Sat 14 Aug 2010:
Jean and Terry are hopefully enjoying Status Quo, Rick Wakeman and Fairport Convention at this year’s Cropredy Folk Festival.
On Thursday, Moira asked me and Danny to help her move some furniture in one of the offices. It turned out that this display cabinet -gorgeous mahogany – was due to be thrown in the skip, so Lynda snaffled it for the department office.
As I was carefully trudging down the corridor, holding one of the heavy glass doors, I remembered the bit on Carol Shields’ book’ Unless’, where she says happiness is like a pane of glass you carry round; one day it gets broken, and you can’t ever repair it.
Now I’m listening to ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ (piano suite transcribed for organ) which goes well with my CD of ‘Ad Nos…’ (organ pieces by Liszt transcribed for piano) but it’s a shame the organist appears in shirt sleeves on the cover; he should have worn 1850s Russian costume.
Perhaps I should create a fictitious history of the two pictures Brett has installed in my flat:
One is a print on faintly textured paper showing four figures (just vertical blobs) against an horizon, yellow earth, eau-de-nil grey sky.
Two is a real painting, abstract, perhaps architectural, red and yellow buildings, a scrubby ochre granite background.
As well as my Mussorgsky organ CD, I bought Paula Cole and Bach from the BHF charity shop. Brett put blue highlights in my hair after cutting it this morning.
Apparently, yesterday’s edition of ‘The Weakest Link’ featured a bevy of drag queens, of whom one looked exactly like me and was called Timbolina.
What were the items I gave away/threw away/left behind when I moved out of my rented flat in Stretford in January this year? Dressing gowns, Yes Minister, Memoirs of Montgomery, Dorian Gray, Iron, clothes rail, coffee-table book of Vienna from Rembrandtin, dozens of BSH and Fighting Arts magazines, management coursework notes, de luxe bike shampoo, dozens of compact cassettes and piles of notes about career development issues.
A dry and poignant blues begins
To smoke a borrowed joint, and then
It tells you all about the nightmare
Into which you will tonight descend
The grand expensive shadow of a car
Sails down your B-flat minor avenue
As a lonely widow wishes on a star
Whose light conceals the superstrings from view
What could be more vivid; how extreme
Does the song of your desire need
To become before I now myself betray?
What sort of cloud indeed will set me free?
In an attempt to lose a bit of weight I have decided to start using the stairs instead of the lift. My office is up on the seventh floor; the first two flights of stairs are easy, but the next two require more effort. By the time I reach seven, my legs ache and I am completely out of breath. I pause for a few minutes to recover, so that my colleagues do not become alarmed at the sight of me wearily panting.
No-one seems to use the stairs, even for short journeys; the carpet is immaculate, and the silence is crushing. There are no pictures on the walls to admire. I remember once working at a place in Stockport where we had a huge, abstract watercolour painting (which I disliked intensely) on the stairs. No attempt had been made to create any visual context or depth or structure in this splash of random, feeble colours.
It helps if I listen to music on the journey up to floor seven; my MP3 player has an assortment of music and speech tracks to entertain me. This morning I listened to ‘Nouvelette’ by Lutoslawski. The jagged chords that open the first movement make me think of a murder scene in an old-fashioned play; The Duchess of Malfi, perhaps, or The Tragedy of Edward the Second.
The only time we all use the stairs is when there is a fire alarm, and we are not allowed to travel in the lifts. Just two months ago the alarm went off, and we thought it was a test; but no, after the warning sirens continued for over a minute, the tannoy system announced that we should all evacuate the building and assemble in the car park until the fire wardens had inspected the building.
One day I started counting the steps – one, two, three- but I grew bored with this and instead started counting backwards, or using the integers of pi as far as I could remember them. Perhaps we should have a series of framed prints at the end of each flight, like the stations of the cross, a propaganda narrative. Or one of Allington’s drawings, dissected into a series of overlapping elements each depicted separately. Or a series of LP covers running from 1972 to 1988.
I reach the top of the stairs and wait for the dizziness to pass. The walls in their uniform anonymous beige wash seem to crawl with patches of darkness like an evolving sense of texture. In a few minutes I shall be seated at my desk wearing a stereo headset through which I chat to my customers. They tell me about their home-schooled brats, teenage tearaways with names like Cadenza and Perseus.