I often see it when I walk in the morning parked up along North Road. A white van with ‘Safety Net Services’ emblazoned on its side. Safety nets. I remember the ones I’d see at the circuses we used to attend as children. Huge, slightly sagging, web-like structures that stretched across the whole circumference of the ring, but high above it. I used to imagine someone falling into it. What would it be like? Would it bounce them up again? Later, when I was much older, and used to go to the circus in Cambridge to draw (by then circuses were a much contracted affair – no lions, in fact no animals at all, not even those horses with their top knots) I saw some of the trapeze artists use the net as their descent. And they would bounce, bound even, using it as a kind of buoyant trampoline. Are you braver when you know there is a safety net? I’m not sure. Falling into it, those aerial ballerinas lost their grace. It was clumsy, cack-handed.
They are airing one of Maya Angelou’s later memoirs on Radio 4 extra. I was listening to it this morning. She is forty and has just been commissioned to produce a TV show, and then she keeps getting phone calls from Random House asking her to write an autobiography. She succumbs in the end and starts to write I know Why a Caged Bird Sings. How would it feel to be commissioned to write my book? Would it feel more worthy? Would I be more focussed, would I finally accept that I knew where I was going? She picks up her pencil and begins to write. Is it really like that for most writers? ‘I was always frightened’, said Jane, a character who grew up in a children’s home in Call the Midwife.
The wind was getting up as I walked. But the storm is yet to arrive. Nightclubbers wandered along the Prom, some lurching. Back on North Road making my way home I saw a group of students ahead spilling out into the road. One of them was kneeling on the pavement seemingly helping a girl put her shoe back on. Several of his friends strode over to him and began to fake ‘whipping’ him on the back.
I spied one of the singing thrushes in a tree on Llanbadarn Road. And heard the screech owl as I climbed the Buarth.
Does any of it really matter? I yearn for a detached wisdom. Oh, to let go the hold my ego persists in having over me.
‘Let be me weak, and dream of sleep’.