Tired after a poor night - up two hours or more - then the trip down to London and back for meetings. Train journeys are generally somewhat dreamlike, between alertness and fantasy, and I am now in the habit of writing brief notes for much of the way. These may be simply descriptions - I must have seen Ely Cathedral a hundred times and seen it differently each time - or thoughts, or snippets from what I am reading (today it was Jenny Diski's marvellous What I Don't Know About Animals) or a set of absurd fantasies such as:
UNE DEUXIEME SEMAINE DE BONTÉ: Third Tale
1. He wished he had an interesting face. He turned his head upside down. Promising.
2. Two dogs on the pavement in the rain. Where's your umbrella, asks one. Up yours, the other retorts.
3. The sun was lower than expected, the fields brighter. Life was an altogether different planet.
4. The sense of well-being is a phantasmal condition, wrote the desert father. Come in and finish your damn tea, the desert mother shouted.
5. His nose was growing like Pinocchio's yet he had told the truth all his life. Someone else must have been lying.
6. A horde of lemmings at the cliff edge. Don't worry it's all a cartoon, says one. Go for it, boys! You can walk on air!
7. The secret of long life is dread, he whispered. You can never have too much in our climate.
8. Are those frozen wastes, the stranger asked the goatherd. How should I know, the goatherd replied. Ask the goats.
9. Lugubrious and Censorious were standing at the bus stop when the Tartar hordes arrived, two at once again.
10. A solemn row of lampposts were contemplating the pavement. Life is hell, one remarked. Lighten up, another replied. It's not all lollipops.
I have hundreds of them now. I don't know whether these are particularly good but this is as they came out today. I write in sets of ten, usually very fast. Why do it? I aim to amuse, intrigue and threaten myself. I cannot quite tell what they add up to but it doesn't really matter now. My reputation is such as it is and ventures into tangential territory won't make any difference to that. I publish the series on Twitter and Facebook and a lot of people seem to read and like them. More than buy my books in fact. Some will become booklets. I suppose they are vignettes of a sort, tiny windows onto other worlds that have haunted my earlier poems but were rarely given space to themelves.
In any case, who knows how long life is to be? Why stand around pretending to be yourself when you could pretend to be someone just as interesting, maybe stranger and more surprising.
I have no great trust in British trains and have often missed connections. The service is not exactly what would once have been called 'third world' but it isn't leading technology either - nothing like China or Japan - and there are frequent problems with signals. The railway staff remain resiliently good natured as if the whole service were a chummy version of the Blitz. The result is that most travelling is done in the head.
Meanwhile the train rushes on and I look out of the window or read or do a crossword. I buy a hot drink at Cambridge where I change trains.
- Now then, Mr Norris, where are you going?
- Home, dear fellow.
- Comfy train?
- The world's your oyster then.
- All pearls.
ps In the Tenniel illustration above my avatar is the man with the paper hat on the left.