Saturday, 27 December 2008

Night Driving

Not truly night, just a late winter afternoon, back from London, C would have come with me to the family reunion - brother A, his wife I, my father and K - but she still had a temperature, so best not.

Driving home in the dark with the radio on. Everything is turned inward. There is no landscape, no form, only wild lights coming towards you then past you or hovering, red-eyed in front, ahead. I am surprised there are not more accidents at such times because the sense of reality, the metal-hurtling-forward-at speeds-upward-of-seventy kind of reality, hardly impinges, except when one has to brake a little more sharply, or signal to overtake. The whole thing is a conversation with one's own body, the voices on the radio flickering in and out of dream-attention, the car the lining of one's consciousness.

I thought as I was driving of Max Sebald's death at the wheel, his heart attack and his crash, and wondered what would happen to those around me if I too bladed into the big nothing. It would be the work of a moment. A morbid thought, I know, but my father looks smaller and frailer each time I see him and I know he is unwell. Not so that he feels unwell for now, but ill enough to bring the sense of mortality looming up suddenly large and daunting like a truck at night.

And that took me back to the night drive back from Dahanu in India to Bombay two summers ago. A dark truck would appear now and then without lights on the wrong side of the carriageway facing us. You can't help wondering what the drivers are thinking. Perhaps it is no more than 'I have missed my turning so I'll just double back.'

Arriving home C and I sat down to some poached egg on toast. I felt practically no hunger. Then C took an apple and cut it into four. It was a beautiful ruby coloured apple, deep dark red, luminous, pure, sweet and white inside, or rather that special greeny-yellowish white that is essence of apple. And if this were not to be? I wondered for a second, this ravishing deep ruby coloured apple? And if the experience of life were apples and night-driving, then the blading into the big nothing?

The apple hangs somewhere, like the moon or the truck lights.

Gaza, I know. And son T off to Brazil. There should be a postcard one could send from the planet where one puts all this down in two or three brief sentences, so it all hangs together.


Anonymous said...

There should be a postcard one could send from the planet where one puts all this down in two or three brief sentences, so it all hangs together.


I hate driving. It seems so unnatural. The difference between the still inside space and the outside space, where a ton of steel is hurtling across the tarmac… I could never get used to it, so I stopped.

Billy C said...

Ah, driving. At last, a subject I can boast about. I was to driving what you, George, are to the written word. Knights of the Road. I was one of those a long time ago before speed cameras and tachographs and motorways. Well, almost. The Preston Bypass had just been opened when I served my apprenticeship on the Glasgow night trunk. From Stoke to Glasgow one night and back the next. A long journey even now, but in those days, it was a whole night's work to drag a forty footer artic loaded to capacity [mostly over capacity] over Shap Fell and beyond to the hills of Beattock and into The Gorbals. I loved every moment and I could write a book about it if I could borrow your ability. But the memories will have to suffice and I have plenty of those to relate when the company I am in are in a listening mood. But, I never thought of 'blading into the big nothing'. You see, I had the invincibilty of youth on my side :)

NB. I watched Schindler's List again tonight. Reflecting on the film, I watched the final credits roll right to the end. The very last credit says - "From Amblin Entertainment."

I thought that was true irony.

George S said...

I enjoyed driving when I was young. I much prefer trains now, though there might be a well-hidden Jeremy Clarkson in me given a deserted racing track. Very well-hidden by now, I think. Not that much invincibility of youth at sixty. Driving abroad in an unknown city might possibly still do it for me.

Back then I sometimes thought of jobs I could do that did not involve the stresses of teaching. Being a long distance driver was one option, along with postman. Then I got used to teaching and started to enjoy much of it (though schools would eventually have driven me mad, not because of discipline, more because of the necessity of focussing my working life entirely around the needs of children).

Quite often it is Clarissa who does the driving. She actually enjoys it, particularly at night. But she is more an exhilaration fiend than I am. As for me, I fiddle with the radio or the CDs and take over when she gets tired.