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Monthly Archives: September 2011

David Walliams was in the news the other week for having completed a gruelling (and frankly, disgusting) eight-day swim of the length of the River Thames.

I saw him once. I was sitting at a bus stop on Oxford Street. It was the first time I’d ever been to London, and I hadn’t really timed it well. It was February, dark, and everyone was miserable. And I didn’t have any money. I’d decided to get the bus back to my friend’s house away out in East Ham (I say house – try room that fitted a bed and a wardrobe and barely room to stand between the two), so I could view some sights on the way instead of whizzing along oblivious on the Underground. This turned out to be fairly fruitless as it was a cold, damp, winter evening and the windows were all steamed up on the stuffed-to-capacity red London bus.

But as I’d waited at the bus stop earlier, a black cab rolled past, slowly, caught in the mash of Oxford Street traffic. There was a passenger looking out the back window – a big man with a big face who looked right at me. I held his gaze and we exchanged a long, suspicious look. The cab rolled on and I realised I recognised him – David Walliams had been the man with whom I’d exchanged strange looks…

The darkness tonight was black and thick, tinged red like heavy velvet by the streetlamps; impenetrable. It reminded me that as the weeks ebb on, the evening light will wane and the hours of UV will wither into that frightful northern day of barely six hours. A creeping twinge of dread…

As torturous as I find the winter months for this very reason, I have a different relationship with the darkness itself, with the night-time. Never a morning fairy, always a sympathiser with owls and a reluctant sleeper (I once threw a horrendous tantrum at the age of three or so because my Mum and Dad wouldn’t let me stay in the plum tree all night like an owl), the night-time has always pulled me in. My dreams are more often than not set at night, and the strange and shiny things it offers forth – the moon and the stars – I’ve gazed at in wonder for as long as I can remember.

I may have to be up at 6am, or have been awake for two days and utterly exhausted, but the darkness still lures me in and I will linger on, pottering into the night. It possesses some indescribable peace, a calm unattainable at any other time, a release from the pressures of day. You come to feel special; you are one of a few, a society of strange ones privy to this hour of quiet, and crime; the witching hour…

Driving home in the dark on recent evenings, seeing the lights of lone cottages against silhouetted hillsides, crescent of a moon above, stirs some nostalgia in me. This image holds some sort of perfection for me, something I long for but recognise as unattainable – an existence contained entirely in the small stone walls of a rural abode, darkness outside, safety within… I assume this harks from my early childhood when we stayed out in the country, and I would stare out the window at the night as my Dad drove us home, content in the absence of knowledge of anything morally dark in the world…

The image of a cityscape at night is also one that’s stuck with me since I was small. We didn’t live near a big city so for a long time it must only have been in my fiction-inspired dreams, and again I remember being in the car at night as we drove somewhere, again gazing out into the dark, when I got to see such a sight for the first time. It’s still one I find thrilling, all of those lights against the black. In this case I welcome the moral darkness into my heart, for that is where the thrill lies: to look out on those lights in the night, exclusively human, a blanket of fascinating vice…

 

The daily press is the evil principle of the modern world, and time will only serve to disclose this fact with greater and greater clearness. The capacity of the newspaper for degeneration is sophistically without limit, since it can always sink lower and lower in its choice of readers. At last it will stir up all those dregs of humanity which no state or government can control.

From Søren Kierkegaard, The Last Years: Journals 1853-1855. Cited by Hunter S. Thompson in Hell’s Angels, 1966. Remarkably apt today.

This is my favourite photograph from Dallas. Though the patchwork of analogous colours with the contrasting sky has an appeal, there is something in its proportionality that draws me more. I am always drawn to images with nice arrangements of lines. The pleasure in this sort of aesthetic seems to come from something mathematical, rather than classically visual elements, or the interest piqued by a subject.

A picture of nothing in particular, but something at all…

I have ventured into the ungainly medium of Flickr. See the rest of the set here.

When I go to write a post that starts as a fleeting thought in my mind, it invariably ends up as something bordering on an essay as I think of more and more aspects to add. I’ve always suffered from this – my uni essays were without fail ludicrously over word limit. I find myself thinking of things to write about, and then not doing it cause I know it’ll end up taking hours of my time. That’s clearly not productive, so as a challenge to myself I’m going to try writing more often but less. Let’s see how this goes…