Notebook (south London diary)

September 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the coastal town where he grew up (shades of Moz) the huge opening of the cliff-bisected sky seemed to wait for him to find it. The scored-out gravel paths, the dog-haunted middle-aged couples, the cyclists ringing bells ineffectually. The malachite-flecked songbirds that live among the gorse bushes. A morning on which light falls as if from some huge azure cinema screen. He had a symbol right there: a hole at which to pick, unthreading the closed world of anonymous schmucks leaving his boys’ school for removals jobs, the white-van men who constituted his family, drinks at Aruba or a night out at Chilli White’s, the beach on summer weekends. What did it matter that nowhere else would have him (or so he thinks in worst moments). He reads a story about Verlaine, who worked as a French master in a Catholic boys’ school for two years in the chintzy middle-class suburb (where, to his astonishment, the local bookshop carries James Wilkes’ books): “He walks through the dimming light, this time towards East Cliff. Gorse burns in yellow flowers among the little shelves of the sandstone cliff; blossom stuccoes the evening. Getting lost is no longer his profession but he is unable to give it up: he wanders into the tributaries off Fisherman’s Walk and walks until the houses blur. He inhales the breath of the bushes and the gripping harshness of tobacco – a light blotted out as, around the town, one by one the gaslamps come on.”

***

Spleen is that feeling which corresponds to catastrophe in permanence. / The course of history as represented in the concept of catastrophe has no more claim on the attention of the thinking than the kaleidoscope in the hand of the child which, with each turn, collapses everything ordered into new order. The justness of this image is well-founded. The concepts of the rulers have always been the mirror of the means by means of whose image an ‘order’ was established. – This kaleidoscope must be smashed.”

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