Sunday, 13 May 2018

remembering the dirt heap + Having a lend (of some books)

Ten times a week at least, I go past the spot where the dirt heap used to be but on Friday I felt again its pull: it's gone, I know that, and I know it won't be returning, but if you know what to look for, its traces are plain as day.

Never forget 
I pretty much had the luxury of the bike paths all to myself in both directions on Friday because 40mm of rain was forecast. But of course this was an alarmist lie on the part of the BOM and the rain was mild and intermittent. I did get wet, but not as wet as all that, and because I HAVE PROPER GLOVES NOW I was actually quite warm inside all my layers. The worst annoyance was not being able to see properly through fogged-up and rain-spotted glasses. But still, there was a strong feeling of Oh yeah, now I remember, this is what it's like cycling 20km a day in winter, in the dark and the damp and the cold and the rain: wet clothes to deal with at my destination, wet road to be ridden over with great caution, wet hair and shoes and arse and face. However, it is still a million billion times better than public transport, slow, expensive, boring public transport, crammed in with damp, smelly, gross people coughing and breathing and eating things containing meat.

I am extremely pleased with myself, and relieved, because I have solved the hurting knee problem. As the weather turned colder it was causing me so much pain that I began to feel the day was fast approaching when I would not be able to commute by bike anymore, and that prospect made me very unhappy indeed. But simply by altering the way I sit on and pedal my bike, I've done away with the pain entirely - and I can continue riding for six to eight hours a week for the foreseeable future. I would not do so well if I had to give up this outlet.


I'm still spending as much time as possible in bed and still really liking it. I change the sheets very frequently so they're always smooth and crisp, and it just feels extremely nice in there; quiet, private, peaceful, and somehow luxurious. It's the best place to read or listen to music. At the moment I'm working my way through a stack of books people have lent me. I said a few days ago that I'd had a book pressed upon me in which I have no interest at all and that I'm always having similarly inexplicable books handed to me at work.

Of the seven books here, two are books I more or less asked for after hearing descriptions of them; three are books that trustworthy friends handed over saying You will love this; and two were given to me with a diffident speech about how interesting the book is, how the owner thought it would be of great interest to me for numerous reasons, and how the owner will certainly not be offended if after all I ignore that carefully explained reasoning and don't read the thing. Grown-up and not-delicateflowerlike as I most assuredly am, I nevertheless find that last kind of book-lending difficult to withstand. I was looking at the heap today and I thought, as an experiment, I will read all of these whether I feel like it or not. If it's as tedious in parts as I expect it to be then that might give me the willpower in future to say no thanks at the outset.

I've read half of Thoroughly Decent People and a couple of sections of the Guy Maddin and enjoyed both, in a way, although neither is at all what I expected them to be. Thoroughly Decent People is a ruthless, pitiless picture of a dismal marriage, or so it seems to me. I might not be the best judge. Guy Maddin (who has a new short film) is someone whose artistic career is a thing of such glorious beauty and artistic precision and moral integrity that I was a little afraid to possibly spoil things by reading his journals, which I am finding surprisingly dull - but maybe with shadows of the weird lurking under the mundane. The book itself is so prettily constructed that I think I'd like to have my own copy.

I spent most of last night and half of today in my bed reading the Anita Brookner novel, writhing from time to time in pained, fascinated, horrified recognition of the pathology of the life laid bare (writhing is a good idea if you're doing a multi-hour stretch in bed but not actually sleeping). Some stretches I could only read in a kind of averted-eyes mode, so close were they to the bone. It was lent to me by my friend A who got excited when I said I'd never read any of Brookner's work. A said that Brooker's subject is lonely intelligent women, their withdrawal into intellectual work, their problems with sex and with men - who are all utterly hopeless - and desire, ageing, and the perpetual struggle to reconcile all these things. Brookner makes Doris Lessing look like Barbara Cartland. If all her novels are like this I don't know if I can bear to read another one.

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