They say that both Mercury and Mars are retrograde. They say all sorts of things can go wrong, planes missed, trains cancelled, computers kaput. The good thing is, they say, is that one is forced to go backwards, seemingly like the planets, and re-visit the past. Go over things. Review, consider again. I’m doing it. I found myself doing it yesterday. Looking through notebooks, sketchbooks from two even three years ago. The same conundrums, the dilemmas, the same preoccupations. It was always words, Jeanette Winterston wrote, never the plot (I paraphrase a little). I’m a detail person. That’s always what I see in my mind’s eye. Up close. Personal. You need to get the overview, they’d tell me. Why? I should’ve said. This is what I do. Words.
According to Charlotte Bronte (and according to Mrs Gaskell) Harriet Martineau kept early hours. Rising before dawn to bathe, breakfast etc. so that she could begin writing early. A singular woman by all accounts, not unlike CB herself. A singular woman with singular habits. In the Spring it makes sense. Dawn rises now as I walk. No longer the pitch black, thank God.
Solitude. Melancholy. What is that clue a mournful lament? God knows. God knows. Made sick by it she was. All that heavy Victorian solitude. And when she do go and commune with people she got headaches. Poor love. Poor C.
The warmer evenings and early mornings keep them from their beds. The young. The youth. Exam-time. A time of hysterics and winding-down. At 4.00 am the town is teeming with them. Towards the pier a young man in a still crisp white shirt is shouting as he walks alongside two girls. How do you think the fuckin’ people on the Titanic felt? he asks. Seagulls screech overhead. The tide is out. The harbour silent. Walking through the Castle gardens I see what looks like an elderly white man in a wheelchair, seemingly being accompanied by a young, slim black boy. I live just down there, the old man is saying pointing towards Laura Place, in one of those terraces. I pass them and say good morning. The young lad calls out, hey, wait, and runs over to me. The man in the wheelchair stops and turns to watch. What do I feel? Is there fear? I mumble something about having to get back for work. His face is up close. A nice face, open, smiling. He reaches out to touch my chin. Gentle, stroking. Staring into my face he speaks softly. You look hot, he says. I smile. And move to walk away. Let me learn your name, he calls out. I tell him. Nathan, he shouts in return. Nathan.
Nathan Jones you’ve been gone too long, hums in my head all the way home. I am laughing too. Me, hot in all this wet-weather gear. Hatted and gloved. Hot. Hot. Nice. I tell him my stories over breakfast. And get irritated when he is being literal. I’m old, he says, I thought he meant you were too hot, you know with all those layers. It’s what they say, I reply. I know, he says, I know NOW.
Work is quiet so I do my own. It is good to have this time. Thinking time. Making time. Creating time. I think about being still. Keeping still. A forced stillness. A forced being at home-ness, like C. Sometimes she couldn’t write. A turgidity overtaking her. I read through some of my notebooks from Duras, those two weeks I went there alone. What a rush of pleasure it gave me. Is there something there, something authentic? A forced stillness and the needle remembering the freedom. What is mine? What is genuinely mine? It can be for me. Just for me. The paradigms have shifted. Let it be so.
The baker from the Pelican Bakery, in black linen shorts and apron, slips out of the shop. A smell of hot, salty yeast suffuses the morning air. Sublime.