I am feeling much better this morning than I did yesterday at a corresponding time.  In fact, you would hardly think that I was the same person.  All that worry about population, propagation, disease, and the like, is as far from my mind today as the bad weather which accompanied it.  My birthday, thank goodness, has passed!  Though I dare say that my mother is still very much alive and capable, in consequence, of inflicting further birthday cards upon me for the foreseeable future, indirectly flattering herself in the process.

     However, with the exhaustion of what I had to say on the above-mentioned subjects yesterday, the benefit of a decent night's sleep, and the sight of so much blue sky this morning, I feel as though yesterday's pessimism was nothing more than a hangover from the previous night, when I didn't get much sleep on account of the upstairs neighbour again.  She was making even more noise than before, but making it, I today learn, at the expense of her boyfriend and with a view to moving to a new address - hopefully one as far away from Crouch End as possible!  Now that she has packed her bags and emptied the cupboards and drawers of all her belongings, it seems safe to say that, from this evening, things will be a good deal less noisy and I may even be able to treat my ceiling with more respect.  I hope so anyway, since there are quite enough blotchy patches on it already!

     Well, I am seated in the local café again, waiting for the chef to serve me some breakfast.  Since I never order anything but an egg burger, a tea, and a pancake with syrup, all he requires of me is information to the effect that I want "The usual".  Sometimes I don't even have to say that; he anticipates it for me, smiling in recognition as I enter the café and going straight to the freezer for the burger meat.  Despite some good luck the other day, however, I know in advance that I'll get my allotted quota of sugar cubes as well.  In certain respects, this man's memory is like a sieve!

     Since there aren't any other customers in here at present and the music on the radio bores me, I have taken the liberty of scribbling these humble lines 'on the spot' - something, incidentally, I don't do very often - rather than at home.  Usually I rely on memory as much as possible, embellishing it here and there with a dash of pure invention in deference to my imagination and its respect for a certain 'literary licence'.  In the final analysis, one always returns to literature, even in a journal, and, to the best of my recollection, most of the writers whose names mean anything to me are guilty or, depending on your standpoint, enamoured of exactly the same thing.  I need only cite the extraordinary length of Molly Bloom's interior monologue in the final chapter of Ulysses, to draw attention to what I mean.  Frankly, you couldn't expect anyone to actually maintain a thought-monologue of that length and intensity all night, least of all a woman, and for me that constitutes a significant aspect of the literary licence, if you will, of Joyce's ostensible realism: his ability, inclination, necessity, or whatever, to mix probability with improbability, truth with illusion, fact with fiction, and dialogue with monologue.

     Indeed, whenever I leaf through his and other major authors' works, I often encounter the same tendency in different guises; a fact, after all, which is of the essence of modern literature, with its willingness to bend everyday reality towards an illusory nirvana, to mould life according to its idealistic whim or, more correctly, the imaginative bent of its practitioner at the expense of crass realism and any concomitant enslavement to representational objectivity, for which, in any case, the cinema is far more adept, given its pictorial bias.  It is as though serious modern literature has become an introverted hedgehog which, like abstract painting vis-à-vis photography, has been obliged to curl-up inside itself under threat of destruction from film, and this curled-up condition is now its only defence against a world which increasingly shuns subjectivity in pursuance of an ever-more intensive objectivity the end-product of which can only be a cataclysmic upheaval of apocalyptic proportions!

     Well, even I am guilty or enamoured, in my moralistic introversion, of occasionally twisting things to suit the overall continuity; of recalling conversation and the sequence of events associated with a given scene as though I had taken notes 'on the spot' and thus knew every last detail; of stepping out of the form I originally set myself in order to follow inspiration, add new dimensions to my work, and, above all, make it more subjectively interesting!  For without a strongly subjective streak, literature is no more than an amoral representation of objective reality, a shell without a kernel, a lens without a soul, an extrapolation from journalistic impartiality, and thus effectively a living death - as, unfortunately, all too much modern stuff actually tends to be.

     Ah, here comes my burger!  I could see the chef casting a sly glance at my notebook and then at me, as though to link the two, but I don't think its presence particularly offends or embarrasses him.  After all, I didn't bring it in here in order to humiliate him or, worse still, draw condemnatory attention upon myself!  Quite the contrary, this is the first opportunity he has been given to see me working, so he'll probably require a couple of days to get used to it.

     As a matter of interest, I simply considered a little literary diplomacy expedient in the circumstances of my regular presence here at this relatively unusual time of day.  Now he can see that I am not just a mouth that chews his food at a time when most other people are busy doing sums or checking invoices, but a writer as well, and that, by a short stretch of the imagination (presuming he still has the semblance of one tucked away in that ageing head somewhere), such writings also take place outside the café, behind closed doors, on a table, between meals.  This knowledge should be enough, if he arrives at it, to convince him that I'm not just an out-and-out wastrel with a lazy disposition, but essentially a culturally responsible and hard-working person with a sense of purpose!  It may even help to sustain the cordiality of our simple relationship here.

     Before I tackle the syrup pancake, which always follows the egg burger onto my table (and sometimes before I've finished eating the damn thing), I'm obliged to remove the sugar cubes from my saucer.  Somehow, I knew he wouldn't disappoint me ... Good God! I hadn't noticed it earlier, but this glass cup is filthy, especially on that part of the rim from which one drinks.  Why, there are horrible brown rust-like stains there which smell positively revolting!  In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the entire place was contaminated!  These knives, forks, spoons, cups, saucers, plates, etc., have been used literally tens-of-thousands of times by now, and most of them are probably contaminated with equally-revolting malodorous stains.  I need only dwell on this particular cup a while longer, in such fashion, and my disgust will trigger off a nauseous convulsion which will precipitate the half-digested pulp of my egg burger all over the table, to the immense satisfaction of the resident flies.  But this is terrible!  One oughtn't to think like this at such a time.  That bloody notebook!

     In many respects, these past few weeks have definitely been ill-fated for me.  Indeed, I can hardly forget that I was feeling almost exactly the same way about the change in my pocket while paying my bill at The Cornerstop Café the Monday before last.  If I had previously and rather too matter-of-factly regarded it as my money, then that little realization painfully disillusioned me!  Of course, I had often been told that money was the root of all evil, that money stank, etc., but it hadn't occurred to me to take such notions literally until then, when I was virtually overcome by the stench.  Come to think of it, I haven't smelt the notes yet, have I?  It was only the change that time.... Yes, I have to pay the chef in a minute anyway, so I'll take a quick sniff at them before he can see me and wonder what-on-earth I'm doing, or dismiss me in Pidgin English as a crazy lunatic.  After all, it wouldn't do to throw all this hard-earned diplomacy away on account of a few crumpled bank notes - a tenner and two fivers.

     Frigging hell, what a foul stench!  It's as though all the sewers in London had converged on these hapless notes.  Now I know that, much as I've never felt too enthusiastic about money, I shall never feel the same way about it again.  From this day onwards, it will have to be quarantined in a small cloth wallet, and whenever I exchange it for something else, whenever I'm obliged to use it, I shall have to take the additional precaution of holding my breath and/or wearing a pair of soft leather gloves in order to avoid the risk of further contamination.  Needless to say, that really will be the limit!



LONDON 1976 (Revised 2011)


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