Uranus

I wander to the place I know least and for a while I maybe like best, in a way; as an idea, as a thought, as a concept: the abstract liking of something from which you are distant, the fascination with unfamiliarity; the lure of the other; the stranger, the comfort, the awe. The steady roll on an invisible plane, the cool electric hue. The very slow seasons. Even the unwitting humour, lame though it is. It is a laconic planet I find here, unruffled, smooth and cyan. The awayness of it all, as at the end of despair. A well-neighboured distance; bookended, escorted by giants: significant in its own right but overlooked, overshadowed and, for no fault of its own, just not taken seriously: why would that be me?

There is no life here, but there is otherness and that in itself is exciting. It feeds my curiosity: to go a step further, to move beyond. To tumble on a different axis, to fall upwards; float frozen but not still, to sense a different kind of heat on a newly defined horizon. I expect to be alone here, but I’m surrounded by character: here, in the outskirts, in the slow moving cold, there are others like me: how did we all get here? What projected us into this orbit, so far away, it would seem, from the soul, so within?

These layers, these clouds, these rocks and these crystals, these rings, this ice and these moons, this magnetotail. They are not, perhaps, home, but they are a meaning all in themselves and they are somewhere, beautiful. True.

For quite some time I enjoy this quirkiness and become part of it, willingly, coolly; I relish the arms length attention I get. Nobody knows me here or cares who I am, but my aloofness my look and my languid demeanour are being noted. My hair the peroxide silver of this unbreathable atmosphere and my clothes the black of the all that surrounds me. If you know where I am you can find me and find me foreign and alien too.

Yet after a while I miss the simplicity of warmth. Not that I know what that means, but it means that I’m out in the cold and I want to come back now, closer to home, closer to the sun, closer to people who don’t understand me, closer to something I vaguely remember as love. This strangeness leaves me estranged from myself, and enjoying it now seems an effort. Soon, I know, I will have to let go, and I realise now that I’m not living my life in chronological order. That puzzles me for a moment until it occurs to me that time too is down to perception and there will come a time when it’ll all simply meld into one, as it must.

Entropy.

Out here I thought I felt a sense of freedom until that sense became quite oppressive. That, too, was a surprise. And so I let go. Slowly, at first and then readier, more. This is not for me, after all, this agreeable spectacle, this isolation: it could quite easily turn into a habit, a mannerism, a cliche, a role.

The young man at a soiree (it was that more than that it was a party a dinner or just a drinks) who’d looked at me and said: ‘are you for real?’ That’s when I knew I was in danger of becoming a caricature of myself. And Uranus could be my place no more. I like this now, this clarity, this resolution. This immense relief too, not to have to be defined by weirdness forever. Strange, yes, curious, always, different, maybe (then ‘different’ to what?), but not impenetrable and not obscure. Not even, in that sense, mysterious, really: there are so very few mysteries in the universe, apart from the multiverse of all possible universes itself, and that, too, is only a matter of consciousness and the cumulative number of braincells firing at it: one day it will just be another reality too. Like blossoms, like spring. Like the awakening, too.

I’m getting better at this, being me. This walk seems to be doing wonders…   

{Seasons}

twinklings to

meanderings

fountains into streams

we shimmer 

then we die

though these be energies that linger:

my early autumn, your late spring 

our seasons out of synch, we could

if we were so inclined

nudge each a little, cheat 

ourselves into a 

summer 

of untold delights

say we were otherwise 

compatible, we’d make

each other 

perfect

The Snowflake Collector – 8: It Was, in Every Imaginable Sense, a Disaster

No matter how Yanosh tried, no matter where he looked and what he put in his search field, the world did not seem to possess for The Snowflake Collector an answer. Innumerable were the sites and video clips that explained how to preserve snowflakes on microscopic slides or small sheets of acetate, using either – as he had been doing – superglue or hairspray or an artist’s fixative; and they all arrived, going by the evidence Yanosh could find, at results similar to the ones that The Snowflake Collector so far had reached.

But this, Yanosh knew, for The Snowflake Collector had told him, would not do. He would need, The Snowflake Collector had said and determined to a degree that to him was now irrevocable, a way of collecting his snowflakes in the fullness of their dimensions. And while it may have been the case that in their majority these snowflakes seemed, at first glance, so flat as to fit neatly within a thin layer of superglue trapped between two small plates of glass, The Snowflake Collector knew that this was nothing but a deception. A deception and a crass simplification by the lazy mind.

In reality, all these snowflakes – even the flattest among them, but most certainly those that came in the shape of short studs or even, as often they did, in a formation of nearly flat hexagonal structures enjoined with or indeed by short column shaped ones – were miniature crystals of infinitesimal complexity. To squeeze them between two glass plates and store them flat in a wooden case, no matter how carefully crafted, was, to The Snowflake Collector, as looking at the world and declaring it a disk off the edge of which one might fall…

The Snowflake Collector knew, then, that he would have to develop his own substance. He would have to acquire some knowledge, and applying this knowledge he would, through a process of trial and error and elimination, have to come up with a liquid, a gel that would have just the right consistency, that would be clear as glass, and that would dry, at habitable temperatures, with untarnished translucence and would keep the shape and the intricacy and the character of the snowflake he would encase in it, in three dimensions, for the relative eternity he or any other human being could envisage; not an eternity, then, perhaps, but a lifespan of civilisations: the extent of a physically appreciative intelligent presence on this planet.

A deep crisis of confidence soon engulfed him, for Yanosh’s research online remained fruitless. The Snowflake Collector now even undertook his rare and adventurous journey two or three times, by yellow bus and little red train and larger green or white train along the lakes into the biggest of any of the cities in his country and to the enormous library of the university there, to study the properties of chemical solutions at different temperatures and their reaction to coming in contact with ice. But hours and days and nights and weeks and months of labour both in theory in the city and in practice at home in his valley did not yield up to him any liquid or gel or substance of any kind that would catch a snowflake and leave it intact and absolutely unharmed, suspended in a glass cube in three dimensions, one inch by one inch by one.

The Snowflake Collector sensed the end of the season draw near, and with it he felt this abyss of despair once more gaping up before him, calling him to fall, drawing him close to surrender, willing him to give in. He did not feel, The Snowflake Collector, that if in this undertaking, as in so many others before, he failed, he would find the strength, the courage, the spirit to pursue it again next winter. Or any other endeavour. He was now, he felt certain, exhausted, spent. He had given the universe his all, and the universe had, once more, rejected his offering. Yet again, crushed by defeat and destroyed by his own, maybe lofty, ambition, he had exerted himself, but he had not excelled. It was, in every imaginable sense, a disaster.

The snow melted. The stream, where he had a small plot of land on which he planted two young fir trees for each mature one he cut down, had already swollen with the water from the fast disappearing masses of white that had covered the meadows and the sharp inclines of the mountainside, and The Snowflake Collector was no more. He had ceased to exist, his purpose evaporated like the miserable puddle of water left on the window sill from the erstwhile snow, with the warm morning sun. The devastation was drawn into the furrows of his troubled forehead, and when Yanosh now came to sit with him outside his hut, their silence was one of sadness and loss.

The stale stench of failure now clung about him, The Snowflake Collector knew, and he felt despair not just for himself but also for Yanosh. This friend. This loyal lad, still growing up, still becoming a person. Had he not let him down terribly too. Had he not drawn him into his project and made him a part of it and did the ruins of it now not lie scattered before his innocent eyes, his young heart cut and bleeding; for what? A delusion? A whim? A fantasy? For a false and forever frustrated illusion that there could be such a thing as meaning, as purpose, as friendship and love?

Tears ran down The Snowflake Collector’s face and fell on the cold folded hands in his lap and he felt he was already dead. Yanosh could not bear to look at him. But he sat still by his side and bore with him his pain. And thus they remained, awaiting in silence the dread bounce of spring.


7: Every Day Brought New Gifts Now <

> 9: So as Not to Chase Away its Wonder


29 Shakespearean Lunch No 3

The first three Shakespearean lunches take place at almost exactly monthly intervals in April, May and June. The first two more or less set the tone, but I’m still not entirely prepared for the third.

The first one happens at a beautiful Spanish Tapas place just by the entrance to Borough Market. It is – like all of the ones numbered one through three – scheduled for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, starting at one, but I don’t remember leaving before four, maybe four thirty. Still, there is much to talk about writing, crowdfunding, and, of course, Shakespeare – and so my stupendous Writer Friend and I take our time and order another bottle of wine, but eventually we decide to have done, mainly really because the place, beautiful as it is, isn’t entirely cheap and both of us are effectively skint.

For the second one, the tapas place is full up and it’s raining off and on, so we head a few doors into the market to a really nice fish place which is all covered in glass and lends a view onto Southwark Cathedral. Much as on the first occasion, we talk about writing, a little less about crowdfunding, a little more about adventures with agents, and about Shakespeare, a lot. I have another drink to go to that evening, so reluctantly, somewhat painfully, I drag myself away shortly after six.

For our third Shakespearean Lunch we are fortunate in that a little outside table is available back at the tapas place on the corner and my excellent Writer Friend is already parked there by the time I arrive. I have written a play about Shakespeare, and he is researching a story about Shakespeare’s brother Edmund, so our conversation obviously focuses very much on Shakespeare. Not having strictly learnt my lessons from our lunches one and two, I have once again somewhat brazenly booked another drink on the South Bank at seven, but with a friend who has stood me up so many times and has so frequently been so unreliable that I think not too much of it when, around about seven, we just really have nowhere near exhausted our topic and order another bottle of wine.

At around this time, our luncheon turns epic. There is a fine line between an ordinary writerly lunch, which can easily last five or six hours, and a lunch that turns into something memorable, noteworthy. This is approximately the point at which that happens, because at approximately this point we have, between the two of us, had between four and five bottles of wine and the topic of conversation is likely to have drifted off somewhat. I don’t remember onto what. I am pretty certain my formidable Writer Friend doesn’t either, though I haven’t asked him. I feel somewhat reluctant to ask him what he remembers of our Third Shakespearean Lunch, because I would not for one moment wish to embarrass him or make him feel uncomfortable. Not that there really is any reason for either of us to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, save for the fact that we first pay our bill at five thirty but when we finally say goodnight to each other some time close to eleven another bill for wine has been clocked up and paid for and I have given up any attempt at catching up with my other friend, two or three increasingly incoherent text messages notwithstanding.

But there’s also a bottle of wine unaccounted for. At some point after the second bill we must have decided to have just one more and our brains at that late stage of our lunch are no longer capable of placing paying for it into the category ‘things to do before leaving’. It’s not as if we were doing a runner. When I phone the restaurant the next day, on my first attempt there is nobody there to take payment for the bottle, but they say they will phone me back. When they don’t phone me back I try again, and this time round a Maître’d who doesn’t seem in a particularly appreciative mood recalls: yes, you paid for the first ones and then you kept hugging the guy and then you were gone. He is still for some reason unable to take payment but promises to phone me back. For a second time, nobody phones me, so I accept that last bottle as a drink on the house and consider the matter dealt with: thank you, it was much appreciated.

When he says: ‘you were hugging the guy,’ he is, I think, being diplomatic. Or is the term euphemistic. I am fairly certain that by the time we finally staggered to our feet we were effectively snogging. This is slightly unusual and also unexpected behaviour from both of us because we’re just mates. Also, my affectionate Writer Friend as far as I know has never yet been gay. Then again, it doesn’t really matter whether or not anyone is and I don’t hold with the labels in the first place and so I really don’t have any concerns about this. Still, the image that I couldn’t have seen but that is now ingrained in my imagination cheers me: the two of us, men in our, erm, no longer quite forties, winding up our lunch at a Spanish Tapas place in Borough, cuddling and kissing with really, by that time, not a care in the world and still so much to talk about for, I would hope, many Shakespearean lunches to come, come spring again…