Sunday, February 17, 2013
This morning I felt as if I was in an M.R. James story: alone on a misty country lane, listening to the sound of horses hooves that seemed to approach, but never arrived. I don't believe in ghosts, but fog has a curious ability to induce feelings of paranoia. When the visible world is reduced to a radius of 20 yards, the sounds that come from beyond its limits can seem vaguely threatening.
I don't think that working on my own suits me. I'd always thought it would, but I spent this morning alone in my cowshed, picking the book orders for tomorrow's collection and found myself going over past injustices, broken friendships and unresolved conflicts. I've no idea why.
David Sylvian wrote a very good song about it.
Yesterday was more my cup of tea, with a return visit to the wonderful Light Show at the Hayward Gallery:
We should have quit while we were ahead, but my wife had heard that there was a free performance of Poulenc's Story of Babar the Elephant, next door, in the Royal Festival Hall:
Poulenc's sub-Stravinskian score lacks the big tunes that make Peter and the Wolf so successful, but the players and two narrators performed with gusto. Sadly, they were no competition for several hundred under-fives with a short attention span and we struggled to hear the music above the din of screaming children and mothers shouting "Lily! Please stop hitting the man."
As I was the man that Lily was hitting, I was quite keen to leave.
We walked back to Waterloo Station via the South Bank. Even in February, the area was packed with street entertainers and the queue for the London Eye seemed longer than ever. In an archway, a man was lying on the ground singing "I...woz...bawwnnnnn...in... Lahhhhhdan...tahhhhhn..." and I realised that his was the first genuine London accent I'd heard all day. It would be rather poignant if the only real Londoner I saw was a homeless man.
On the way home, both my wife and I agreed that being in London was invigorating. We had got into a rut since our oldest son became ill, last year, avoiding any journeys outside Lewes because our absence exacerbated his anxiety.
It had seemed liked the right thing at the time. However, when I found myself working in a remote cowshed, surrounding by hostile dogs and limbless humans, I knew that I'd only stay sane if I had a little more fun at the weekends.
When the landscape looks like this and the first thing I see on leaving work is a sheep's carcass that looks as if it's been stripped by zombies, it's time to buy a ticket to London Victoria.
Fortunately, I won't be working alone for much longer. The two postgraduates who worked with me last year will be back next week, so I won't be as susceptible to to the ghosts.
I'll end as I began, with M.R. James. Do you believe in ghosts?