Monday, 7 September 2009

Return to work after a week off...

Oh, that was a lovely break. Such peace, such quiet, in rural and unexciting Kent. How much one suddenly appreciates the quietness of a provincial town, which once seemed stiflingly dull, after four years plus of the smelly, preoccupied and traffic-laden hubbub that is west London.

For the last ten days I have been breathing clean air, listening to birdsong, walking in the countryside or by the coast, talking to my family (and to the cat), and sitting in the garden re-reading “Jane Eyre”. Bliss. I even did some sketching and a couple of watercolours. I wish I could attach them here but the lack of either a scanner or a digital camera (other than the one on my phone) is a problem here.

I have been sitting on the shingle at Greatstone, with a sky like blue enamel overhead, full of sandwich terns and tawny young herring gulls, swooping and shrieking, while the tide slowly comes in over miles of glittering wet sands; walking along the front at Broadstairs, where almost nothing seems to have changed in thirty years (& to my delight I found that although the Albion Bookshop has closed the wonderful Albion Second Hand Bookshop is still operating); gathering blackberries and bullaces on the Western Heights and then walking along the cliff top, on springy turf studded with harebells, wild thyme and marjoram.

There was time to sit and do nothing, flopped on the lawn under the old “Frau Dagmar Hartrop” rose (which despite its official status as a Single-flowering Old Rose was covered in a healthy second flush of cinnamon-scented shell-pink blooms). Time to read. Time to lie and blink in the sun, and daydream, dozing on the borders between thought and sleep, like a peaceful cat, only a cat with a cup of tea.

I read “Jane Eyre” and then followed that up with an excellent biography of Pierre Bonnard and then a John Wyndham, “The Chrysalids”, that I read as a teenager and haven’t re-read since. Not surprisingly, “Jane Eyre” stood up well to the rerun treatment. I had forgotten how much I love Jane – how completely I identify with her. Within the framework of a Victorian ideal, her relationship with Rochester is so much nearer to my own ideal than many a more modern one in fiction; their greatest bond is that of like-minded people enjoying and being stimulated by one another’s company, and although the physical attraction between them is made clear it is neither overstated nor made out to be the centre of their relationship. “The Chrysalids” suffered rather by comparison. In the first part, where the narrator is just a child, the directness of the storytelling works well, but once he is meant to be a lad of eighteen or nineteen he begins to seem a cipher. On the other hand, the depiction of a post-nuclear-holocaust world where society is run by religious extremists is far better done – more low-key, and both more disturbing and also far more real – than in many later uses of the same trope.

The Bonnard book simply made me want to paint. >sigh< If only there were more time in the day, and less rubbish having to be done with said time.

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