Notes From a Fragile Island. 11

January 16th 2009 (Hook Farm, Uplyme)

8am. There is a doe outside the window. She is nuzzling the wet grass. She glances up at me after a while, stares, chewing, then continues foraging. Later, I scoop and crumble the insides of yesterday’s french stick and I scatter the bread on the grass for the small birds. A robin appears from somewhere and, turning his head this way and that, he bounces over to the meal.

I make PS and I breakfast – bacon and eggs and baked beans. A crow swoops down in a cloak, struts around finding 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 pieces of bread. He cackles.

6pm. Here and there, and then here and here and there, the lights come on one by one in the homes on the far side of the valley. I suddenly remember a line from a poem I wrote when I was at primary school in Charmouth. Miss Morgan returned everyone’s homework except mine. I remember thinking that I was going to be told off for doing it wrong. “I’ve saved this one for last,” she said, reading it out.

‘the night/ like a bag of diamonds…’

And that is all I can recall of it. But it was a beginning. And, in some ways, this subject, this motif – the stars and the darkness, I still write about now, nearly 40 years later! What does that mean?

January 16th 2018 (Croydon)

J tries to convince B that he should go to the doctor after his suspected heart attack on Sunday night. B’s not so keen. “I feel a lot better,” he says, lifting the lid off the teapot, stirring the brew with a knife he has just buttered his toast with. “A lot better.” But, eventually, he agrees and J phones the doctor, getting an appointment at 4pm.

Quiet morning at work, so I take a train to E. Croydon to buy a phone charger, some razors and a notebook. The Whitgift Centre is as cold and desolate as it was last time I was here (April, May?). A majority of the shops are now empty or boarded up. There are new shops, selling tat and stuff for your vape and discount this and that; and a man stood in the closed down newsagents’ door behind a fold-up counter, selling cases for phones, ear buds, phone cards and SIM cards and chargers. Waterstones and Superdrug and Holland & Barrett are the last of the larger shops still standing. Flickering fluorescence darts from the window of the bookshop and a man clutching a half-eaten sandwich sleeps in one of the chairs in Fiction and I wonder if he is a Tracey Emin installation.

Unable to help myself I walk down to the Allders end of the mall and nod at my self and my old self and my young self in the dark glass of 1076. A breath of the good times, breeze of a ghost.

After the next world war all that will survive are the cockroaches and Bishops Wine Bar! I go in. It is dark and smells of cat piss and beer and cigarettes and I find this reassuring. Tony F is fussing at the optics with a tea towel. Al Bowly on the jukebox. I order a gin and tonic and cheese and onion toastie and sit alone at the bar. We speak as he prepares the sandwich in the cluttered kitchen out the back. “Scaffold Andy still owes a fucking tab from Christmas Eve. Bought everyone a round, he did. Fucking tosser.” I ask after Jean and Angela and Tubb. “That lazy fucker,” says Tony F and I fade out in the mirror and say yes and aha and eventually the microwave pings.

The doctor is shocked at B’s cavalier attitude and is surprised that he is still here, meaning alive, I suppose. He tells him to go home and wait for an ambulance. “I haven’t got time for all that.” But the doctor just shakes his head and takes out his phone. “It’ll arrive in the hour. Make sure you’re in it,” he says.

I buy a fish and chip supper for two and a bottle of Pinot.

January 16th 2021 (Penn Beacon)

I seem to have swapped day for night, which wasn’t my intention. I haven’t seen daylight since Tuesday. The cupboards are bare. There is only one thing for it.

Surprised at how busy Morrisons is this early or late or whatever it is. At the self-service till, a woman in a towelling dressing gown, beneath a flashing light, waits for a staff member to verify her age. She turns this way and that way with her hands on her hips, biting her lip. There is a box of six eggs, a pack of bacon, two litres of milk and a four pack of Stella in the bagging area. Someone behind me tut-tuts – or huffs or something less so, but I feel it at the back of my neck – and the woman spins round and announces, with far too much jollity, across the distance, “I love a proper breakfast, me.” As I’m head of the queue I’m obliged to say something or nothing at all. So I say, “most important meal of the day.” But she looks at me as if I was mad.

I am quite happy in my solitude – corralling words, thinking about it, reading and pushing paint around. Daydreaming and dozing. Cooking and eating and taking baths.

I listen to Spacetrash and Schism 206 podcasts while I paint. I listen to The Fall while I read (I am reworking my way from Live At The Witch Trials to New Facts Emerge and compiling a playlist of my favourites. I listen to BC Camplight’s Shortly After Take Off as I cook dinner. I listen to Sun Kil Moon’s This Is My Dinner as I eat my dinner.

I drink tea. Yorkshire, like a builder, from breakfast to dinner and then green and then camomile after midnight. I have not had a drink this year. My skin tightens. My liver doesn’t ache and my thinking, I’m thinking, grows clearer. My hair grows straggly, but I shave. I bathe late at night in candlelight with headphones on; MF DOOM and Dylan, stoned.

I go to bed between 5 and 7, rising around 4.

20 thoughts on “Notes From a Fragile Island. 11

  1. The other diamonds, amongst many … ‘It is dark and smells of cat piss and beer and cigarettes and I find this reassuring.’ This commentary so evocative. I can hear the little miss prissy … ‘Someone behind me tut-tuts – or huffs or something less so, but I feel it at the back of my neck’. Wonderful stuff, Nick.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Your notes make me so happy.

    And this – sounds like Heaven to me: I am quite happy in my solitude – corralling words, thinking about it, reading and pushing paint around. Daydreaming and dozing. Cooking and eating and taking baths.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I loved the idea of that Tracey Emin installation!

    And who hasn’t heard tut-tutting in a supermarket queue!!! (notably when attempting to pass 8 items off as 7, at the ‘7 ITEMS OR LESS’ checkout).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like keeping them weird hours too. But generally if I go to bed at like 9 p.m. with a dose of sleeping medication, I will likely be up by midnight. I get maybe 3-4 hours a night, if I’m lucky! And that’s medicated! Brekky sounds good tho.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 3-4 hours? That’s no good! However, neither is 10 hours! I do miss the sunlight, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day… whatever time you have it! 🙂
      Take care, Delia.


  5. I am fully drawn in, your gifted storytelling is addictive I want to read more. It is always surprising how a writer’s talent transforms ordinary, everyday events into a riveting read.

    Thank you.


    Liked by 1 person

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