Sunday, 21 October 2012

Of late night TV and ghosts

It's a closed-in grey Sunday with the usual raindrops pendant on the semi-transparent clothesline, a pair of blue tits dodging in and out of the leaf-cover, the sun behind those veils of grey making periodic efforts to penetrate them.

It's the long season moving in, asserting its right of possession, bedding down in the yard, draping itself over everything.


It has been a full week to say the least.

I teach Mondays and Tuesdays till about 6pm and after. Monday night saw the welcoming dinner for the new international writer fellows, Tuesday night was the launch of the UEA anthology that I was down to introduce, Wednesday evening was the delayed celebration dinner for the Wymondham Words Festival to which C was going to come until summoned as emergency family baby-sitter, Thursday was London to introduce and converse with Noémi Szécsi on the occasion of the publication of The Finno-Ugrian Vampire, the English translation of her first book of 2002. Friday morning was the postponed university class I had missed right at the beginning of the year, followed by an appointment at the Writers Centre, and Saturday was the Wymondham launch of In the Land of the Giants.

Bad bad night on Friday. Sometimes I feel like a ghost in my own life. Occasionally the ghost wakes up and runs around the shadows in my head until there is no option but to get up and watch Bad Television. Hours of it.  As I do so other ghosts appear - the ghost of Peter Falk as Columbo for instance, the news flickering into ghostly life on various channels, an almost empty House of Lords with its sanguinary red upholstery and its ghostly vacancies. There is the panoply of night goods, panel games, poker, phonesex, sitcoms, death goods. There is no more alien hour than 3am in one of the forgotten lunar pockets of the empire.

This house is over four hundred years old. Lives have passed through it, soaked themselves into the walls and floors. Our lives are doing so right now.


A week full of Events.

I find myself launched into events with my event face on, with the event voice, the event wit, the event bonhomie. On Monday conversations about Arthur Miller, local politics, the passage of time. On Tuesday the inner-cigarette-lighter glow of playing host to new writing. On Wednesday the determined glitter of the good party, to make the good sing and feel good about itself. On Thursday the wariness and nerviness of acting as sub-TV chat show host to a literary celeb, a job I am told I do well, but which feels like a sentence every time, and which is never as good as either host or guest would like. Friday, the slightly smaller delayed class in a different room, the boosting of intellectual adrenalin, the Lance Armstrong aspect of the bright class, then lunch, wondering afterwards whether I have put things the right way. Yesterday, knowing how to read those tiny little poems, doing the old trooper with a leaven of gaiety. ( It was lovely being there, thanks to Robert, with cups of wine and friends long unseen, and family and children, and people back at the house... I am an extraordinarily fortunate man, and the knowledge of that is something that runs, puffing and panting, beside me.)

And this life is in the midst of all those other lives. The classes, the colleagues, the committee, the friends, the visiting writer and the organisers and the audiences. The other hosts, the friends who appear - their own thoroughly substantial lives and worlds, through which I shimmy as though blown by this or that gust - and the life of the imagination that produces both marvels and monsters and, occasionally, just silence.


In between, scribbling, quipping, pushing poems on, reading, reading. Writing this. Watching the spider  outide the window, curled up, swinging in the breeze at the centre of her web.

Some music for the evening later. Maybe a filmclip?


Mark Granier said...

Yes, I've known many of those ghost hours, far better than anything that might amount to a 'substantial life'.

Your spider outside the window reminded me of this, by Thom Gunn, which you might like:


What is that bundle hanging from the ceiling
Unresting even now with constant slight
Drift in the breeze that breathes through rooms at night?
Can it be something, then, that once had feeling,
A girl, perhaps, whose skill and pride and hope
Strangled against each other in the rope?

I think it is a tangle of despair
As shapeless as a bit of woven nest,
Blackened and matted, and quivering without rest
At the mercy of the movements of the air
Where half lodged in, half fallen from the hedge
It hangs tormented at a season’s edge.

What an exact artificer she has been!
Her daintiness and firmness are reduced
To lumpy shadow that the dark has noosed.
Something is changing, though. Movements begin
Obscurely as the court of night adjourns,
A tiny busyness at the centre turns.

So she spins who was a monarch of the loom,
Reduced indeed, but she lets out a fine
And delicate yet tough and tensile line
That catches full day in the little room,
Then sways minutely, suddenly out of sight,
And then again the thread invents the light.

George S said...

Thank you for the Gunn, Mark. The thread inventing the light. Which book does Arachne come from? I can't find it in the Collected Poems. Yet it seems familiar.

Mark Granier said...

George, according to Wiki the Collected came out in 1993 and this appeared in the New Yorker in 1994, so I'd say it might be in the last (2000) collection, Boss Cupid, which I have somewhere but can't put my hand on just now.

Maria Taylor said...

Enjoyed reading this blog post, something about this time of year brings out the ghosts, maybe.

Unknown said...

It's the rattling of the autumn winds through the attic, the sifting of memories through the cracks in the floor, wider now after the swell of the summer heat. These shapes that drift in and out of corners, whispering in your sleeping ear 'til you wake from a half remembered conversation, the words which made perfect sense behind your eyes now crafted of nonsense, filtered through cobwebs.

This is the time I love the best, as these wraiths silhouette themselves against the chipped October pane. Swinging in the errant breeze like the pendulous spider in her web. That time when they creep and shimmy back into your memory, moving furniture, rolling up carpets and settling into your long winter nights, pipe in hand, feet up to the dying embers while you entertain with a feast of words, grist from your grinding mind.

George S said...

That's lovely, Debra. That is Autumn. Cobwebby in light and in texture.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much George. It was inspired by your writing here and by Maria's comment.