28. A Friday morning in June 2020. Boundaries.

The first day of writing in goodness knows how long. I’ve broken boundary conditions, I’m going elsewhere. Morally I’m accountable only to myself now, I’ve decided. I’ve always felt like a natural loner to quite an extent, so this situation, and my reaction to it, is natural, liberating. Perversely, though, I’m liberated yet still imprisoned. Even if I can break out of physical confinement, I’m trapped with my thoughts, thoughts of further escape. Wherever I go at the moment I’m bound by the limits of the day, the duration of train travel. I know I have to come back. Do I, though? Eventually, yes. I could roam overnight, but I don’t tend to want to go out in the evening. The low feeling of dusk will be balanced by the anticipation of sunrise. In midsummer, sunrise is early, about 5am. Those hours of calm before people populate the day are rare, to be savoured. I may do that, go somewhere coastal late at night, cycle around, return early the next day in a sleep deprived trance.

I’ve spent too long in that concrete place with nothing to do, waiting to return to work at a job I no longer have enthusiasm for, and which seems ever more hypothetical and distant in time. Communications about work have dwindled a little. It’s like a slow managed decline. Maybe the notion of people gathering together in a confined space for shared entertainment is an outdated idea, and the ‘product’ can now be delivered in technologically efficient ways, without a need for plush red velvet Victorian era real estate. My role there feels Victorian and servile at times. I could wear a top hat when I return. Perhaps it will have to die out altogether then enjoy a post-ironic retro resurgence, like 35mm film photography. Perhaps we should admit defeat, and allow the government to continue paying us to contemplate all day long.

We’re just leaving Victoria. An old LCC building of flats visible to the right of the railway track is being stripped internally, its open windows are like gaping holes, just like the linear blocks back where I live which are now reduced to abstract concrete forms. It’s too late now but it would have been good to propose leaving some of the concrete walls up in ruined form as a sculpture, a memorial to the first structures. I expect/assume/hope that this block in Victoria, and maybe others nearby are being refurbished for further use, as they are solid, functional and elegant. The rooms probably had fireplaces originally. There are some ‘Improved Industrial Dwellings’ buildings just around the corner too, with their curly outside staircases going up to the roof. That part is Pimlico, I think, or at least is adjacent to Pimlico. I’ve walked around there once on a Sunday afternoon when everything was closed. It was quite village-like in a way. I’ve never been further west that way at street level, I think it leads to Sloane Square and Chelsea. There are secret ways in to the railway station from a side street, I think there used to be road access too, dating from when mail, newspapers and parcels travelled by train overnight. People used to go to Victoria station to get the Sunday papers on Saturday evening, to avoid having to get up early in the morning. Does anyone buy a printed newspaper now?

The grey town back home has been fragmented now, broken. People are in-fighting, loose livestock roam around for a few days then disappear. George mentioned arsonists setting fire to bins near his block. He’s gone to ground lately. The demolition contractors are closing, demarcating, blocking routes with turquoise hoardings, spray painting coloured arrows on the ground, digging trenches, distressing people with their presence, deconstructing the infrastructure like giant Meccano pieces.

My memory is failing, because nothing of significance seems to happen these days. I should try to do more to make use of time, to make art, but feel unmotivated. No one will know if I achieve things alone in my tower. My perception of the greater world is warped because of continuous news media overload. I don’t feel able to decipher or filter it for truth or balance, it just flows constantly. The need to keep it switched on is like an addiction. I know it’s harmful but I’m conditioned to expect it, want it, need it, seek it out. Plague, incompetence, dishonesty, riots, all told from a point of view of bias, and ‘takes’. Misinformation, masks, obscene washing rituals. I’m listening to a dramatization of Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. He seemed to hallucinate once he’d been alone on his island for a few weeks, as though the lack of stimulus led his mind to invent imaginary interactions. I think the same is happening with vivid dreams for me. It’s an odd story, some try to relate it to psychogeography. He set out to explore, but ended up quite confined.

Passing through Croydon now. It looks like a fake, cheap Gotham City in the centre, but I actually miss living here a little. At least it had life and purpose of its own, a sense of identity, shopping streets, Terry And June. It is just far enough away from London to be able to function as a town in its own right, a satellite town, some call it. The trams and straight dual carriageway roads make it feel like somewhere not in the UK. European? Not quite, there aren’t pavement cafés or romantic people. Perhaps an anonymous North American city. Today, though, Croydon serves mainly as a half way stage on the journey to the south coast; from here onwards we’re definitely out of London, into respectably dull commuter towns. Slipping out of London feels like escape, slightly clandestine but necessary for sanity, more and more so as this phase drags on. Haywards Heath is another of my numerous distant home towns but one I have no affinity with. I look at it from the train, I have isolated chunks of memory of the place but have no desire to get off and infiltrate. I remember the road layout and positions of some shops, amenities, friends’ houses, but most or all of those have changed, either been destroyed or all significance stripped through repurposing. Even the village primary school is luxury houses now. The original Victorian building is there, with modern buildings impersonating the style cluttering up the old playground. After so long it is probably best to pass through, leave the town slumbering, looking inward, attending to it’s own affairs. Onward to the coast. One day I suspect I will be a beachcombing artist in a baggy jumper. All I do now is wait for life to resume.

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