Et in Arcadio Ego

You’re in London! Shut up!

I walk over.  Why is he heckling the poet?  Why is he so vexed?  I hunker down next to him.  You don’t need to shout at him, though, do you?

The conversation is a roundabout one.  Sorry, he says, indicating his bottle of whisky.

I raise my can of Red Stripe.  Me as well.  But we keep trying.

Why was the poet going on about the US?  Why was the poet going on about shootings, of other men, in other countries?  This is England.

He wrote his book and it’s how he sees things, I say, trying not to cringe at myself.  Who am, I trying to explain the poet’s work, which is urgent and relatable and beautiful and being heard by me for the first time?

Yeah but – who is he, to do that?  Violence?  I know that.  He indicates his side.

What am I being directed to?  A scar?  It isn’t clear.  What is clear, as we both stumblingly try to understand each other, is that he is twenty-eight, has seen the violent side of London, its hostile, nasty side.  That he treasures these gardens as a safe place to relax in, where everyone is welcome.  That he’s survived difficult experiences and doesn’t want any of the negative brought into our idylls alongside the raised beds of beans, the wildflowers, the tyre sculptures, the graffiti murals.

*

I haven’t had the opportunity to read Paul Kingsnorth’s take on Arcadia – which is a pity, for I did actually see it last year at the London Film Festival – as the piece has been taken down from the sites on which it was originally posted.  Like him, I kind of loved the film – in part because it excerpts extensively from Anchoress (1993, dir. Chris Newby),  about which I have a mild obsession – but from what I gather from his response to critics of that piece,* our readings of the film are very different.

The land I saw in those sequenced clips was more than ‘over long before I was born’ – it never existed – and Arcadia exposes the way in which film-makers of the past constructed it.  It presents, yes, a pastoral; a Golden Age of the English countryside, rural life, magic, folk traditions.  But it also exposes its constructedness.  Sequences are repeated; the human figures, out of the context of their film’s entirety, often look outlandish, alarming.  Voice-overs from the original footage come across as far less rousing or moving than perhaps originally intended; sandwiched in-between the urgent, rhythmic music, they seem ironic, inviting scepticism, or ominous, encouraging fear.  Clips of happy, working people seem, by juxtaposition with each other and the other elements of the film, disquieting – especially as some of those other elements include excerpts from The Wicker Man.  By the end of the film, I felt a fair amount of disquiet; all that spooky joy in the smiling faces smack bang up against the burnings, the hunts, the weird rituals, the relentlessness of the soundtrack.

Maybe you’ve seen the film more recently.  Maybe you read it differently.  I’d be interested to know.  But as you can probably guess, I read it as a kind of critique; of ‘land’, of ‘belonging’, of those old ideas about ‘Arcadia’.

*

I’m thinking about my pastoral companion again.  I’m English, he says, at one point.  This is London.  There’s enough trouble …

Yeah, I say, waving my can.  English.  You’re English.  Well, I’m not.  Well, sort of.  But, yeah, trouble …

*

Paul Kingsnorth’s writing disturbs me.  I wish I could get behind his ‘call for a resurgence of a love and respect for the particular’.  After all, the man in the garden and I felt a lot of love that day for the particular triangle of land in which we lounged, and the city which had welcomed us each, we discovered, over 20 years ago.  Kingsnorth yokes this call to another one, ‘for an English identity based on place, not race … ‘ and I almost wish I could cheer the English on in this respect (I have 7 Welsh and 1 English great-grandparent, so don’t qualify as English, presumably, even if I wanted to); I like the idea of an inclusive Englishness.

But therein lies the problem.  This ‘English identity’, if I am to believe another piece by Kingsnorth (to which the Arcadia response directs me), is in actual fact, a rather exclusive one.  The same, old tired one, in fact.  For what am I to make of the following

Waves of immigration from the former empire after the second world war began to change the nature of the English population …’,

of the dog-whistle to racists in ‘waves of immigration’ (think about ‘waves’ and its connotations) or the white myopia that ignores the centuries-old presence of people of colour in the British Isles and the legacy of imperialism and colonialism and slavery?

What am I to make of the juxtaposition of a paragraph laden with statistics about how ‘migration into the UK had risen to historically unprecedented levels’ against, in the following paragraph, this statement:

Meanwhile, the pressure on schools, hospitals, housing and infrastructure caused by the rapid population increase were having a real-world impact, especially on working-class and lower-middle-class English people, who were bearing the brunt of the pressure created by the influx of newcomers.

 

This narrative conveniently ignores the under-investment by successive governments in those schools, hospitals, housing and that infrastructure.  Indeed, this narrative is a lot like the one used by the Conservative Party to justify their budget cuts and then to explain the damage done by their cuts.  Sure, let’s blame the ‘influx’ (like ‘waves’; does it bring to mind for you as it does for me the images of flooding and washing away?), let’s blame the ‘newcomers’.

This is not Englishness for everyone, no matter how much we love the land.

*

The other difference in our readings of Arcadia (and again, I’m going by that response-to-critics which also can no longer be read), is that Kingsnorth makes no mention of the people of colour that appear in those archive films.  Infrequently, it’s true; I imagine many of the films were made by people who chose to unsee – in the manner of China Mieville’s The City and the City – the Britons of colour around them as they built their nostalgic pastoral – but present.  A little girl, lining up with her classmates in a school playground.  A young man, with some friends, smiling for the camera operator.  A patient woman in a crowd, waiting for something.

*

As with those film-makers, I get the disquieting sense that Kingsnorth’s England involves a fair bit of squinting and ‘unseeing’ not to see its humans.  Such is White Myopia – an affliction from which I am trying to cure myself, also.  But humans who blot the landscape with their presences and make it messy and complicated and difficult for a privileged person to enjoy – unhappy workers, people of colour, old women – have been around for a long long time – and like money, like politics – which, like concepts such as ‘arcadia’ and ‘nature’ are human, after all, and therefore subject to political narratives, that is to say ‘histories’ written by privilege – are always, irretrievably entwined with land.  And the local (rural haymakers in the sunlight, the stoppered, glass bottle of beer), no matter how distinctive, is always linked to the global (the absent landlord resident in the city, squeezing money from his estate, so much larger now that Enclosure has benefitted him, ploughing his money into sugar and those ships, their human cargo…).

*

I finish my beer and bid my fellow drinker farewell.

Take care, love, he says.

I don’t know if either of us would qualify for belonging in the England Kingsnorth has in mind.  My pastoral companion came to London with his Mum when he was 7 from Somalia – and I, as I’ve said, am definitely not ‘ethnically’ English.  And our scrappy pastoral between the railway lines might ‘uglify’ the view as well.

My whiteness might mean you don’t have to squint past me though, when you build Arcadia.  Just don’t ask me to join you.

 

*

*This piece too has now been taken down.  I’m dismayed to hear he’s received personal abuse; I don’t condone that at all.  But I would still like to read a more direct response from him to the critiques of his ideas.

My thanks to Vahni Capildeo, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Sally Carruthers for their generous conversations with me about the writings and film I discuss.

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i wrote a thing

Jonathan Ashworth portrait

Mean and moody, huh?  Jonathan Ashworth took this picture of me at the Pages of Hackney / Gypsy Caravan Theatre event at Sutton House, Hackney in May.  There’s more stuff about what I’ve been up to recently on the other pages.  I wanted, here, to post up a link to something I wrote for the launch of the Ginkgo Prize – about stormsIMG_20180508_093458.jpg

Yeah, that was it. That was the thing I wrote.

Meanwhile, I’m obsessively finding green alkanet everywhere.

Here’s something I wrote about it, and about my book, for the Penned in the Margins blog:

naturalphenomena_hires.jpgNatural Phenomena took a long time to write.  I’d reached an impasse – several, in fact – and didn’t know how to get out.

For a start, there was the city.  It was my home, but it seemed to manifest everything wrong with my modern life: too fast, too loud, too crowded, too abrasive, too polluted, too littered, too much.  And every day it brought me face-to-face with what we were doing to the environment: the muck-pink film of haze over the horizon, the squirrel turning a still-wrapped Kit Kat between its paws, the burger wrappers caught in the hedge.  Because of love and work, I had to find a way to keep living there, but I didn’t know how.

Secondly, there was the impasse I’d reached with writing.  Every time the ‘I’ appeared in my poems, I cringed.  It was too needy, too grabby, had too many designs and intentions. Who on earth did ‘I’ think it was?  It seemed to address the reader as if it was the Oracle.  Even grammatical structure seemed suspect at this point: the minute I connected one word to another, my ambition for the poem seemed to charge in, like the stereotypical pushy parent on sports day.

Then one of my closest friends died; suddenly and too early.

A very personal, very thorough kind of impasse, this grieving was.  I couldn’t write.  I couldn’t even – much – talk.  But I could walk.  And so I walked, for hours and hours, in the park and by the roundabout, along the edge of the rec and through the small wood at the end of our street, beside the pond and around the tea hut, over and over in loops and circles, one foot and then another until hunger or thirst or tiredness made me head home.

And as I walked, my fellow inhabitants of the world – the birds and animals and plants and people, the built things and the grown things, the still things and the moving things; all the things that persisted despite the fact that Tara had died, despite the fact that they too, like me, like us all, would end – started to catch my attention.

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I found myself one day crouched over a plant jutting from the wall of a boarded-up house.  I knew this plant, I saw it everywhere.  What was it?  I looked it up on the internet: green alkanet.  A weed, with a name you could trace back to Old Arabic.  Once I knew what it was, I saw the stuff everywhere; blatant in plain sight, a retort to the rule of tarmac and brick and concrete.

I started paying attention.  I learnt more plant names – tansy, marsh pennywort, herb robert – and watched more closely the creatures I saw on my walks.  I watched feral pigeons drinking from puddles, speckled wood butterflies tumble-duel, flying ants swarm around pavement cracks.  I started writing down what I noticed.  I didn’t worry any more about the ‘I’, or whether intention was leaning too heavily upon a poem.  I didn’t need to: all I had were these fragments which I slowly pieced together, not thinking too strategically or rationally, just letting kinship between their sounds guide me.

Then I realised I’d found a way to stay in the city.  My walking had uncovered those quiet, in-between spaces I’d been looking for, where I could step out of the rush and noise – but in fact, I didn’t need to shut that rush and noise out any more.  The talk that felt so suffocating before as it swirled around me in cafés and on escalators began to fascinate me.  Here were more beautiful fragments; traces from entire secret worlds belonging to other humans who were angry or afraid or sad like me, enmeshed in language just as I was.

I’m with Michael Haslam (A Cure for Woodness, 2010, Arc): ‘Nature’ is everything – and that includes the city.  It’s blocked drains and street-wide puddles, black mould on windowsills, TB, asthma, scabies.  It’s raised voices and vomit on the platform, the dark mice at Holborn with the half-tails.  It’s parakeets and blackbirds, the howl of planes and the bone-drilling imperatives of power saws.  It’s feral, which means it doesn’t wholly submit to human regulation, but which also means it’s changed and harmed by what we do, by our coffee cup lids and carrier bags, by the times we hop into the car instead of taking the bus, by the towers we build and the spaces we pave over and the way we don’t listen to what’s around us – especially each other.

Natural Phenomena tries to think about all that.  It tries to be with nature and the city, noise and quiet, life and death at the same time.  Because we are natural phenomena too, and brief.

 

 

 

 

My First Eastercon, by Meryl aged 49.

The Lord of Longitude and I spent the Easter weekend in Harrogate, mostly at a hotel that looked like a cross between the Overlook and the Bates Motel owner’s home.  A grand old pile from the spa town’s heyday, it was playing host to this year’s Eastercon.

My first ever SF convention was Loncon, in 2014.  My second was Nine Worlds the following year – to which I’ve returned every year since.  So I was a bit unsure about what to expect from Follycon.  Would there be dodgy paintings like I saw at Loncon of the semi- or wholly-naked women who populate male heterosexual fantasyland?*  Would there be creepy sexist behaviour?**  I’m thinking again about Loncon and the man who asked a woman friend if he could look at her costume, and took her assent to mean he could walk 360 degrees around her while looking pointedly at her body parts without once talking to her or looking at her face.  And all this while three of us stood glaring and aghast and saying things out loud like ‘REALLY?’

Or would it be like Nine Worlds?  Would there be a clear code of conduct*** and a clear and accessible way to get support if needed?****  Would there be gender-neutral toilets? *****  Would there be a QUIET ROOM? ******  Would kids be welcome? Would nursing mums and parents and carers with small ones? ******

And what would the programme be like?  And would I have fun?  And would I go to Eastercon again?  Now that it’s all over, I’d say on the whole…

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Here are my positives:

There was real ale.  Who knew?  Not this Eastercon newbie.  I love real ale.  I love SF.  So do a lot of other people it seems.  It must have taken an incredible amount of organising, so bravo to the Beer wrangler and deputy (Martin Hoare and Rod O’Hanlon) and bravo to The Majestic Hotel for accommodating it.

The Follycon Committee and staff were clearly working towards making the convention a safe space for all.  Things that I noticed / appreciated:

  • The code of conduct was mentioned repeatedly.
  • When some hostile, dismissive graffiti appeared on the Gender Neutral Toilets sign, the sign was replaced.
  • A session considering women’s experiences within fandom was scheduled.
  • There was a quiet room!  YAY!  Speaking for myself, the Quiet Room was a fantastic space to retire to when sensory/social overload threatened, and it enabled me to stay the duration (I went to 3 sessions back-to-back on Saturday!  I’ve never done that before!)

I went to some really enjoyable sessions:

  • Nnedi Okorafor in discussion with Tade Thompson was so generous in sharing the details of her life and her thoughts about writing and process.  Their articulate, humorous and incisive shredding of District 9 for its racist stereotyping, their love for Black Panther for the specificity of its cultural references, their perspective on having Nigerian heritage, their observations of the gradual loosening of the white stranglehold over writing about Africa…. this was rich, intelligent, absorbing, wide ranging stuff.  I want to read all their books.
  • A really entertaining, interesting and very well-delivered pacey talk about Ray Harryhausen.
  • A fascinating panel on the future of cities.  Each of the panellists was extremely knowledgeable and could have presented a paper on the subject solo – in fact, I was a bit frustrated, because I felt the panel format didn’t always enable the speakers to enter into their specialism in-depth.  But that’s just to want more.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson.  That is all.

The convention was really well organised!  Lots of helpful information in the Welcome Pack, lots of clear signage, skilful effective tech support, clear information point.

I loved the fact that there were plenty of items on books and reading and SF lit and academia.

The cosplay!  Loved the Leia mash-up costume, the Psi Corps person and Delenn, all the Steampunky peeps.  There were a lot of great hats!

My negatives?  Well …

That hostile, dismissive graffiti on the Gender Neutral Toilets sign and this graffiti on the Quiet Room sign soured my experience.  Some people still don’t ‘get it’ or are actively hostile to the idea that SF is for everyone.

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I missed the woman-identified peeps meet up because I didn’t see it on Twitter in time!  It wasn’t programmed originally – I wish it had been – but was arranged after the ‘women in fandom’ panel session.  It’s great that the organisers were so responsive to what happened in the panel, I guess.

The habit of shouting out comments from the floor to people you know on the panel.  Some folk still do it.  When they do it, I feel excluded.  I think things like ‘I shouldn’t be here, this event is not for me.  If I don’t know (m)any other fans, then I might not be ‘allowed’ to come to things like this.  Maybe I’m not a ‘proper’ fan?  Maybe I shouldn’t try to talk to people since I’m not part of the ‘in’ crowd?’  It’s also really boring and tiresome, because it hijacks the flow of the session away from the speakers and the moderators’ guidance, breaks the thread of thought being developed, slows things down.

I observed a couple of comments that smacked a bit of inverted ageism – and one 20-something fan being condescended to by another, older fan because of their age – and this troubled me.  At Nine Worlds, I’m definitely towards the older end of the demographic and thus in a slight minority.  I don’t mind this at all – and in fact, last year there was a session where we ‘older’ fans could meet up and talk about ageism.  At Eastercon, I was smack in the middle of the demographic I think; one of the majority.  I definitely feel that older fans and younger fans benefit from talking to people in similar age brackets as themselves – there are issues and problems in fandom that are probably age-specific – but I would hate there to be too strong a line of demarcation between us.  As a middle-aged newbie, I’ve enjoyed so much my discussions with more experienced and younger fans – and age just hasn’t been an issue of consideration in these discussions, nor should it.  And ageism, inverted or not, sucks.

So on balance…

I’m in awe of anyone who organises a Follycon.

I had a good time.

I want to read everything written by Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson and Kim Stanley Robinson.

I’m really tired.

I’m already looking at Ytterbium and wondering how much it would cost to make a Death Star skirt.

Thanks and congratulations to the Follycon committee and staff.  A huge heap of work and organisation and stress and who-knows-what else; I couldn’t do it.  I hope they’re all relaxing now – or at least are getting some proper sleep.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

* Er, yes there were, but not as many.  There were also some really interesting things: I was quite taken with some semi-abstract cityscape paintings, and excited to see lots of small presses represented (though didn’t have enough time to browse.  I suspect the LoL deliberately steered me away from them a couple of times).

**  See above.

***  Yes.  Bravo Follycon.  More of this.

****  I think so, but I’d be interested to hear from other attendees.

*****  Yes, but see above.

******  Yes!  Though again, see above.

*******  You’d have to ask them, as I’m not a parent or carer, but for what it’s worth, I noticed there was a creche, great, but it was in another building, not so great – I imagine that was far from ideal.  There were activities for kids and one event where kids were the panellists I think (that’s a great idea, more of that stuff!), so that’s positive.  There didn’t seem to be a space like at Nine Worlds which was a kind of kids / family base, but again, I’m the wrong person to judge whether families felt like they were a bit on the margins of Follycon or whether they felt included and/or welcomed.

Remembering Tara on her birthday

I’ve missed her irreverence and her wisdom this year – and her encouragement to not take yourself too seriously.

She died in the August night, and we scattered her ashes beneath a rowan tree on the side of a hill near the reservoir.  These poems didn’t make it into the book, but I’m glad to share them now.  She’d probably find them too oblique – ‘just SAY IT’, she wrote on one of my drafts, once.

 

Meteor

 

Fog, this morning, at the window

mild in its inquiry.

Yes, I say, it’s true.

 

River in spate, trees taking on her colours.

 

How is it the news has reached you only now?

 

Back then, we missed the Perseids crossing.

There was cloud. We were asleep.

 

Dovestone

 

to slake the thirst of a city: this reservoir

roots anchor a hillside

 

our slow party proceeding, we help lift a buggy

the children: I’m mad for mermaids

 

*

 

wet through but still we stand

the open face of water chopped rough by rain

 

*

 

the catch on the gate, slippery    then sun    the air

moves freely down the valley

 

a train, a chimney cap, a railway bridge

dual carriageway

 

*

 

it’s done    wake to the blur of daylight, the room

a hand on the face or arm

 

the curtain, the chair, the books and piles of paper

allow the cup of coffee

 

*

 

up there: sapling rows in uncut grass

the great loaves of cloud

 

…………………………………………………………………………..

Tara Louise Few

22.03.68 – 11.08.13

…………………………………………………………………………..

 

Yarl’s Wood and Pastoral

I’m trying write about pastoral.  I have these essays about the environment and nostalgia and pastoral’s forgotten satirical critique, and instead of writing them I am scrolling down my Twitter feed.  It’s International Women’s Day, 8th March, 2018.

It dawns on me that – rather than deal with something knotty and human and relational – I am escaping into environment.  Even when I bewail the whales’ extinction, even when it is terribly painful to realise that in my everyday behaviours I’m implicated in their extinction, my privileged subjecthood* of wailing is unassailed.

Why is it more comfortable though terribly painful to think about the plastic in the ocean than it is to address myself to the hunger-striking women, indefinitely detained at Yarl’s Wood?  Why is it even easier to think – though in a panic and terror that tightens these asthmatic lungs – about London’s rising pollution levels, the tang of burn and chemical that makes my nostrils tingle – see how I aesthetically enjoy defining it? – than it is to think about the women protesting and imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood?

Huh.  The aesthetic pleasure of repeated questions as a structure.  ANSWER.

It is easier because when I think about environment I feel pure and comfortable.  I feel comfortable being implicated in my privilege, even, in a way that I don’t feel comfortable being implicated when I think about the hunger striking women imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood.

And this reveals the collapse lament-fantasy that my thinking about environment truly is.  Even when contemplating the fatberg, or the rubbish barge spewing out its filth breath over cormorant and black-headed gull on the Thames, I’m subsiding in comfort into elegy and nostalgia, into the static pleasure pastoral can offer.

Meanwhile, women are still imprisoned and protesting and going hungry in Yarl’s Wood.

 

*white, ‘able’-bodied, in a heterosexual relationship, savings in the bank, middle class, ‘UK National’ …

* NB: edited in: privilege blanking itself out again: I am cisgender! Being a person who menstruates painfully and too much and then not for a bit and then very frequently and who has a fibroid and who is in chronic minor pain most of the time and having to do all this in a world where this aspect of my personhood is generally supposed to be hidden in order for me not to be abject and to still be a person is not a privileging experience and this is something else I’m writing and thinking about at the moment.  Being a person whose occupation of the category of woman is unchallenged because my body and the gender assigned to me have more or less not been at odds, yes, that’s a privilege. 

And am I now congratulating myself on how tender and sensitive and aware I am?  That’s aestheticising again, making comfortable, rendering inert.

Magic

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I just got back from a walk in the wood at the end of our street.  The oak leaves that made such a beautifully crisp pavement a couple of months ago are now churned into indistinctness; the walking surface is all puddles and mud.  To my left, and very close; a woodpecker, that rapid drilling-knocking, each blow so loud and distinct.  Magic.

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During the festive season, on a trip back to the Forest of Dean to visit my folks, I took the Lord of Longitude on a walk round some of my teenage haunts.  It was muddy there as well, though there were whole swathes of leaf-pavement, still.  And I saw the places frequented by my morose, teenage self through new eyes.  The scowles and knotted tree roots, the deer between pine trunks in the darkening afternoon, the strange cleft in Jesus Rock … they took on a kind of glamour as my beloved, a born-and-bred Londoner, encountered them.

 

Here in our E11 terrace, dusk comes on with the roar of aeroplanes.  The vixen is back, uttering her triple bark; we might hear her tonight – or the neighbour’s cat, rowing with an interloper.  The light is taking a bit less time each day to leave the sky.  And what sunsets!

I wish you magic in 2018.  I wish you hope and energy and faith.  I wish you the certainty that peace and equality are not faint, foolish dreams but possible and near, as startling and sudden as a woodpecker’s rapid beak on the bark of a tree.

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Noise

It’s been a noisy summer in our neighbourhood, with lots of building work and renovations and loft conversions – none of it ours – going on.  The cumulative effect of months of this meant that I was ready as hell for my home-made ‘retreat’, from which I returned just over a week ago: 7 days alone in a rented house in a small hamlet outside a village, with no wi-fi, no mobile phone signal, no landline, nada.  There was a telly – but reception was patchy and it didn’t always work.  Ditto the radio.October 2017 Fawber retreat

It was quiet.  Extremely quiet.

In the daytime, I listened out for the farmer’s quad bike in the field above the house.  Sometimes the sounds of the quarry above the village would reach me, or a walker or two would go past.  Apart from that, all I heard was the occasional fighter jet on ‘exercises’ streaking through the valley, the cow or bull in the barn kicking and bellowing occasionally, the injured sheep in the smaller field with the hay bleating once or twice, and conversation between the sparrows in the hedge.  Once a neighbour was out with her dog and a leaf-blower, tidying up her garden, but that was about it.

In the night, I heard nothing – or nearly nothing.  One night, a rainstorm brought fierce wind and clattering at the window.  Another night, an animal snuffled and crunched outside the front door.  And one night, I heard an owl.

The only other sound that week – as I cooked and washed up and tried to lay a fire and tried to get the telly working and sat beside the fire and wrote and thought and walked – was the sound of my own voice.  Towards the end of the week, I went to visit friends who lived nearby and subjected them to an evening of non-stop talking.  ‘I’ve been on my own for 5 DAYS’, I kept saying, and I nearly burst into tears when I hugged them hello.

Pen Y Ghent from Horton i R stationYou can probably guess, it was a pretty intense experience.  What struck me was the way in which my anxiety and my hyper-sensitivity to noise, which I had been associating with the noise and bustle of London, were ever-present.  How I’d fixate on something and find it really, really difficult to let the thought go.  The night of the storm, I watched the water level rise in the drainage channel that funnels water down from the hill to a beck and from there to the river at the foot of the valley.  I became convinced it was going to flood the house, and even got as far as moving all my belongings upstairs.  I knew, logically, that it probably wouldn’t rise that far, but the thought had gripped me and I spent the night entertaining fantasies of dramatic rescue by helicopter and waders fashioned from carrier bags.  I had the carrier bags beside my bed, just in case.

Back in Leytonstone, I feel almost suffocated by the constant arrival of sounds from everywhere.  So much is happening, all of the time.  But it does me good to know that so much of this feeling is me, my habitual response, and that, even in an environment much more conducive to calm, I will still latch on to noise, my mind will still run away with itself.  Because if a lot of it is me and my mind, then I can do something about it.

One of the other things I did while I was away was to finish the companion piece to Aldeburgh Music 1.  So here is Aldeburgh Music 2, recorded in June this year at the time of the Aldeburgh Music Festival.