3. New Years Day.
On the train home an unusual man came and sat opposite me, and asked me about the train going to Erith. The bus home from nowhere went there. This person was strange. Light brown skin, blond ginger hair, dyed I guess. He had a short sleeved tee shirt on, unusual for the bleak midwinter. Our knees touched several times because of the proximity of the train seats, an unnatural level of closeness, familiarity. I’m not sure why he chose to sit there as there was plenty of other space. His forearms were chunky and solid, with visible scars. He spoke to another young guy who came to sit adjacent and they talked about incomprehensible things, exchanged a cigarette accessory. He kept getting up and leaving his coat, wallet, and other personal paraphernalia on the seat as he walked around. He gave me an oatcake then disappeared.
There’s been a fire in one of the other blocks. Marcus was around outside. I just feel more lonely and isolated now.
4. The following day.
The last day of holiday time.
It turns out that there is another person who is not Marcus, and I was conflating the two. In my mind they were the same, but are not. I was quite confused and suspicious of them for some time as I thought about this. “When people merge in one’s head” – it sounds a bit like a subplot in The Prisoner. Somehow they’re all connected to each other, the Thamesmead artist people. I’m an outsider, my natural role. The rational voice in my head tells me I should try to make an effort to engage with people, those people, or just people, but there isn’t an obvious way. It is sad to be in a community which is dying. I’m not convinced it was ever alive.
5. Sunday in January.
After the bookshop, at one of those Orwellian canteens with cheap anaesthetising ale and blue plates. It is a student town, full of young vibrant people, but not many young vibrant places for them to go, apart from a dated drag bar around a corner, and a comedy club over the road. They are here wearing comfortable striped jumpers and eating processed meals. I don’t have many jumpers. I’m not so keen on the food any more. I have a few of their plates. Some of the students come into the shop, they are friendly, smile and say thank you. A man with a big Mohican stood out today.
This is the problem. A new year seems to be a time to take stock. I’ve never done it seriously or consciously before. It’s about establishing, or re-establishing, a purpose, an identity and life activities and aims. Living alone in that grey tower has made me realise the need to create my own reason, purpose, parameters, priorities. I don’t enjoy being there on my own every day.
“They’re sending me tomorrow to the tower down the track”
Writing, publishing, studying. Living in a Regency square as a disaffected eccentric.
Wednesday. I’m at the dark place over the other side of London. I don’t know why I come this far, it’s out of my way and not especially pleasant. Lighting seems low and grey, like in WH Smiths.
I need to allow days for drifting, and days for being productive. Structure. Structured drifting. This writing may prove to be unstructured. It could mark an end point, as I want to make my writing more positive, less introspective, more connected to other people and entities. However, isn’t introspection the main object of me writing?
Prince William recently described him and his brother Harry as “separate entities”. What a curiously impersonal expression to use. They’re a dysfunctional family. I’m not as distant and unfeeling as that.
Trains are delayed, “dislocated”, discombobulated by one thing or another. Who knows what? An isolated event at a location I’ve only heard of through railway maps. Two grey looking men are standing at the top of the stairs, getting in the way, drinking strong continental lager, and loudly criticising everything. Every sentence is pointlessly punctuated with expletives. They’re making noise but saying nothing.
I actually am drawn to railway disruptions. I find the logistical problems and solutions interesting to watch through “insider only” information services – a dark web for trainspotter geeks. However frustrating the disruptions appear to be at the time, they don’t really matter, they allow a rare opportunity to simply wait, to allow time to pass by unpressured. No one needs to be anywhere at a certain time, however much they think they do. Unless one is a brain surgeon rushing to perform surgery, most things can wait. The obsession with time and place, and the resultant self-importance people enjoy assuming is one of the most all-pervading products of western capitalist society. Life still exists whether we achieve or not.
The automated announcements step up a gear during disruption. Their assistance is limited, sometimes it is wise not to take them too literally. They tell a limited algorithmic semblance of reality, often becoming bizarre and khafka-esque, describing scenarios known to be impossible. The intelligent and/or sceptic amongst us can analyse its behaviour and attempt to guess its next misinformation output. It could almost be Orwellian, although Orwell’s imaginings of dystopian automations tend to be intentional and with oppression carefully designed in, just under a veneer of “just enough joy”. Funnily enough Wetherspoons public ale houses are designed to deliver “just enough joy”, a gentle addictive anaesthetic for the masses. Opium, if you like. The chain is run by an egocentric lunatic fascist scarecrow, too. In 1946 Mr Orwell wrote an essay for the London Evening Standard, describing his notion of the “ideal pub”. He called it The Moon Under Water, a name since adopted for many of the scarecrow’s outlets. It was his last piece for the Standard, although that may not be relevant.
One of the loud voice grey men left a few minutes ago, bellowing from a distance to his companion that if his train isn’t running they would return. I don’t know why he felt the need to issue town crier style statements like that. Was it to assert some egotistical white alpha male authority? The opium is working.
Lots of things are catching fire lately. That flat over the road, something in New Cross, the Australian outback. I hope none of my theatres are about to catch fire, that would be a worry.