Saturday, 27 August 2011

Swollen river, rainbow

with thanks to Literary Norfolk

A full day of work on Wymondham Words Festival, then translation and reading competitions. In the afternoon a wave of sleep hits me hard. I go upstairs to lie down and see C has fallen asleep on the bed. The blinds are up and the room is quite bright. She doesn't shift as I enter so I turn and go into the upstairs sitting room and lie down on the settee. I turn on TV which is showing the rugby league final. I watch it drowsily while outside the thunder continually grumbles but produces nothing. Eventually C drifts in and offers a walk. At that point the rain comes down hard and we wait for half an hour before the sun appears once more. On with anoraks and shoes and down our familiar short walk by the river and round by the abbey.

There is hardly any wind and it is cool yet balmy. The sunlight has that light toast-like glow on the walls as we pass. The river is high, in so far as it gets high - last flood in 1912, affecting only the houses immediately next to it - and we walk past delphiniums and roses in gardens, all a little ragged. To our right are brambleberries and blackberries, not quite ready to gather. Some are black but have no sweetness. Not enough sunlight this summer. But who can tell? Within a week they might be burned by a late burst of summer heat. The rain has clouded the water that burbles through. A very melancholic man passes and we greet each other but he doesn't smile. There is something about him that goes deep. He is within himself and things are bad there. The sheep on the other side of the river look almost prehistoric. They move awkwardly, as if they were a new life form not quite sure of itself.

Moving back onto the road by the level crossing we drift towards the abbey when the rain start gently then a little more purposefully. The anorak hood amplifies the sound. The Abbey Hotel is almost empty but there is a party going on in The Green Dragon. The rain is pattering more lightly now and the sun is shining. There should be a rainbow.

And there is! A big one, arcing behind the butchers and over Market Street, beyond the stationers and the Chinese take-away. We pass the melancholy man again. This time he doesn't look up. Makes no eye contact.

Now it is dark. Tomorrow to Voewood, but first to Itteringham to pick up Elspeth Barker and Bill Troop. Their very old Mercedes has a range of eight miles. I've yet to work out what to read. I'll do that tomorrow.

Meanwhile in Lybia each day brings its new media crisis. Yesterday the terrible hospital. Today life is rough in Tripoli without power and shops. I suspect that may scarcely be surprising. News loves a disaster. Ordinary ones won't do. They're not stories. Lybia is a story. Tomorrow's exciting instalment awaits. And I read of the death of Hisham Matar's young cousin, fighting on the rebel side. Matar writes severely and beautifully. What is a writer to do other than write beautifully? Severity never comes amiss though. Hold back the tears. Speak with a dry mouth.

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