A wild slim alien

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Kerplunk! – [New Zealand]

The previous evening is not mentioned the following morning.  You wish you had been less eager, less English, instead adopting the French version of time, drifting in to the bar as languidly as the two lovers, making friends of them both.  You could stay another night, be mistakenly American two days running, but the chance feels missed.  And the cycle repair man is on his tourist-snubbing congé annuel, so hurriedly you collect your bike to catch a bus out of Etretat.  Two friends stop to talk to Virginie as she waits with you for the bus, so your goodbye is inhibited, a brief handshake.  The driver lifts your cycle into the boot of the coach, and you are on your way to Fécamp.  The coach winds along a sinuous, danger-sudden-drop coast road, and you lose yourself in the sudden hairpin appearances of the sea.  Only the occasional jolt reminds you of another missed chance.

Having found both a hotel room and a cycle repair shop in Fécamp, you return to the sea.  The promenade is Brighton in miniature, with a shingle beach, arcades and seaside glitz, and a mix of ages and nationalities strolling its length.  Up an otherwise ordinary street perpendicular to the front is the Bénédictine Abbey, where the liqueur is made, taking the place of the Royal Pavilion, and in its own way as surprisingly ornate.  An arrangement of wooden walkways leads to the protecting wall of the harbour to the east of the front, above which rises a headland topped by a lighthouse and a chapel.  Pursued still by the chance you left behind in Etretat, you decide on cold water medicine and strip for a swim.  The momentary change from unbearable iciness to oneness with the salty buoyancy of the element is what was needed, and for a time it allows the cage of your personality to drop away.  You tread the incoming waves, feeling yourself to be no more than a particle of water moving up and down.  Then you let your body plunge into the nothingness where the submerged beach slants sharply away.

Your exhausted limbs dried, they relax into the heavy numbness of satiation, and your mind follows suit, drifting along the promenade and stopping before a giant chess set and a game in which the players are attempting without much success to break the equilibrium.  You watch a few cleverly parried attacking moves and drift on.  Further along you find a map of the world painted on the promenade, coloured like an atlas so that neighbouring countries never clash.  But the peaches and pinks, yellows and greens are warmer than the traditionally dry shades of the political map of the world.  A white dove, a salty tear rolling from its eye, is painted over the Middle East.  It takes several long strides to cross from Alaska to where New Zealand should be, but isn’t; was it forgetfulness on the artist’s part, or did the erasure come later, as a non-pacific or even bellicose reference to the Rainbow Warrior?  More puzzlingly, not being at the extreme of a rectangular representation of the world, Japan is also missing.  The rudeness of this slight puzzles you, because the inhabitants of either missing country are not the least likely tourists to turn up in a resort on the north coast of France.  Britain is there, of course; the enmity now a friendly one.  You measure how far you have come since June: the distance of exactly half a black boot.

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Kerplunk! – [Viking]

You seek out Le Viking, finding it easily by sweeping methodically through the small number of streets in the centre of the town.  Virginie is not yet there, but it is still light.  You sip two slow demis, waiting and still surprisingly carefree.  The bar is an Anglo-French hybrid; other than the beer, nothing else is Scandinavian about Le Viking, unless its dark brown insides were carved from the shipwrecked boatwood of Norse invaders washed Armada-style round from the North Sea till they found themselves cupped by the two headlands of Etretat.  Relatives of the hosts are eating their evening meal.  A girl talks on the phone for the entire time it takes to down your two beers.  One of the dining relatives is German.  His French wife, a tourist at home, is expounding on the lot of the holiday maker – all one does is se promener, manger, dormir; se promener, manger, dormir; go out, eat, sleep.  She makes a meal and a mantra out of it.

You reach down into first one, then the other of the pockets in your jacket hanging on the back of your chair, feeling for the tangible remnant of an intangible experience – a piece of the Falaise picked from beneath the Manneporte, a complex of compressed sandstone that will not now erode and become particles of the beach.  Not an especially majestic lump, not a fragment of the Berlin Wall, but all the same, a paperweight representation of the point of these six months.  In the second pocket, smaller than the lump of cliff, small enough to be enclosed by your palm, a stone, which has in it a hollow, within which there is a still smaller stone.  Louise told you once that a stone with a hole in it was lucky.  What about a stone within a stone?

The present isn’t showing, the future isn’t coming.  Unless you’ve arrived two beers too early.  Go and come back.  To ensure you stay away from the bar for long enough, you set yourself the task of walking up on top of the cliff.  The face of each headland is lit by powerful spots.  The path takes you away from the edge and into a moonless darkness, so that it is a strain to tell the path from diversionary sandy channels through the coarse grass.  When you reach a dip in the upward slope, the glare from the spot is searchlight-bright and equally disorienting.  Towards the top your eyes adjust, and you can pick out a flag.  And close-cropped grass – a golf course.  They get everywhere.  The sea is dark and gives nothing away.  At the highest point stands a concrete shack.  On the windward side, a couple are kissing; you circle quickly past and disappear.

Le Viking is a little busier.  Virginie is still not there, and your wait becomes more anxious and alcoholic.  The girl on the phone has hung up, so that it can ring again; to the great hilarity of his family and the customers at the bar, the smashed German relative of the hosts refuses to talk to his mother, who is ringing from Mönchengladbach.  He smacks his fist down on the table.  I don’t care!  She’s to blame!

You can’t keep nodding to the woman behind the bar to fetch your glass and refill it all night.  There have been no new arrivals for some time.  At home you could have drunk twice as much by now, without the embarrassment of waiting to be waited upon, and still feel like staying to the death.  Heavy with salty exertion and beer, you rise to go.  They bid you good night, that’s something.

At the bottom of the street, you realise you’ve gone the wrong way, so you turn about, and set off back towards the torchlit entrance of the bar.  And there you see Virginie, just arriving at the light-encircled step.  Holding her arm, a blonde and muscular Norseman.

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Kerplunk! – [Arch and needle]

Virginie gives you a tide table, remarking that you are lucky – Basses Mers Soir 20 30 – the sea is on its way out, and the early evening would be perfect for exploring the cliffs.  In town, you cobble together a meal to take with you.  The water is calmly retreating as you approach the Falaise d’Aval.  The path that caves in and out of the cliff face and leads to the giant arch of the Manneporte has lifted itself free of the sea.  It is deserted, as if cleared by a curfew, or patrolled by a troll only ignorant strangers would attempt to pass.  But behind you there are others willing to take that chance.  You lead the way, Canute-confident, through a semi-submarine tunnel of green-stained gold, colours with an intensity and freshly created rarity that no palette or pen could replicate.  Gazelle-like and half-drunk on the combination of cavern must and sun-baked sweat, you leap over the rocks towards the giant door, the gate to heaven.  The sun is declining, and the sea is tamed and passive.  As you come round the shoulder of the cliff, and look up and through the arch, the needle of rock beyond it fills the gap, a guardian warning the foolish not to pass.  Then, moving forward and round the cliff shoulder, this guardian steps back to allow the sun to strike the silver from the sea into your eyes.

The imperfect arch towers above you, a stack of layered golden sediment carved by air and water.  Beneath your feet are variegated strands of seaweed, some of it like slimy thick dark brown lengths of film stock.  The sun and air draw out its smell.  Through the door, there is a curve of beach upon which you will be the first ever to set foot, and a further arch to pass through.  The alabaster cliffs turn golden in the sun, their tops jagged and scooped out of a sudden blue.  Your footsteps echo across the giant pebbles of a beach reserved for the gods, a hammock for the setting sun.  When you stop, the only sounds are seagull cries, the lapping sea, and the faintly echoing tinkle of cliff side sources.  Looking back through the arch, you can see silent and faraway shell-fishers, as tiny as their prizes, miniatures at the bottom of the beanstalk.  You are abruptly happy.  It could not be so unless you were alone.  It’s a kind of happiness you imagine experienced by hermits, the uncontrollable spontaneity which is the necessary complement of so much stoic waiting.

They might have used this stretch of coast to shoot Jason and the Argonauts, recognising it to be rich in myth or ancient magic.  And every so often the hand of some god or other still reaches down and plucks up a traveller between forefinger and thumb, transporting them to mystic heights, here in this harbour of calm, where the land tongues the sea and the sea licks the land.  Recompense for the hot disastrous road this afternoon.  The Sirens sing and not being strapped to the ship’s mast, you walk towards them…  The voices of a young Italian couple behind you break the spell.

Alone, random factors dictate whether the day goes for or against you.  But still you feel it is possible to make your own magic, to let yourself be touched by it.  You pass through the second arch over more glistening seaweed and rocks, and perch yourself on a hard-to-climb promontory which is yours alone.

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Kerplunk! – [i]

Away from the cliff edge, the day is hot and dusty.  Your back wheel has loose spokes and is irretrievably buckled.  You spend half an hour by the road side wondering what to do.  It wouldn’t be so far to walk.  Better to go on than back.  You have plenty of water, and the afternoon has that enforced dreamlike quality of the hottest days.  Crickets chirrup, and an occasional lawn mower buzzes into action as you pass through a village.  Time goes slowly, the sun barely seeming to move.  It is still high but late in the afternoon when you come to the final curved descent into Etretat, down which you can’t resist freewheeling on what remains of the back wheel.

The woman in the syndicat d’initiative takes you for an American, perhaps because of the calibre or accent of your French, perhaps the striped green trimming of your whale blue jacket, which you have been wearing against the sun, the zip open for a cooling freewheel wind.  Or is it that you are not yourself today?  It amuses you, to be imagined American, when you are so very English, so very British.  For a moment you think of passing yourself as a college dropout from Chicago, Illinois, who because he couldn’t make the grade has come to investigate the small, Old World.  Perhaps she saw a film last night, and here you are, a warts’n’all version of the star or the support; or there might have been a man or boy the week or month before who also came cycling through, and by some association of hair, smile, accent or clothes, she assigns your nationality.

You might mistake her for a Scandinavian, since she is blonde and fair-skinned, with a big but well-proportioned bone structure.  Were you not full of exhilaration from the day, from being home and dry, you might have been shy; but her kindness inspires your French.  She says she lives in a block of flats with her grandmother, and the block has its own room for storing bikes.  She suggests you leave yours there overnight, and see about getting it repaired in the morning.  Once she has booked you a room in a nearby chambre d’hôte – the last room left in town on a busy August day – you walk with her to where she lives, effortlessly conversing as if the day itself had connected all the loose linguistic nerve ends, completing the circuit, like the mythical moment when you dream for the first time in the language you are learning.  She tells you her name – Virginie – and asks yours.  She works part-time in the tourist office, and would like soon to move au Havre and work in the much larger syndicat there.  Simple changes and longings; for once, when you try to explain why you have come to France, it too sounds simple, and she seems to approve.  At the immeuble, you meet a woman with stiff blonde-grey curls and a high-pitched voice, who turns out to be Virginie’s grandmother, on her way out shopping.  You’ve been in Etretat barely half an hour and already you are on greeting terms with young and old.

Returning to pick up your bags from the syndicat, you ask her what she does in the evenings, not so much a suggestive question as one stemming from a desire to keep the conversation going.  She replies that she likes to go to a bar called Le Viking, and she will probably be there tonight, if you’d care to meet her there for a drink.  She offers no particular time, but – of  course – you will find the bar and be there.

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Kerplunk! – [Yacht]


Your cycle limps out of Le Havre.  The back tyre was flat this morning, and the hotel proprietor brought you out a bowl of water.  Too busy repairing the puncture, it is only at the top of the climb out of the town that that you realise the escalating groans of protest can no longer be ignored.  The diagnosis is not good; the wheel is buckled and spokes snapped – serious therapy will be required.  The choice is to descend back into Le Havre, or press on the 20 km to Etretat, and hope to find a cycle shop there.  It’s a big hill you’d have to climb again, so you gamble on going forward.

Halfway at midday, you turn off the D road to lunch as close as you can to the sea.  The basic, uncoloured roads on your map run out well before the blue, though you feel sure there will be a path down to the water.  You find such a path but increasingly you gain the impression of being high up, so that you are not surprised to see the way end suddenly in a cliff edge, and beyond it, the sea.  Unlike the night before, this is welcome isolation in which to eat a meal, the kind that’s thrilling, that depends upon being alone, the paradoxical danger and attraction of your insignificance mixed with an acute sense of being the one who is alone, the one who is there at the centre of the universe.

If this were the view from your high-rise in London, would you swap that sea of city, for this stretch of chameleon aquamarine, which today is deep blue with a hundred thousand eyebrows of white?  Peering over the edge, as over the balcony down to the toy houses, people and cars floating in the noisy swell below, a blast of wind rises up from the drop, buffeting you.  Stepping back with a shiver, the cliff edge shields you, and the wind is balmy where fifteen floors up the tower block, it howled and whistled unceasingly, the eerie sound mixed in with the ceaseless cooing of the pigeons who colonised the block’s refuse shoot.

You’re a world away from that now.  You eat with a relish that the food served up by last night’s restaurant could never give you, sitting among untroublesome insects, wasps and butterflies, wild flowers and grass.  And come the end of September, the blackberries growing here would have made it an even fatter lunch.

A toy yacht sails around the Port pétrolier that juts out into the sea to the north, and tacks into the coast.  You wave as it passes beneath you, and see a glint of watching glass in return.  Your eyes dance along with the yacht a while, till it is lost beneath the cliff face, to the south.

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Kerplunk! – [Carafe]

Eating alone, you are discovering, is as much an experience beyond food as is the celebration of friends in the centre of the restaurant or the intimacy of lovers at a corner table.  Waiters and waitresses accord you treatment inconsistent with that given the very much more troublesome and noisy family group, for example.  Even in an empty restaurant you are steered to an out-of-the-way table, or one with inconveniences, such as a view into the kitchen, or continually being brushed by the waiting staff as they make tracks round the table.  Either you are too melancholy a sight to place in full view of prospective customers sizing up the menu in the window, or you are hidden away for being so insulting to the French way of life as to eat alone.

A restaurant like this has its atmosphere to protect – the restaurateur’s nightmare is of all tables occupied by a solo diner, the silence broken only by the sound of solitary munching and the turning of a page of a newspaper or book.  And one of them a feared critic, disposed to mention the effect the mood had on the food, or how food finds its natural customer, as a dog characterises its master.

Under the waiter’s scrutiny, the poise of their pens, their forbidding or tired or beautiful eyes, your French goes to pieces, where if you were relaxed, it might gain you a smile.  But relaxation only comes with the carafe.  You should learn to drink before you eat.

There are two styles of waiting.  One sort ignores you, serving you only when you have lost hope, and never then gives you a chance during your meal to ask for more bread or wine.  The other is too attentive, always a watchful eye, pouncing on your plate as soon as your fork rests on it for the last time, delivering main course dessert coffee and bill in a stream that deposits you very quickly back on the pavement, or would do so if you did not fight back by despatching your food lingeringly, with a wine-fuelled imperviousness.

You subdivide the attentive waiting style into two.  There are the impersonal waiters, who are inclined to a professional efficiency rather like the expert behind a bar who sets off a Guinness, shoots up a measure of spirit or two from the row of optics, decants a coke and pumps out a lager all before the Guinness has its head.  Then there are the sort who will not be happy till you are gone, having apparently taken a personal dislike to you.  Either way, the smile of welcome and departure is missing.

It comes to mind that Louise used to wait and hated it.  Always one ungrateful slob, one groping hand or suggestive set of yellow lupine teeth.  After work, there would be the smell of fried fat on her clothes and in her hair.  If you had not known each other, and she had been your waitress, and you had been her lonely customer, how would she have waited upon you?  She would have been of the impassive attentive kind, a hint of disdain when any of the other diners flattered themselves with their importance.  From you she would have kept her distance, concentrating her thoughts on her life away from the restaurant, while you would not have been able to take your surreptitious eyes away from her, which of course she would notice, so that hers would have become a study of avoidance.

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Kerplunk! – [Hexagon]


Though the British Isles is a witch, or a policeman beating Ireland with a truncheon, and Italy a boot with a ball at its foot, all that can be made of France is a hexagon.  This is the shape that your geography teacher used as the easiest representation of the country you are now fleshing out for yourself, circling out from Trouville along longer radii and in wider arcs.  France is a pond, and you are a dropped stone sending out ripples to find the limits of its reach.  Eventually, thrown in from the north bank, you will ripple out south and west, and find the shores or mountains of four or five sides of the hexagon.

Sidestepping a return to the château, you decide on a tour of the natural curve of coast from Le Havre to Fécamp.  The day on which you set out is not optimal for cycling any distance, but you gain from the sun in terms of attitude what you lose to heat.  It bakes your hair, tans your face, browns your arms and legs as you cycle through the harvest colours, past proud lines of trees, past a calvary cleaned to a porcelain white, shining and tortured and at odds with the cool interiors you can see through the open doors of houses in the village to which it belongs.  You even have a greeting for a carload of holidaying Brits picnicking by the wayside.

After a straight descent past industrial and high-rise estates, the town seems promising and large, a city and a port, a resort with more than the usual façade for the sea to dance before.  The hotel you hit upon is being decorated, but the workmen try some standard schoolboy English on you, and the proprietor is kind, with dark eyes that speak half of weariness, half of joy.  When you refuse breakfast, she says you are to take it anyway, and you feel a scrooge in the face of such generosity.  Her mother and a curly-haired child of three look on, each possessing the eyes of a dreamer.  Your room is family-sized, dark, dusty and orange.

Le Havre.  You like its chameleon name, that changes as grammar demands: au Havre when you are going there; du Havre when you are coming from it, or apportioning an object or person to it; Le Havre, its stately overall title.  Fitting that the Seine should have at its head the Harbour, and typical that the Thames has Canvey Island and Southend-on-Sea.

In your roaming search for the restaurant – you have the time and a tendency to be fussy – you cross an arched and asymmetrical bridge which allows larger boats to pass into a rectangular basin of the harbour and right into the city.  You find one to your taste and pocket in rue de la Crique.  It is only after you’ve made your decision and are about to push open the door that you notice the one word, the same in French or English, scrawled in big white letters on a nearby wall –


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Kerplunk! – [Château]

On a hot Sunday in August, Nathalie, Antoine and Bénédicte take you to an open day at a local château, a grander house than the one in Trouville that you have fantasised about.  You have seen it before, cycling through the little valley which it dominates.  The grounds are at their seductive peak, and the wait outside the wrought iron gates before you and the rest of the rabble are let through them only serves to heighten the gap between the inhabitants’ and the visitors’ lives, and the undertone of envy which is the proper mood for the paying public to assume.  A high red brick wall blocks off a view of the house; unnecessarily protective moats of black, still water lie before the wall.  To the right of the main driveway up to the forecourt before the house is a formal pattern of paths cut into mattress-soft, manicured and pea green turf.  Behind the house, the drawing room view is of a fountain, whose structure is rippling with muscular limbs, and beyond it a lake which stretches the length of the grounds.

The house itself does not soothe the eye, but throws the sun back at you.  Beneath the sweep of an external, horseshoe staircase, you find that coolness, undaunted by the heat of the day, which is particular to a mixture of thick stone and shadow.  The heat minimises the already occasional efforts at conversation.  Inside, apart from the basement kitchen, it is as airless as if you were dressed in the clothes of past centuries.  A guide marshals a score of you from room to room.  You can take or leave the four-poster beds and writing desks, even those that may have seen intrigue, or were slept in or sat at by minor members of the aristocracy for one night or day two centuries ago.  But the guide herself hypnotises you with her wide eyes, and the beautiful, expressive rasp of her bourgeois French.  She is perhaps the same age as you, and her legs are as tanned as yours below her silvery green shorts.  The fix of her hair and the measured palming of her gestures hold you spellbound – everything about her exudes coolness.  After a while you lose the thread and sense of what she is saying and hear only her voice, reciting what may be commonplace formal French but which for you has the intoxicating colour of poetry whose meaning has been sacrificed to sound and is all the more expressive for it: the undulating modulation, the roll and crash of the ‘r’s, the enunciation as precise as the pain a needle stimulates.  You feel oxygen-deprived, faint.  From a first floor window, the gardens are resuscitating, part-shadowed by the house, and to cool yourself, you swim with an imaginary fish along the course of the lake.

When the tour finishes and the group disperses over the house and gardens, you remain to listen to her answer the questions the antique-curious are asking.  More than anything in the world at this moment, more than the most refreshing swim, or the sudden appearance of an old friend in the room, you would like to have her attention, feel her speak that voice to you, even in English, for surely she has the gift of languages, and how could she not turn your drab and colourless language into rainbows of sound?  But because it is what you would most like to happen, it will not do so.  And given that it will not do so, you cling to the idea of returning alone next Sunday, yet knowing that in seven days’ time, the same intoxication and fear will combine to paralyse you once again.

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Kerplunk! – [Phone box]

There are other days when you feel alert, engaged, alive, perhaps because of a letter from Newcastle or London, some connection with the world outside yourself that returns you from solipsism, gives you solidity.  Sitting beneath the trees across the road, on the bank that holds their roots and fences off the bellowing Charolais, you mark such days by watching the sunset behind the fragile tiles of an old barn’s holed roof.  The bats begin to flit, relieving the birds of their diurnal control of the air.  With squeaky toy screeches and curfew patrols flown centimetres over your head, they eventually send you inside.

The Norman nights, when you venture out into them, are wild with stillness or with wind.  Desperation for another voice means the cabine téléphonique is often your destination, and you go out late to take advantage of the cheapest rate.  Not yet having been prey to sacrificial knives or unscrupulous xenophobes, and at home now in the village, the night holds no fear for you: the dark simply increases your exhilaration at being so free to do and go as you please.  Sometimes you cycle, whistling through the wind, and sometimes you walk, looking up at the sky.  There is barely a terrestrial glimmer, for the villagers are seemingly already in bed, early risers all, with no time for the ever-extending night arm of the media world.  The stars sing out visual hallelujahs as uplifting as the wind or the rain battering your ear drums with their roar.  You pick out Cassiopeia, and Castor and Pollux in Gemini, and follow the line created by the last two stars of the Plough to the Polaris; a line that points towards home.

You clang the door of the telephone box open in the silent centre of the village.  The light from the bar does not reach as far as the box, so you have your bike lamp with you to tell apart the denominations of coins.  Occasionally a figure will leave the bar and piss in the street.  You ring your mother or your sister or a friend, but you never ring Louise, fearing the vast emptiness that might open up with the money counting down, and all that you could say either too much or not enough.  Most of all, because you could not bear to hear her tears crystallize along the wire to your ear.

The cross-Channel lines seem to buzz with transatlantic delay before you hear the familiar burrs of home.  At first you get stuck, forgetting swathes of vocabulary, your mental engine barely turning over.  Then, recognising how necessary and precious is this connection with your old life, words avalanche from you and it is as much as you can do to stop and listen to the news from home.

You ring your friend, and he tells you that the tour is on, and there’ll be a place for you in the minibus or the back of the van.  Come September, you’ll find them all in Rouen.

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Kerplunk! – [Avenue]

Once again you take up your station, leaning on your Trouville doorjamb.  From it you can see no less than four rows of elms.  To the left, beyond a cornfield, two avenues meet at right angles, and between them is a gap, filled at the end of July with wheatsway and summer blue.  The trees are the only form of curtains you have, giving you a couple of hours’ grace before the sun’s rays peep over the tops and dazzle your sleeping eyes open by catching the silvery parts of your bike, which is leant against the wall beside the bed.  When your pupils have adjusted, you can make out the colour of the day, what kind it is, without needing to move or even raise your head to do so.

Directly in front of you, past the house of the third set of neighbours, a retired couple with an Alsatian who patrols their fence, is another line of arboreal defence, above which the sun travels, and – at present – the moon rises.  This third line is met by a fourth, a row of sentinels stretching along the road to the right.  Their convergence creates a tunnel through which light shines from the fields beyond.  The gap in the trees and the tunnel through them are natural spots to focus on when you are leaning against the doorjamb, lost in music or memory.

During the long, sun-baked weeks, you and the day often reach an impasse, and then you retire to your sleeping bag, under the sedatives of a warm breeze and the sun.  You remember the Sudanese man who spent his days holed up in the attic above you in Holloway, so quiet that you never knew whether he was there or not.  His only means of expression was a smile that might signify either fortitude in the face of a bleak existence, or the weakness of one who used up all his energy in escaping his country.  Whatever the spirit of it, to be able only to smile seemed sadly to render it meaningless, or so full of meaning that it signified the reverse of what was usually meant by a smile.

But for the noisy affirmation of existence that playing some music offers, you are as silent yourself.  With the door open, the hum and the rhythm of the wind in the trees is like gentle percussion, a shimmering cymbal and a softly shaken maraca, which combined with the trilling melodies of the birds lets you doze contentedly even after a full night’s sleep, disturbed only by the domestic sounds of your neighbours and the barking of the German shepherd.  You take semi-consciousness to such lengths that whole days are lost to unreality; though you might buy bread and eat three meals, these actions are infected and slowed down by the fictions of daydreaming, so that, say, lunch becomes a tasteless, repetitive crush of haricot beans and tomatoes, alongside a baguette bought in a daze from the early morning bread van, whose driver still tries to short-change you, even after six weeks and the opprobrium of his other customers.

When the door is shut on all the desired and undesired sounds of the day, and night surrounds you, gone are all the ways you have had at your disposal to deceive and avoid yourself.  With only the sound of your blood in your ears, you watch the full moon rise orange behind the trees, the last external distraction, a circle of fire burning up the branches, the moon as you have never seen it before.  It moves quite fast, until, whitening from yellow, strong shadows are cast on the tiles of your unlit room.  Beneath it the trees are as different from noon light as the negative from the print.