London Bound

London Bound

Dec 17th 11:30
London bound. I’m delivering a piece of artwork to Little, Brown then picking up some originals from Sotheby’s, unsold lots. I don’t think I’ll do this number again, but then, I probably won’t be asked. Profit rules.

Tomorrow I’m flying up North to see my mother. Lots to do. I think I’ve landed a commission for a new Gormenghast drawing.
Try as I might, keeping this diary is———

I’d been this way before, but I could not remember when. The shadows were very familiar, even personal.
I thought of the green room and the stark winter light cutting crisp lines through the venetian blinds, and the restless animated projection of the wind-blown climber, on the inner alcove wall containing the icon. If only it were a permanent feature. Imagine a room full of fleeting fluttering imprints and changing hues.
Christmas is almost upon us. I hope it proves a jolly affair this year.

Hassocks whipped by and the line of the Downs drew my attention. I searched for some sign of walkers on its fast receding heights, but there were none to see?

Dec 21st 12:40 pm
Manchester Airport. Waiting in Lounge for 13:30 Flight to Gatwick. Weather bright but bitterly cold. Saw Mum before I left this morning.
John walked with me to bus stop at Church Lane. He’s got a bad back, but seems indifferent to advice.
“Just a bit of a cold, nothing serious”
He looked very tired. Talked about retirement. Went for a walk in Dunham, through the Park and up on to the Canal yesterday, beyond the Old Number Three. The Sunset was bright orange. Anne said: ”It’s a Chemical Sky.”
When I arrived, the Station seemed all but empty. Wind shepherded the litter towards the ill lit stairs and platform underpass. It was only after the train pulled out and I walked towards the exit, that I noticed the two people sheltering in the doorway, concealed until that moment by the bulk of the automatic coffee dispenser. As I passed, they started to hum the tune to “Cherry Ripe.” I’m not good on songs but I remembered this one from my Primary school days in Chiswick. I caught the tune and hummed along.
It was only as I neared the exit, that I realized I had an accompaniment. I looked back over my shoulder, and was shocked to find them both, close up behind me.

Jan 2nd 1999 6:49
Long gap.
I want to be a Dredger, with a line of rusty iron buckets.
Much better than testicles.
Do Dredgers masturbate?
Dipping into the river mud, scooping up old bikes, original issues
of The Beano, dead bodies, and old prams.
Thrumming for the Estuary.
Clearing a deep channel.
Such direction.

I sat at the stained formica table with my mug of tea, in the seedy cafe near the bus station, waiting for the connection to Manchester. The day was struggling to begin. It was dark outside. Steamed clogged the windows, and grease glittered on the tiled walls. A blue rinse woman, chattered idly to the proprietor over a bacon sandwich, and I made a vow: to never, ever, catch the Preston to Manchester bus again.

Jan 9th 5:56pm
Good day. Randy Newman rolling ‘no worry’ along the landing.
Epson 800 spewing prints. Preparing a package for Seattle.

He knew the space he occupied, offended the others sitting around the room. He was a stranger there, an imposition, cuckoo in the nest. Nothing blatant of course, but he could tell.
He proffered his apologies, and said the train left for Glasgow within the hour, and it was vital that he be on it. The white skinned, blue veined spinster, mumbled her disappointment, but said she understood. He left without acknowledging her companions, and felt some manner of victory in this dismissal.
Outside the building he breathed deeply shouted “Shit!” shook himself like a wet dog and set out for the sea front.

Monday 18th Jan 9:49am
Sun is shining, but it’s cold. The coffee tastes good, despite another study telling us it’s crap all good for your health. What is? I ask myself. I’m revamping my Portfolio. Some pieces are so old, they’d make a Druid blush.

Muswell Hill 1968, or was it Earls Court?
Hammersmith under water by 2050 .
The hot water from the Victorian water heater just covered my ankles.
No fear of over indulgence in this bath.
The sash window hung crooked and cordless with a gap at the bottom.
Someone had stuffed newspaper in it to stop the draught.
The yellow condition of the paper suggested it had been there for a long time.
I peeled back a corner and saw the word Suez.
The iron bath needed a bloody good clean, especially the plug hole, which bulged with the caught hair from a thousand bathers.
Entwined memories, strung out in a long matted vine, stretching through the pipes of the house, down into the sewers, all the way to the sea.
There were three yellow edged sheets of paper, stuck over a crack in the window glass, that looked like the pages from an old notebook. Ever curious, I bent down to read the blotched and faded writing, which appeared, on closer inspection, to be extracts from a personal journal or diary. The glue holding the pages to the glass, had long since lost its tack and I was able, with care, to peel all three sheets from the window with only a minimum of damage. The paper was brittle and tore easily. This is what was written on the three pages:

It was cold. I climbed to the third floor, not sure what I would find.
The Stranger’s instructions had been quite precise.
Go to Room 4 at the front. The key will be in the door. Go straight in. A small parcel wrapped in brown paper, tied with string and secured with red sealing wax will be waiting for you on a small pine table near the window. The curtains will not be drawn.
I wondered why he had mentioned the curtains.

February 14th
When I returned to my room after the distraction at the front door, I could see immediately that the package I had collected from the third floor room and had been looking at when the door bell went, was gone. It wasn’t possible. Then I noticed the sooty tracks of a large bird leading to the open window and immediately thought back to the tuna sandwich and the crow in Covent Garden.
I had a culprit.
I stuck my head out of the window but could see no sign of a crow on any of the nearby roofs.
The sandwich had given it the belly ache and it was getting its own back on me by stealing the package.
Spurious reasoning I knew, but it was the best I could come up with in an emergency.
This of course, gave rise to a raft of other possible explanations no less suspect that the first.
Had the postal delivery, the plate from Rotterdam, been a decoy to get me out of my room–––––––––?
In any and every event, I stood in the open window and shouted: “I didn’t make it.”
A milkman delivering milk to the house next door, looked up at me in a knowing sort of way and smiled. I wondered if he knew something that I didn’t—?
What a bloody Nonsense!
Whilst rooting through a cupboard in the hall, close by the bathroom, I discovered an old Sharps toffee tin, full of loose pages, very much like the ones I’d peeled from the cracked window pane in the bathroom. None of the pages were numbered.

Wednesday Jan 27th 8:57am.
Drinking coffee. I will paint one wall of our bedroom brilliant white this morning. Work on the walls of Gormenghast this afternoon. Post arrives. Job in the offing. It’s low paid, but an interesting contact. I’ll phone anyway.
The smell of burnt muffins fills the house.

Thursday Jan 28th 9:30am
I’ve drunk two cups of coffee but still feel out of it. Weather overcast and windy.

*Excerpt from The Broken Diary – Sept 21st 1980.

First published in the world by ONEIROS 2014.

Copyright Ian Miller 2014.

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