April 13th 2016 (South Shields)
I meet a girl, a woman. Her name is Milkmade. She spells it out for me to avoid confusion. It is a play on words, she says. I see, I say. I laugh. Milkmade is funny.
We meet each week in Waterstones, the bookshop (naturally). Each week we meet at a different section & each week I buy a book from that section to remind me of that particular date with Milkmade. She always signs the book for me: It is vandalism, but it helps to verify our date! This week I am buying a book called Vegetable Diplomacy. When I hand it over to the sales assistant he thumbs through the pages & notices immediately that it is defaced with a signature. “Is this some kind of joke?” I don’t understand what he means & take the book from him. Milkmade has signed her name as Agonvehr (A smart European name I think – perhaps it is her surname?). “What do you mean?” I ask. “This,” he says, is an anagram of hangover. He stabs at the letters with his finger. “Oh, I see,” I say. Well, what else can I say?
I’m in an exam hall. I have a Dickens hardback on my desk alongside some papers. Milkmade/Hangover is the teacher (who is she?). She walks up & down, up & down the aisles of chairs. She stops at my desk, touches my arm, picks up the Dickens, & says, “We won’t be needing this.” The hall is filled with chuckling. She writes her name on the inside cover as if we were in Waterstones, closes the book, winks at me & places it back on the desk. Sometime later I see that she has written a different name again! It is something like ‘A____n ______nov.’
I’m waiting for her to arrive at an hotel. She is late. Eventually, a friend of hers arrives & says, “She is on her way.” But she doesn’t arrive. So I go down to the lobby. It is late at night & the lobby is a museum. The only illumination is from the moon. Everything is white light & shadow. The floor is marble & my footsteps echo. The walls are covered with paintings & statues & sculptures are placed around the floor. Suddenly, I hear someone coming down the stairs. I don’t want to be caught in the lobby so I sit down in a chair in the shadows by a wall & pretend to be reading a book that I find on the chair. Andy (from number 3 upstairs) & his dog, Bob, appear. They walk across the lobby. I sit perfectly still in the dark – perhaps they won’t notice me – but Bob senses or sees me & becomes excited. He barks, playfully. Andy pulls at the lead, peers into the darkness but doesn’t see me. They leave through a door onto the street.
It is now the future. A strange future. I am in a place that I feel I know from the past. It is a long, tree-lined avenue. The trees bow from the pavements forming an arch high above the avenue. The whole effect is like being inside a cathedral. I walk along the avenue. I can feel the grass beneath my feet. I am with William A (People often mistook us for brothers once upon a time. It used to irritate me a little because I found him to be very annoying!). But now he has aged & has matured. We walk & talk. The avenue starts to become busier; people pass us by. As we walk by a hedge a man on a horse appears from behind it. It is Glenn W (from university). He is barechested & rides bareback. He gallops off up the avenue. William A says that Glenn W became quite famous a long time ago around here & is very rich.
Now, I am alone. Alone in a vast crowd on the avenue. Somehow I have got caught up in a demonstration & everyone is protesting (about something!).