j4: (kanji)
So we spent Thursday and Friday getting [livejournal.com profile] acronym safely installed in his really quite excellent flat on the cool side of town, which gave me another chance to play White Van Jan. This one wasn't quite as much fun as last time, as the gears on the van seemed to be somewhat suboptimally arranged (for "suboptimally arranged" read "cocking awkward"), in a way that all too often left me unsure about whether I was moving into first or third, or second or fourth. I'd like to be able to say that "hilarious consequences ensued", but in fact the main consequences were stalling at a couple of junctions, mild panic at Mitcham's Corner when several seconds of stick-waggling failed to locate first gear at all, and a hell of a lot of swearing. The van shenanigans also involved some frankly hilarious reversing manoeuvres, but thanks to helpful friends and neighbours I managed to avoid damaging Practical's property or anybody's houses/bins/cats/etc.

A big thumbs-up for Practical, by the way, if anybody's after van-hire recommendations; they were reasonably-priced, and very friendly and helpful. They were also unsurprised but amused when I told them I'd been recommended to them by cam.misc. ("So where did you hear about us? No, wait, it's the internet. Everybody always gets our name off the internet.")

I was certainly very glad of their laid-back attitude when we were over half an hour late returning the van. This was largely due to my own mis-estimation of times and distances: I cycled from Greenwich House to Cowley Road in 20 minutes on Thursday after work, and I can cycle from home to work in 20 minutes in the morning, so I couldn't quite believe that it could take an hour to drive from home to Cowley Road, but it did, more or less. Being this late meant that [livejournal.com profile] addedentry and I didn't have time to pick bikes up in the van, so we ended up walking from Cowley Road; it's always strange being a foot-traveller in a place which is built for four-wheeled access, but it was a beautiful day for a walk, so we strolled along in the sunshine and picked handfuls of blackberries from a hedge that was heavy with fruit.

In retrospect we might have been better not trying to avoid the Milton Road roadworks with a "short cut" through the Science Park, though it was quite an entertaining detour. In the end, fearful of going round in a fruitless (no blackberries here) loop, I gave up and asked a friendly passing cyclist (not knowing that another friendly passing cyclist in the shape of [livejournal.com profile] beckyc would pass us a minute later!) who directed us through his company's car-park and through a hole in the hedge. We crossed the old overgrown railway track and emerged into an Arbury cul-de-sac just in time to catch the ice-cream van whose bells we'd heard from the car-park.

Later we had to stop and ask another friendly cyclist (this time [livejournal.com profile] ewx for directions from Armitage Way to the other side of the Arbury. (I'd have probably packed a map if I'd realised it was going to turn into such an expedition, but we were never lost, just not really sure of the best route from A to B.) It was growing dark by the time we eventually made it home with our bikes; it gets dark so quickly at this time of year, from low-hanging sunshine to blue-black gloom in barely 20 minutes.

On Sunday we had another chance to discover new roads as we cycled over to [livejournal.com profile] acronym's for afternoon tea. I've never had occasion to cut across the common from Coldham's Lane to Newmarket Road before, but it reminded me so strongly of Marston Rec that for a moment in my mind it was 1997 again and I was back in Oxford. There were heaps of brambles along the Rec, too, and we'd see people gathering the berries in tupperwares, and when I'd cycle home in the small hours of the morning the grass would be slightly frosted and the cows would be dark sleepy mountains looming out of the mist, coming out of nowhere like the nine years (nine years!) between now and then. I've talked about this before, I know; it's just one of the many well-worn roads through my mind, and sometimes when my feet are sleepy they fall back on the paths they know.
j4: (kanji)
Every day the same buildings watch me go past, and sometimes they turn their heads aside from weariness. "Didn't that church have a spire, a sign, some stained glass?" I think to myself, "at least, something has changed," but the moment passes, and my face too turns away.

The building's eyes remain closed. Tomorrow it will look the same as yesterday, or the same as today, and we'll pass each other unnoticed, our façades newly-painted.
j4: (kanji)
In reponse to a request from [livejournal.com profile] vinaigrettegirl to write about footprints.

*

footprints )
j4: (hair)
Got into work early, before 8 a.m., to escape the storms. Thunder and lightning inside and out. I thought it would clear the air when it broke, but underneath the clouds there's only more clouds. Wet hair from the rain, and just a dull ache from everything else.

I hate this town, these fields; this flatness, and a heavy horizonless sky that comes smothering down like a blanket of gas, like a burden of guilt. There's nothing here but dark nights and dull mornings, and a wall-eyed greyness like water-bleached bones inbetween. Out there in the half-light nameless faces are farming emptiness, treading the soil until the shadows come tearing up through the cracks. Words do not survive for long in this atmosphere; they emerge as grudgingly as teeth through iron gums, and once they have torn out a reluctant hole in the air they rust and decay, scarring and hardening into silent hurt.

I hate every ragged fragment of it, and it does not notice, and I would hate that most of all if I had the will to do so.

No subject

Feb. 1st, 2005 09:05 am
j4: (hair)
So tired. I think of so many things I want to do, and I never do any of them. Being surrounded by people who cheerfully teach themselves six ancient languages before breakfast doesn't help, but even the things that might be within my intellectual grasp -- things like doing the laundry, or making myself a sandwich -- just hit a wall of inertia when I think about trying to do them. I drag myself into work, I manage to do the things that are necessary, but there's so much more I could make of this job... no, that's not true. There's so much more anybody else could make of this job. All I can do with it is hope they don't fire me.

More and more I feel as though I just want to throw everything away and start again, to somehow get back to where I started and do better next time. Of course I know that's not possible. But the thought that I'll die with my life still this much of a mess -- still thinking of all the things I could have done with my life, still unable to do anything, still with everything from debts to desktop in hopeless disorder -- makes me nauseated, makes me despair. But I can't catch up.

And yes, I know everybody else in the world worked this out years ago.

Just so tired.

When I'm walking from one place to another I feel full of energy; I can envisage myself doing things, imagine what it would be like to be competent at this business of getting along from day to day. They're not wild daydreams of a 'me' who is creative or interesting; but I can visualise a 'me' who might, one day, before she dies, be able to iron clothes when they need ironed, or tidy the house efficiently. I can just about -- or maybe this is just a wild daydream -- visualise being a functioning adult human being.

Then I stop walking, and all my energy evaporates, and I'm sitting in front of a computer vacantly hitting 'reload' on a page I've seen a thousand times before, unable to do anything more than stare and try not to cry.

Perhaps the solution is just to walk away and keep on walking.
j4: (kanji)
FIVE PEOPLE YOU MET IN OXFORD

On Saturday I travelled to Oxford with [livejournal.com profile] addedentry, to visit [livejournal.com profile] smallbeds and Kate, and to go (with them) to [livejournal.com profile] truecatachresis's flatwarming. Okay, that's only four people, but all the other people we met there can count as the fifth between them. No offence. I tried to introduce [livejournal.com profile] addedentry to [livejournal.com profile] cleanskies, but I barely know her myself, and wine made me misquote her username. Only by one letter, but the social damage was already done. I think [livejournal.com profile] addedentry would benefit from someone more popular than me to introduce him into exciting new social circles.

MATERIAL, MOSTLY TEXTUAL

Since 1999 [livejournal.com profile] truecatachresis had been hanging on to a bagful of things which he believed to be mine, which I had apparently left when I moved out of our Marston-based seven-person student commune.
> inv
Your knapsack contains:

Unopened junk mail
Chinese-style folded paper wall-hanging
small ladies' wallet (new, empty)
alphabet fridge magnets
The junk mail was opened and mostly thrown away, the rest has accompanied me back to Cambridge. The wallet is, I am fairly sure, not mine; unless perhaps it was cheap or came free with something and I was tempted to keep it. It's possible. The wall-hanging features trees, or perhaps birds, and calligraphy; the lettering is so pictorial that you are tempted to try to read meaning into the shapes of the wildlife. There used to be another matching wall-hanging, blue where this one is red, each 99p from Booksale, both equivalent defence against the magnolia woodchip.

The fridge magnets used to say "FOOD TRANSFER PROTOCOL" where they held the takeaway pizza menus to the boiler, and "AXAXAXAS MLO" (with multiplication signs pressed into service against the deficiencies of ordinary English letter-distribution) across the top of the lesser of two fridges.

REDISTRIBUTION

Saturday morning's shift at Oxfam was unremarkable, except for acquiring some Famous Five hardbacks which I can hopefully re-sell at a profit on eBay. Apart from that, the usual; books were moved from one area of the shop to another, and Roger demonstrated his peculiar gift for the excluded middle:
me: "What shall I price these [modern paperback novels] at?"
R: "Oh ... £4.99."
me: [surprised] "£4.99? They're a bit on the tatty side..."
R: "Well, throw them away, then."
I priced them at £2.99 in the end and put them on the shelves. No, before anybody whinges about Oxfam's prices, I don't actually think 3 quid is an unreasonable amount to give to charity in exchange for a book that would be 7 or 8 quid new and is only a bit worn on the outside from having been read before. Some people buy books because the shiny covers will set off their Ikea furniture nicely: Borders and Waterstones cater more than adequately to their needs. Other people buy books because all those funny black marks inside tell them something interesting.

Lingering in Oxford on Sunday afternoon allowed us to visit the QI Bookshop, which organises the books within its single circular room according to oblique thematic principles, rather like (not remotely coincidentally) the section headings in this post. It is a bookshop for browsing, and we browsed.

RHYTHMS

To the bewilderment of J-P and Kate, Owen and I took bongos to Ian's party, where three other sets of bongos were already plugged in to the Gamecube. Four-way Donkey Konga madness proved even more fun than the one- or two-way variants we'd already experienced, though I was a little concerned for the health of my bongos after watching one over-enthusiastic participant. (My plea for him to be a little more careful fell on deaf ears; it reminded me of why I normally play computer games selfishly, on my own, and why I refrain from lending many books: other people don't give a damn if they break things that don't belong to them.) When we weren't playing, we stopped for a moment to watch the four lines of rhythms and coloured patterns weaving in and out of each other like maypole dancers.

And it snowed this morning, because the seasons have their own rhythms. Nearly every year, snow in January comes as a total surprise -- completely out of the blue (or the grey) -- to the rail networks and the road-gritting lorries. It surprised me, but only because I hadn't realised it was that cold until my fingers went numb in the 3 minutes it took me to de-ice the car windscreen. Driving in the snow feels like playing some kind of space-based videogame; I pilot my small craft along the ribbon of tarmac and the snowflakes stream past like light, like years.

LIGHT

J-P and Kate have a tiny prism hanging on their window, which is caused to spin by a small solar-powered motor. It fills the room with rainbows, unlike Owen's mirrorball, which only fills the room with specks of light. Near the mirrorball these are small, focused, clear squares; further away they are more blurry, more indistinct, their light softer, their corners fading into the walls. Similarly, the rainbows vary from tiny nuggets of vivid, intense colour to vast, diffuse, swathes. Sometimes I saw a rainbow creep over a face or a hand while its owner was talking.

This morning I looked in the mirror and saw a person I did not know. Whether it was a trick of the light or a trick of the mind I don't know, but I have aged overnight, and my eyes are shadowed, and while my hairstyle makes me look slightly like Virginia Woolf (provided I don't open my mouth) this only serves to make me check my pockets for rocks.

My dad had a seizure on Saturday, the second in about 15 years. The last time it happened he was mowing the lawn on a hot summer's day, and said that the last thing he remembered seeing was sunlight coming through the fence in sharp flashes. He's been tested and tested for epilepsy, but all the ECGs have returned negative, though apparently there's a history of epilepsy in the family. This time he claims it was just that he was dehydrated and full of adrenalin as he started broadcasting his new radio show, titled "If she's eclectic...". He says he's fine now, and he's probably right, though I swear he'll be saying that at his own funeral. Still, I wouldn't want to stop him living in order to keep him alive.

This morning's snow has melted, and the sky has finally brightened. Don't tell me this picture is beautiful, don't tell me it makes you ache, don't tell me it makes you remember, for I'll have no sympathy; just for once I would like to see something that didn't mean anything. The sun flashes its beams through the trees. Every picture has its shadows, and it has some source of light.
j4: (kanji)
I had a lovely dream about curling up quietly and affectionately with an old friend whom I always loved dearly (and carried the flame of my love for him long after I realised he would never be interested in women). In the dream we were close, and I felt secure and loved. Then I woke up and everything was grey and cold and miserable. It was already late enough that no matter how fast I cycled I would be late for work and arrive breathless and aching and tired; the sky was low and flat, the paths were all still wet and muddy, even sounds were dampened, and it seemed that there was nothing bright in the world.

I hate being a slave to the seasons, but the weather wears me down. People wear me down more, though. And they go in cycles, too; you love someone a little, then a little more, then a little less, and somehow the little things are the last to go. Years after you've forgotten the shape of their caresses, or the words you think they said they thought they meant, you find that can still remember how they take their coffee; you remember how they fold shirts the wrong way, not your mother's way, a different way that makes a hairline crack in the shell of who you have been, and behind that crack gapes the endless void of possible ways to live, so that a part of you can never be the same again; something as tiny and deadly as the shape of a sleeve can make all the memories of them explode in your chest again and leave you shattered, crawling in the dust trying to piece together a crutch for your heart to keep on stumbling on.

And all this happens in the blink of an eye so that all the disinterested observer sees is a bird or a leaf dropping dead from a bough, a tiny senseless death which touches them like a drop of rain from a greying sky brushed away by an unthinking hand.

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