Thursday, 5 February 2009
Have you ever noticed the night sky when the snow is thick on the ground? It doesn't go dark. It's yellow. Shadowy yellow. Like the underside of a primrose on a sunny afternoon.
I got confused this morning. More confused. I'd planned to go horse riding. The last thing she said to me on Sunday evening: "I'll see you tomorrow, as long as it doesn't snow too heavily". Monday morning I pulled the blind to reveal a beautiful all-encompassing whiteness. Snow I hadn't seen the likes of in years. Sixteen apparently. Snow deeper than my school ruler. It was that long ago when it used to snow like this.
"Oh rats, I hope we'll still be able to ride," was my second thought. Ride? In Surrey? An hour away on a good day? I wasn't even going to be able to get the car door open. But I couldn't see that. All I could see was a breathtaking scene out of my window. The grey world covered in Christmas glitter. All life's unhappy lumps and bumps disguised and forgotten beneath a warm duvet of glistening wonderment. Enchanting for its rarity. No grotesque familiarity to procreate its ugly contempt. Just glorious divine whiteness. A distant recognition of home.
I switch the radio on.
"The M25 is at a standstill in Surrey between junctions 22 and 25. On the A3 …. The bus service is completely suspended across London. We're waiting for an announcement from Mayor Johnson on that one now. On the tubes the Piccadilly line is suspended between....
"Mandy from Sutton, you're stuck in your car on the M3?"
"That's right Nick…”
A romantic notion of trekking the ponies through a snowy woodland scene began reluctantly to fade. I started to realise that the vision outside my window wasn't the only consequence of this recent gift from above. Slowly, slowly…
Why does it take so long for the patently obvious to become so? Why did it take me eighteen months to realise that an engagement to somebody I barely knew was not a good idea? Why did it take me a further eighteen months to realise that I did not even like the person in question and furthermore never had. Why has it taken me a staggering thirty five years to realise that I am happy in solitude. I thought I was the most gregarious person in London. I am not. An hermitage. That'd suit me.
Can all of this be denial? Sometimes I feel as though I live in an egg. I can see no consequences to the outside world of my choices within the egg. And yet paradoxically I've also little idea as to what quite is going on inside the egg, as to the choices I am all the time making and for what reasons. What other mysteries lurk awaiting discovery? What will I have discovered by the time I am seventy? I should show septuagenarians more respect. They know more than I. They've been around longer. Made the same mistakes. Denied the same inevitabilities. Watched it all turn to dust. It hardly matters in the end. In fact it doesn't matter. Not a bit.
Finally I realise London is more or less in a state of emergency on Monday 2 February 2009. I decide to go for a walk in the snow. Break the egg as it were. Check out the Dunkirk spirit in action. The Great British 'pecker' at full mast.
I walk past my car. Two enormous letters are carved out in the snow along its flank. 'OM'. Only in Notting Hill. I'm overjoyed. Somebody has chosen my car as a platform from which to project to the world the sound of the universe. There must be some serious karma in this. The world is alright. There are wonderful people out there. Humanity is not all bad. Not a total washout. Not the bed-wetter of the animal kingdom. We are good. Some of us are good. Some of us is good.
"Hello". I greet a total stranger. In the street. In London. I had forgotten myself for a moment. But she responds warmly. A nation’s weather has a profound effect upon its collective personality. No wonder we're such a dour repressed bunch most of the time. But oddly the snow seems to be having the same effect as sunshine. It is opening us up.
Some guy stops me in the street. He has eyes for which the word goggle was invented. I gather he has taken leave of his sense of perspective. He stares at me as though to control me through force of will alone. His will. "Fancy a coffee love?" he breathes. "No thank you," I say as I scuttle away. "Don't be shy" he calls - optimistically - at my retreating back. "No. Thank you," I add, pointlessly, giving away an unease that borders on terror.
I don't like to engage with the world in such a defensive way but sometimes there doesn't seem to be so much choice. It was only last week I was wandering home at seven o'clock on a Saturday evening. A gang of hoodies was hanging around on bicycles. I walked casually through them thinking "I like the hoodies. I'm not frightened of teenagers. I'm sure they're perfectly nice young people. Just because they're black and wearing hooded sport tops does not make them criminals. It does not make them people to live in fear of. If I approach them with kindness they will respond likewise. Fear breeds fear." I smiled at them and walked on. Thirty seconds later three of them cycled up behind me and tried to grab my laptop out of my hand. Out of my bloody hand. They didn't get it and they didn't come back and have another go. I quickened the pace after that. But I still like the hoodies oddly enough. What I don't like is googly eyed strangers getting in my face and calling me "love".
I've just been out again for Higgedy Pie. It's pie weather. Somebody's rubbed the OM off. The once squeaky crisp angelic pavement has turned to dirty wet mush. Its got my boots dirty and my trousers wet. By the morning it'll be an invisible death trap. Isn't it always the way. It starts off looking beautiful, but you can guarantee it'll be a nightmare in the end. A nightmare.