January 21st 2007 (M25)
The M25 is, as I have suspected for some time, more than just a motorway that encircles London and the surrounding suburbs: it is a dark magic that ensnares. It cannot be coincidence that once beyond its grasp the air becomes breathable; the sky, bigger; the scenery, vibrant – so vivid, in fact, that the colours are intoxicating to one who has become accustomed to the monochromatic. Toto, I have a feeling that we’re not in Kansas anymore!
Somewhere out beyond Hook a huge hot-air balloon hangs in the sky. As we pass beneath it I am able to make out the message printed on its skin – HAPPY BIRTHDAY. It is not my birthday, but I know that the secret meaning is for me – Happy Birth Day. The cloak falls from my shoulders and, winding down the window, I take a deep breath and realise that I am free. London shrinks into the rearview.
January 21st 2016 (South Shields)
8:30am. The sky over Souter lighthouse is pink. I cycle the concrete length of the quiet pier to watch the DFDS ferry come in. The ship appears on the horizon and, just shy of 9, it passes between the jaws of the north and south piers on its way to Tyne docks. A man on the upper deck shouts something across the water to me, but I can’t make out what. I wave. He flicks the V’s!
9:30am. There is a young couple on the otherwise deserted Littlehaven beach. The sand whips around them. He wears a dark blue suit and she a short, pale blue dress over which she has a grey shawl that flags on the wind. Her legs are bare and, circling him, she takes his photograph as he, a stiletto shoe in each hand, gazes, in a rather too thoughtful pose, out to sea. It is an odd little scene.
10:00am. The crow court. On the Lawe Top four crows are fighting on the grass in the shadow of the beech trees. They tumble and caw loudly whilst several others hop and bounce excitedly around them, rather like a playground scrap. In the otherwise silent and empty park it is quite an eerie sight. I clap my hands together to try and make them stop, but they pay no attention. I ring the bell on my bike (tring-tring), nothing. Finally, I shout “HEY!” and this seems to do the trick. They separate and fly off to a tree and throw what I assume to be crow expletives at me! “SILENCE IN COURT!” I shout back at them, but they just shrug. KAA!
January 21st 2021 (Penn Beacon)
The synchronicity of the numbers is immediately apparent to me – the 0’s, the 1s and the 2s. Maybe there is nothing to this beyond the noticing, but in just noticing, there is magic enough.
I have noticed for years that it is often 13:13 when I glance at the time. So much so that I am surprised and a little put out if it’s ever a minute before or after. I don’t know what this means, but I find some comfort in it.
My sleep is still all over the place – day time is night time is day – but I tire of this nocturnal existence and I know that it does me no good. I eke and claw back the hours and soon I will be back at the beginning again; hooray! I put this down to having no structure imposed because of the plague and no one to say, come to bed, Nick Reeves. Also, I keep in mind that I am 21 days in my sobriety; hooray! 21 days in my lockdown; whatever! I am glad that I will not be back at work until spring because by then I can turn it all round again and get up and write of a morning. Who knows, maybe I could dump the tobacco by then… but one thing at a time.
I reached for the HP sauce to put onto my lasagne – yeah, I’m goddamn crazy, me! – and the use by date on the lid read 21/01/22. So… plenty of time for that, too!