17 November, 2009

Enigma of the Hour

Never underestimate London's ability to surprise you. It only takes a little trick of the autumn light to transform, say, Stroudley Walk, E3, into, say, pre-War Turin, on a Sunday evening, or perhaps a Monday morning.

Oh, my dear readers, the light of London will astonish you: subfusc overhead, golden on the ground, with the raking beam of the sun askance. There are a million such metamorphoses on offer in the city. Presently it is almost five in the morning; there is no light outside, only the heavy winds, making the casements chatter. Still, a long shadow is cast before me on the piazza: a metaphysical entity. On the third of December, that is, in a little over two weeks, my son is going to be hacked out of my wife, and into my life. This sort of fact tends to stick in the mind when you'd rather be writing, or sleeping.

My sister brought over her son's cot, no longer needed. It has been put together, and sits at the end of the bed, with garish toys, a cage, waiting. I am reminded of my childhood, when we were to embark on a holiday, en famille, perhaps to Italy, say, to Turin: the plane would be leaving at nine in the morning, and I would have packed the night before, leaving only the toothbrush out for my early ablution. I would sleep unsoundly, or not at all, for I'd be imagining the trip to come, and the bedroom would be in a state of disarray, all undone in anticipation: reordered and unfinished, suspended. To leave my bed, my house, my street, where I'd grown up, even for a week in the sun, seemed an enormous displacement, and already in the dawn taxi to Heathrow, shooting west through the strange wastes of Hounslow on the M4, long shadows before us, I would be seized with the desire to be home again. Do you remember these emotions? This melancholy of limbo, this bating of the breath?