6.55 am and it is still pitch outside. Black as yer hat. Impenetrable. It brings me so low. It is like something heavy coming down over my head, my eyes, blocking out all the light, all the sun. I manage it. I keep moving, keep doing. Keep busy. But it is trudging work. It helps to articulate it, to write about it here. I am a coper. I am routinous. It helps me to be so. It gives me a framework within which to function, though the impulse to just step out of it, at times, is strong. Patience Gray when describing Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas’s eating a particular fish for every meal while staying in Italy, talked about writers as liking monotony. I’m not sure that I would chose that word but regularity, certainly. Uniformity, possibly. Any kind of creative endeavour is a challenge, it takes its toll on one’s courage. The rest, then it seems, needs to be less so. One’s outer rim of experience needs to be safe, familiar by comparison. I think, anyway. I am steadied by domestic work, the weekly flow of demands to clean, order and arrange. When I feel like this it is a drag but when it is done, there is some modicum of peace to be had. It was the ironing and the washing this morning. The first batch. Order. I’ve done it, put one foot in front of the other. It is enough, for today.
What is it? I asked. We were on the M4, there’d been a hold up. A restriction, the warning signals called it. It can’t be a seagull, it’s too big. It’s a swan, he said as we drove over it. We had no other choice, nor had the umpteen cars who’d also done so. A white mass, bloodied, lying in the middle of the middle lane. How had it got there? Had it fallen from the sky? Been shot? We’ve just passed a river, he said, it had probably come from there and strayed onto the motorway. I was saddened by it. Such destruction. Such irreverence, I thought, shuddering as I felt a wing clang against the underbelly of the car, towards such a noble, majestic beast. We had no choice, he said. We’re all going too fast. In the past they would have seen it as an omen. Such whiteness. Such a mass of whiteness, bloodied and spoilt.
My cold lingers. It’s a nasty one, he says, as I splutter and sneeze. Still no taste and no smell, though yesterday I did catch a hint of some floral residue on my leather jacket. It almost smelt like talc.
A rainy and windy walk this morning. Shouting at the wind as it blew my umbrella inside out.
Saw the woman with the bag again this morning. I usually see her at the South end of the Prom. She walks, like me, in the early hours. She is huddled over, in either a sweat shirt or like today, an anorak. Her gait is a lumbering one, her feet splayed out like a duck. She never looks at me, no, she did once, but it is rare. She is inside herself, though out. Sometimes she is smoking. She always carries one of those bag for life plastic bags. It looks empty, blowing in the wind.
Walking home on Llanbadarn Road I walked behind several gatherings of students. One girl was dawdling, a rose head held to her nose.
Sitting in a Starbucks just off Saville Row on Wednesday morning, I watched as a tiny strand loosed itself from a turquoise ostrich feather decoration on a Japanese girl’s handbag. It was suspended for a brief second, held still in the warm current of the sunlight shafting through the floor to ceiling window. Then it was gone.
I’ve much to work through. It’s exciting, he said. There were some lovely moments. The American woman with the suitcase, stopping to say, that’s nice. And the other middle-aged woman on the tube, smiling at me. And then the little Chinese girl in pink at the National Gallery, gazing, rapt. I was engaged. I was taken up by it. It feels like it has potential. Is that enough? Shall I go forward? Might something be found?
She was tender, much warmer than the last one. My breast squeezed between Perspex feet. Let me know if I trap bone, she said. Tell me when to stop. I’ll stop there. Good. The other side. That’s it. Now relax. Soon done. OK? I’m OK. I count how many times I will have to have it done before I am seventy. Will they stop then? All the prodding? What would I do with the knowledge if I knew it? Who knows? The morning has risen but not the grey. It remains.