The sky is bright, the air looks cold outside. I’m getting used to being contained in my concrete tenement now. Dense housing makes me think of photographs of the walled city at Kowloon, Hong Kong, a lawless makeshift township built vertically. It is gone now, demolished, replaced by a park, which apparently serves as a memorial to the city. Couldn’t the city have been kept but made more habitable and sanitary, I wonder. It looked to have a dirty charm. There is so much of the world I haven’t seen, and of course can’t at present. I always used to be complacent, I thought “I’ll go there one day” about many diverse locations. This year has brought an urgency to this aim. I don’t often feel like this but today I miss crowds, sounds, the bustle of life.
Light is bringing a feeling of optimism. There’s a sense that Christmas holiday mode is already here, and we can relax with equanimity for the rest of the year, enjoy being at home, warm, comfortable, well fed. The Danish put it well, they call it “hygge”. Everyone’s favourite Dane, Sandi Toksvig, has a Radio 4 series about it with guests. The first is with that odious Grayson Perry, but at least we don’t have to look at him. The Scandinavian nations know how to live, they have values which focus on looking after themselves, appreciating simple pleasures, and they seem happy as a result. If only we were still able to dip in and out of other cultures easily.
I’ve never had the opportunity before to devote time to myself prior to Christmas. Work occupies me as normal up to and including the 24th, other people automatically take weeks off, and assume everyone does. I’m feeling now how I normally feel around Christmas eve, arranging final social gatherings before civilisation recedes into hygge. This year, hygge should open the mind to the notion of optimism, a new year, new aspirations, new plans, new plants, spring. I’m actually financially stable, miraculously, and approaching a point where I can be productively creative, my mind is healing, spacious as Danny referred to it. I’m meeting him next week, and a panto visit with Harry, then my festive socialising will be complete. A trip to see Péter would be good if he’s in Sussex, but he probably isn’t.
“Robinson lives in the way that people were said to live in the cities of the Soviet Union. His income is small but he saves most of it. He isn’t poor because he lacks money, but because everything he wants is unobtainable”.
(Patrick Keiller, London, 1994)
That’ll be all of us in a few years. The buildings here could be commie blocks, grey concrete masses along straight roads, people struggling home in the freezing wind with loaves.