. I walk for what seems minutes but could well be miles. Ahead there is a cafe on the sea front and as I draw closer I see lights on and movement, hands moving amongst candles.
There is ploughmans on menu. Ploughmans, please, I say to the waiter. No Ploughmans today, he replies. I pause for a minute to think what he really means by that. I look around – yes, this is definitely a cafe. Do you have bread? Yes. Do you have cheese? Yes. Pickle? Yes. Apple? Yes. Do you have celery? Probably. Do you have pickled onions? No. Ok, well, do you have tomato? Yes. Ok, great put all of those things on a plate, I say and then turn to look out the window at the sea.I eat my food quietly and order a bottle of real beer which I don’t touch.

The sea stretches across the limit. The Atlantic sea; that strange sea that stretches the compass, that alters and disturbs time. Water and time: irrevocably linked. The lonely and the lost gravitate (or should I say fall or sink) towards the the water. The banks of the Thames, the Seine, the Danube, lined with lost and forgotten people watching the water, sensing the time as it, thankfully, passes.

24 June 2006
Blizzard continues. Stay in room and look out of window until night falls.

25 June 2006
This morning there was a change. The sea was populated with fishing boats. Beyond the boats the sea was restless, grinding. The caprice of the Atlantic ocean, like two bodies under a duvet. The undersea: a room full of fireworks or a never ending celebratory wave around earth’s stadium. The jagged dance of time. An inexorable clock of birth and death, of memories and missed opportunities. The lips of armageddon.

2 January 2011
At the end of December 2010, I was helping my mother pack her belongings up. And as we stood boxing her shelves, I discovered many books and films that I remembered from childhood, some with the handwriting of a young me scrawled across the pages. And it was then that the feeling returned. The singular sensation of time moving away, separated. That obscure, untitled force, magnetising us all in. Time passing, an odd phrase of time, as if it was less time and more time’s ghost, a shadow against the walls of time. A strange strain of time, as if time had run out, or was about to.

The next morning, after breakfast, I left and took with me (as a token of thanks) a bag full of books: The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin; The Letters of Van Gogh; A Personal Anthology by Borges; Selected Poems of Neruda, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera (inside a price tag from 1981 for $10.95 from Scribner’s); an old copy of Heart of Darkness and a copy of Penguin Modern Poets series No.25, published in 1975 featuring Gavin Ewart (?) , Zulifkar Ghose and B.S Johnson.

As I settled on the train, I stuffed my hand into the bag to pick a book at random. Blindly, I came across some papers left in a dust cover. The first page had hundreds of telephone numbers written at random; a second page was full of notes on african musicians; but the page that sat on my lap for the remainder of my journey was a photocopied page from a book on the Romans. Highlighted in pink, top right hand corner of page, was a quote by the emperor Aurelius: ‘Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.’

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