SATURDAY 18th SEPTEMBER

 

This morning I didn't feel like getting up.  It seemed much safer under the covers.  For one thing, I hadn't decided what to do with myself, and, for another, I could sense the approach of autumn.  The effort required to stagger out of bed and eventually sit at my writing-table-cum-desk seemed immense.  I wondered whether I hadn't turned into a fairy overnight or gone mad, or something.  Admittedly, there were voices, footsteps, and radio noises impinging upon me from other parts of the house, but that didn't exactly encourage me.  On the contrary, I felt as though I had been subjugated by a world of indolence.  Indeed, as though I might even have left the human world altogether and possibly become a polyp, irrespective of the fact that the cold air on my arms indicated that I still resembled a human being, even if I didn't exactly feel like one.  It was as though my life had inexplicably become divorced from those all-too-human noises and it annoyed me to think that I would inevitably be forced to do something similar in due course, to act like a marionette dangling from the ends of bedsitter-conditioned strings for another twelve or more hours.  I honestly didn't want that to happen, since things seemed better off as they were - without any interruptions.

     To begin with, I wasn't annoying anybody by just lying still; for, in all probability, the neighbours would have been quite oblivious of my prone proximity to them.  But if I were to clamber out of bed and start scratching around, brushing my teeth, hunting for clothes, etc., and then endeavour settling down to record, on my electric typewriter, some new ideas for my forthcoming novel, the chances were pretty high that the upstairs tenant would begin making more noise than I could tolerate, that she would begin to distract me by dropping things on the floor, shoving armchairs about, rubbing the water heater's rubber pipe against the metallic tap of her sink unit, stamping backwards and forwards as though doing the highland fling or suffering from St Vitus's dance.  If possible, I wanted to avoid that sort of friction today.  It disconcerted me to think that I should be the butt of such flagrant abuse.

     What exactly it was about me that annoyed her, I couldn't imagine.  But it seemed all too evident that she didn't like men of my sort.  True, she couldn't have read any of my writings, since none of them had been published.  But that wouldn't necessarily prevent her from sizing me up, as it were, from my appearance (both sartorial and physiognomic), from the kind of music I usually listen to, from the fact that I don't have a girlfriend, never speak to her, am studiously preoccupied, and so on.  Perhaps she imagines I spend a lot of time busily plotting the future downfall of some worthy institution or, worse still, writing critically about her for being so boorish, philistine, and heavy-handed.  I don't honestly know, though, being the sort of person she is, I wouldn't even put it past her to become annoyed with me because she can't use me, because I possess a sort of innate obduracy and social aloofness which prevent anyone from getting close to me without my express permission.

     However, a couple of days ago she was making even more noise than usual, which was more than I could reasonably be expected to endure.  She used as many resources as she could find - those I have already mentioned and some additional ones besides - and she persisted so indefatigably and with so much inane vindictiveness ... that I felt compelled, on at least three occasions, to hurl a leather boot up at the ceiling.  In fact, I can still discern the indentations looming above me now, scarring the soft ceiling with ghastly one-inch cracks.  Indeed, there is also a rather nasty black mark above the fireplace, where the boot struck the wall after ricocheting off of the ceiling.  I tried to rub it off with the aid of as much elbow grease as could be mustered, but it still persists in existing, and with as much stubbornness as a permanent fixture, as though the wallpaper needs it there.  The most sensible thing for me to do now would be to put a large poster over it, perhaps something surrealist.  But that would inevitably mean staring at a poster instead which, despite certain aesthetic predilections on my part, doesn't really appeal to me in view of the fact that there are already four small posters on the walls anyway, posters which I have no desire to either move or remove.  I certainly don't feel I could possibly tolerate the sight of another one, no matter how small.  For it would undoubtedly make this room appear too much like an art gallery, and a rather eccentric one at that!  Still, one has to look at something attractive.  Too many blank walls are depressing.

     As I was saying earlier, I didn't feel like staggering out of bed and subsequently throwing myself into a noisy scene again, granted that there were quite enough little disturbances going on already.  I would have preferred to remain mummified between the twisted sheets of my bedding, temporarily innocuous.  To be sure, my contribution to domestic goodwill hadn't amounted to anything very impressive over the past few weeks.  But, even so, I certainly had no intention of reducing or negating it this morning.  So far as I'm concerned, domestic antagonisms ought to slacken off a little on Saturday, enabling the house to assume a sort of semi-relaxed atmosphere freed from the bonds of weekday pressures.  Yet when you are dealing, as here, with somebody who evidently finds one day pretty much like another, who doesn't appear to look forward to the weekend, who is naturally heavy-handed and thick-skinned to boot, and who bears you an unshakeable grudge, then those sorts of concerns are completely gratuitous and only succeed in making you feel foolish.  You might as well try appealing to the moon, for all the good it would do!

     Anyway, when I finally succeeded in forcing myself to get up, at 10.30 this morning, it was partly on account of an empty stomach and partly on account of my mind which, in accordance with well-established tradition, was beginning to exasperate me.  When you mostly let yourself go like that, when you just lie there and think about nothing in particular, the chances are pretty high that your mind will take the law into its own hands, as it were, and proceed to wander off at an intellectual tangent.  You would never believe that this mind was yours; that, freed from the vigilance of the ego, it would be capable of such arbitrary decisions and/or aberrations.  For one thing, it is almost unintelligible, it babbles on like an over-active brook, and, for another, it doesn't appear to lead anywhere, but follows a kind of wayward course through uncharted psychic territory.

     If you were to attempt plotting this course, you would soon find yourself lost in the middle of nowhere and probably have to dispatch all the common sense at your disposal in order to bring yourself back from the brink of insanity to the everyday world of concrete phenomena.  When, for example, I began listening-in to it this morning, the impression I got was of someone who had forgotten to switch off the motor, in consequence of which my mind would burn itself out and either leave me with a shattered brain or, failing that, a severe headache if I didn't soon take serious measures to rectify the problem.  So I clambered out of bed in a panic, got washed and dressed as quickly as possible, pulled back the curtains, discovered it was still raining, and thankfully felt my equilibrium return.  The sight of so many external objects had evidently given my mind something with which to preoccupy itself, for it went straight from one extreme to another.  Now when that happens and I am pondering over what to write, I usually find myself wondering whether I've got a brain at all, because it seems a devil-of-a-job to drag anything worthwhile from it, to cultivate anything like a positive or imaginative response to things.  Of course, I'm well aware that my life isn't particularly exciting, that a man as solitary as myself, who hasn't had as much as half-an-hour's intelligent conversation with anyone in over five years and who hasn't even so much as kissed a woman in nearly six, can't reasonably be expected to bubble with intellectual enthusiasm, like an ambitious college student.  But, then again, I would at least like the consolation of some intellectual preoccupation, however attenuated.

     So I sit at my desk, waiting patiently for something to click, for a penny to drop, as they say, only to discover that my brain prefers to lie low as though waiting for a divine signal, a special cue, an incentive to spring into action like a rabid predator and tear the page apart in a fury of raging intent.  Though what the requisite signal, cue, or incentive ought to be on such occasions I haven't the foggiest, because I might sit there with an empty head for over an hour sometimes.  The week before last, for example, was a fairly typical occasion.  I had only a short while before finished typing-up my first novel, an innovative little project which leaned heavily on interior monologue, as befitting a writer as solitary and introverted, not to say Joycean, as myself, and was now stuck with the problem of how to proceed with the next one.  At the height of my incertitude in this matter, I realized that I would either have to come up with a solution to the problem pretty fast or seriously consider finding myself a clerical job instead.  Now since the latter alternative didn't particularly appeal to me, in view of my preference for literary work and knowledge that there were precious few clerical jobs to which a person of my restricted experience and dubious expertise could reasonably apply with any hope of tangible success, I quickly dismissed it as unwise and straightaway set about amassing notes for my next novel, whatever it would eventually be.  For the best part of two weeks I sat in psychic darkness, so to speak, scribbling out as many notes as I thought fit to include in a character's conversation or reflections - the sort of ideas one might loosely associate with metaphysical speculation, humorous hypotheses, ideological fantasies, intuitive perspicacities, and religious controversies: in short, a rough-and-ready Mon Coeur Mis a Nu, which would hopefully serve as a repository of significant ideas into which I could dip my languishing imagination as the need arose, thereby drawing the relevant inspiration for my forthcoming themes.

     Well, by the end of that time I had amassed something like 150 medium-sized pages of these notes, incorporating everything from a supposition that old people could often understand young people better than their parents did because, being old, they reminisced more, to my mounting distrust of women who, for reasons best known to themselves, habitually hid their legs behind long skirts or dresses; from a fantasy concerning Oscar Wilde, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Charles Baudelaire, the author of the above-mentioned journal, seated together in a café and conversing animatedly in French about the relationship between politics and religion, to my recollection of the humorous and almost surreal incongruity established by certain unlikely juxtapositions of shops, viz. a Scripture Press shop wedged in-between an antique dealers and a turf accountants on the one hand, and an undertakers wedged in-between a butchers and a tobacconists on the other; and from my opinion concerning the baseness of conversationalists who only use their interlocutor as an excuse to talk of themselves, to reflections upon a moth that happened to turn acutely narcissistic, one evening, on encountering its reflection in the bathroom mirror.

     Now in compiling these and other such notes, my imaginative faculty eventually tired of the immense spiritual effort required to plumb the intellectual depths, so to speak, and retrieve such buried treasure as was down there, so that the final attempts I made to exploit it overwhelmingly led me to the conclusion that I had brought as much intellectual treasure to the surface as could reasonably be obtained for the time being, and that the feeling of an empty hole or shell which I now experienced would only be good for receiving such self-contempt as I might fall prey to if, in proceeding with my prospective novel, it gradually dawned on me that I hadn't compiled enough of the right sort of notes, but too many irrelevant and largely undesirable ones!

     However, not being as ardent a masochist as I had formerly supposed, I was able to mitigate the psychological anguish of this worry by consoling myself in the knowledge that such deep mental excavations weren't to be treated flippantly, since one couldn't raise too many profound thoughts to the surface of one's mind in such a short space of time when thoughts of that nature were more often the product of a gradual awareness or momentary intuition than the result of systematic burrowing.  If I had formerly regarded literary creativity as fairly spontaneous, I had at least been corrected in my rather naive and false regard.  I had also learnt that one can't be creative without first being uncreative or reflective, without sitting in the psychic dark every so often in order to check one's spiritual compass and simultaneously allow for the build-up of fresh material, fresh experience.  If the mental dam suddenly burst, one day, so much the better!  But it wouldn't burst from an empty vessel.  This quiet, mysterious, and almost imperceptible build-up of material under the surface, in the murky depths of the psyche, was the price one ordinarily paid for feeling bored on or above it.  If I had lost patience or confidence in myself and subsequently abandoned the wait, there might not have been another chance.  I would have misunderstood the terms of engagement, or so I presumed.

     By this time next week I shall be on my way to visiting an old friend in Merstham, Surrey.  In theory it will be a social weekend, the sort of thing which occurs only once every six or seven months.  But, in practice, he and his girlfriend are fairly laconic, so I won't have much of an opportunity to become involved in deep conversation.  Still, it will be a refreshing change to have some kind of company for a couple of days anyway, to partially relive the good old semi-provincial days before I became an exile in the big, bad, friendless metropolis - another victim of the pollution, noise, congestion, and overcrowding to be encountered amongst its so-often decrepit or derelict streets.  But that is still another whole week away and, since I don't really have any friends here, I must first of all tackle the rest of this weekend.  Naturally it will pass, like all the rest of them have, but slowly, heavily, unostentatiously, in keeping with my solitary lifestyle.  After I have written as much as I can for the day I will just drift with the tide of urban life, content to have earned a short reprieve from the exigencies of my literary endeavour.  If I continue to record notes, impressions, memories, and diary-like ramblings it is simply because I prefer doing that to standing on my hands, watching football, squandering money at the local cinema, gazing blankly at the walls or, worse still, wandering aimlessly around town.  It is quite a useful method of passing the time and, besides, I even occasionally get a thrill out of it!

     Tomorrow, however, I know from experience what I will probably do, but I'm not absolutely sure how I may feel about it.  That will depend on my mood.  Yet I know for a fact that I will get up at 10.00am or thereabouts, tidy up my room a bit, have breakfast at the local café, buy The Observer, and then come back here and begin reading it.  Of course, I won't read everything, since that would be a waste of time.  But I will certainly glance through the pages and mentally latch-on to anything that particularly arouses my interest.

     Last week, taking the arts review into account, I must have read at least a quarter of all the printed material.  Now that was a sort of record in itself, considering that I rarely get beyond the headlines.  Indeed, sometimes I don't even read them; I merely look at the pictures.  I flick through the pages with a sort of fanatical determination at the back of my mind not to be taken-in by anything, and whenever I encounter what I can only regard as misguided or overly impartial information on a subject about which I have highly partial views, something inside me clams-up and I hear a little voice, the voice of my ideological conscience, caution me against making a fool of myself by reading things which will only mislead or confound me - political opinions, economic forecasts, literary criticisms, and social commentaries that I might just as well do without.

     Now this happens virtually every time I buy a newspaper, which is to say, every Sunday morning.  So I observe the pictures, scan the main headlines, and discard those kinds of articles which won't necessarily make me a more enlightened person or, for that matter, a better citizen (though I am officially an Irish, not a British, citizen), but will more than likely frustrate and irritate me by taking me for a ride that either contrasts with my better judgement of the situation or has to do with subjects about which I haven't the slightest interest or sympathy, in any case.

     If there is one kind of intellectual I detest above all others, it's the person who has to know something about everything as though his very existence depended upon it.  The one who always appears to know exactly what is going-on in the world even though he is no less powerless than the rest of us to do anything about it, and who exudes, in consequence of this obscene curiosity, a sort of childlike enthusiasm for facts and figures quite divorced from the pain and emotional anguish which usually accompany them, about which, in any case, he has only a limited capacity for experience.  Indeed, the very justification for this childlike enthusiasm applied so indiscriminately to a variety of unrelated contexts is highly questionable.  You get the impression that such a person is either duped by facts, victimized by his brain, mad, or all three together.  What-on-earth, you wonder, can he possibly gain from so indiscriminate a perusal?  Is it that it gives him something extra to talk about, to satisfy his egotistical gluttony and thereby accord him an intellectual advantage over his less well-informed fellows?  If that were the case, I shouldn't wish to listen to him!  It would remind me of what one of my aunts used to say about the importance of reading the papers every day in order to always have something in common with others, to be able to talk about the latest news.  Admittedly, one usually learns the latest news from someone or somewhere anyway.  But to actually make a point of it, to actually suppose that you can win friends or influence through it - well, I would rather leave such an ambition to her!

     Yet if that was hard to stomach, what she said to me about general knowledge was virtually unpalatable - namely, that a person who spent lots of time wading through various encyclopaedias, dictionaries, reference books, etc., in order to acquire greater knowledge was obviously very clever and on the road to enlightenment.  People on quiz programmes, for example, were obviously very clever because they seemed to know so much, could answer so many difficult questions, questions undoubtedly beyond the reach of most ordinary people.... Now although I was prepared to believe that some people on quiz programmes were indeed very clever, I felt absolutely no compulsion, in spite of my good aunt's persistent admonitions, to follow suit, to bend my head over an encyclopaedia or whatever every day, as if that constituted the only criterion of enlightenment or confirmation of cleverness!  Quite frankly, it didn't matter in the least to me whether the highest mountain in the world, the longest river, or the biggest lake were to be found in Asia, Africa, or South America.  It didn't interest me in the slightest to know the number of American presidents or English monarchs to-date, and how this compared with the ancient dynasties of Asia Minor or the Far East.  That kind of knowledge invariably leaves me cold.  If a so-called brain wants to spend the greater part of his time rummaging through the dustbins of obsolete or useless knowledge, good fucking luck to him!  But for someone to tell me it is a road to cleverness and greater enlightenment - well, I would rather remain ignorant, and happily so!

     In fact, now that I consider the matter, it was exactly the same story at school.  I didn't make the top grade because I could never force myself to take an interest in anything I disliked or considered superfluous, and there was plenty of that.  If I encountered a subject that left me cold, I did what I could to pass muster but no more.  However, whenever I encountered something I liked or in which I could believe, I set about doing my best in it and usually came top or near top of the class.  Besides certain aspects of history, music, and English (in that order), I was also pretty good at geography and did fairly well at examination time in those aspects of any particular subject which seemed meaningful to me.  But when it came to subjects like technical drawing, physics, woodwork, metalwork, and engineering science, I was a failure, a rebel, and a wastrel all rolled into one.  I saw absolutely no reason to exert myself.  Indeed, it seemed as though the school authorities were primarily interested in churning out a given number of duplicated achievers every year, in making most of their pupils so intellectually generalized and malleable that they would not only all think alike but be able to adapt themselves to just about any task, irrespective of whatever preferences or innate predilections for one subject over another individual pupils may have had.

     Well, idealist that I was (and still am, for that matter), I did what interested me and left school with fewer qualifications than those whose academic commitments extended right across the board, in a sort of balanced respect for the general curriculum.  I don't in the least regret the fact!

     Just as I am writing all this down in my journal, the girl upstairs has come down and is speaking to someone at the front door.  I can't make out exactly what the other person, evidently a man, is saying, but he has apparently come to the wrong address, since she has such a reassuring air with strangers.  You would think she was the most serious person on earth.  She is telling him that someone who used to live here has had all his mail forwarded-on, and that there is absolutely no-one by name of Erickson living here at present.  Her composed, authoritative, and slightly imperious tone-of-voice puts everything into place straightaway.  There is absolutely no possibility of a mistake!

     I cease listening to her because she annoys me.  I have heard all this nonsense before anyway.  It is too theatrical to be worth taking seriously.  She changes her mask when and where it suits her - at a moment's notice.  However, earlier this week she was anything but the composed, authoritative, and slightly imperious citizen you could easily take her for today.  She was like a little schoolgirl at the awkward age.  Indeed, you would have thought, by the amount of noise coming from her room, that there was a kindergarten upstairs.

     Yes, and her current boyfriend - a rather unassuming and reserved type of bloke who nevertheless usually acknowledges me whenever I encounter him in the hall - is more or less terrorized by her most evenings.  She calls him every damn name under the sun just for an excuse, I suppose, to calm her highly-strung nervous system down a bit, to ease her psychic tensions by revelling in the power of her belligerent and somewhat strained voice.  I don't know how he takes it all, but he still manages to give her a damn good lay from what I can judge by the absurdly violent way their mattress creaks at night.  Maybe sex provides him with the only opportunity he gets to dominate her?  Though even that is by no means certain!

     Whether or not he enjoys being made to feel a fool, I haven't a clue.  But he keeps coming back for more punishment all the same.  Why, they are virtually a pair of sadomasochists!  In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he is secretly afraid of her.  At least that would seem a reasonable supposition when you bear in mind what he has to go through most nights.  She wouldn't get away with so much verbal abuse if she were dealing with one of my sort, though.  Yet the chances of a man like me getting involved with a cow like that are pretty slim; I am far too sensible.

     Anyway I think that, generally speaking, most women have this advantage over us; morality or, perhaps I should say, sexual deference   prevents us from thrashing them.  Now whenever I bump into her companion on the stairs or in the hall we remain fairly cordial, not simply because we don't particularly dislike each other but almost as though we were also subliminally aware of the physical violence we could inflict upon each other in the event of either or both of us losing our temper for some reason.  But where she is concerned, nothing in the world could prevent her from being abusive if she felt confident that her gender protected her from retaliatory violence.  This, I believe, is the crux of the matter.  She exploits male deference in her desire to dominate her boyfriend, and comes out top dog nine times out of ten.  He evidently tolerates being abused, presumably for some ulterior motive. 

     However, although that is how it appears to me at present, I wouldn't stake my life on it, by any means!  They only concern me insofar as the noise level is concerned and if that were kept down to a bare minimum, I wouldn't blink a speculative eyelid.

     Now I think it's time for me to take a stroll around town and get myself a bite to eat.  Enough writing for the time being!

 

 

SATURDAY EVENING

 

Since it was still raining I didn't go to the West End, but stayed fairly locally.  Quite frankly, I lacked the courage to tackle the more crowded parts of town.  Yet I wasn't feeling particularly happy about it, partly, I suspect, because I still hadn't got over the ignominy of being duped the other day.  I went out feeling like a fool.

     How shall I explain?  Well, it all started last Thursday, when I received some money through the post from my long-suffering aunt.  Considering that I hadn't even remotely expected anything of the kind, I was momentarily placed in a state-of-mind bordering on euphoria; I could have kissed somebody, even the upstairs neighbour.  Since there was nobody around to kiss, however, I thanked my lucky stars and quickly got ready to go out.  For some weeks I had been living on the borderline, resigned, in the absence of literary recognition, to having just enough money on which to scrape by.  But this little surprise - evidently in response to the letter I had earlier written my aunt informing her of my dire financial straits - would now enable me to buy myself a record or even a new shirt, depending how I felt.

     Since I already had enough shirts in the wardrobe, I opted for some music and duly headed towards the local record shop which had the widest selection of the sort of music I had in mind.  My contribution to the proprietor's financial well-being would undoubtedly meet with a favourable response.  He would welcome the money as though his very survival depended on it.  After all, I would only be doing my bit to keep the economy turning, to put money into circulation instead of hoarding it like a miser, hiding it under the mattress or somewhere.  It was bound to favour somebody.

     When I eventually got to the shop, which happens to be in Muswell Hill, I straightaway proceeded to hunt among the hundreds of classical sleeves on display, having previously acquired a taste for French piano music, especially that of Ravel and Debussy.  However, there were so many records from which to choose, so many I didn't want, and so many I hadn't heard before that, in my increasingly perplexed state-of-mind, I eventually settled for an album of piano sonatas by Scriabin, that little-known and rarely-played Russian composer.  For one thing, it was piano music and, for another, its dignified cover readily appealed to me.  Besides which, I was beginning to feel a trifle dizzy, a shade uncomfortable about hunting around from one pile of sleeves to another without actually getting anywhere.  I even felt slightly intimidated by the proprietor's suspicious glances, by his occasional optical stabs in my direction, which seemed to suggest that I was taking an awfully long time in deciding what to buy and that, if I wasn't an outright crank or a roguish and possibly none-too-experienced schemer who just might be a danger to the condition of his record sleeves, I could well be something worse.  It seemed that my presence there was beginning to annoy him.  Even so, that shouldn't have bothered me.  Ordinarily I am anything but an easy customer to satisfy.  I must have walked in and out of this particular shop on at least five previous occasions without having bought anything.  Shopping annoys me, not least of all when it comes to music.  Why, I'm virtually paranoid!  About half the total records - and more than half the cassettes - I ever buy always end up either being sold to someone or, failing that, thrown in the dustbin.  They fail to please me.

     Well, I continued to nose through his selections, pulling out sleeves all over the place, looking at the pictures (if any), biting my lower lip, and generally making a fool of myself and perhaps also, unwittingly, of him.  I had moved from the piano section to the concerto section, from the concerto section to the symphony section, from the symphony section to the organ section, from the organ section back to the piano section, from there to the vocal section and even, bizarrely, to the film section.  It seemed as though I would never make up my mind, that I would gradually become a sort of permanent fixture, albeit one that was capable of a limited degree of autonomy.  Strangely, it didn't appeal to me in the least to ask the proprietor to play something, because the chances were that I wouldn't like it, would tell him to take if off and play something else, only to discover, much to my disgust, that I didn't like that either.

     To be sure, there had already been enough problems in my life with rock and jazz albums, without the necessity of my now adding so-called classical music to it as well.  That would have been the last thing I wanted!  So I shuffled back from the film section to the piano section, impulsively fished out the Scriabin, and rather self-consciously slapped the sleeve down on the proprietor's counter.

     Something about the look the elderly man gave me, however, indicated that things weren't quite shaping up to his expectations.  I wondered, for a moment, whether I hadn't made a mistake, whether it wouldn't be wiser to suddenly change my mind, fish out a cheaper or better one, though, to be honest, I didn't think it would be too expensive and was more concerned about the nature of the music.  But before I could do or suggest anything of the kind, before I could even move my lips, he had picked up the sleeve and begun searching for its record.  As on other such occasions, he gave the disc, once found, what appeared to be a thorough inspection, taking due account of the grooves on both sides and even going so far as to take a measured vertical view of it, doubtless to ensure that it wasn't warped and therefore wouldn't start bouncing up and down on my turntable when I eventually got round to playing it.  No, that condition was reserved for me, when he informed me, in his customarily suave tone-of-voice, that it would cost Ł4.99p.  I almost fainted!  I had unwittingly let myself in for one of the more expensive recordings.  My former rather too optimistic expectations were rapidly deflated.  I had naively imagined that the price would be somewhere in the region of Ł2.99p, like the previous record I had bought in his shop - a selection of Ravel's piano music, and a by-no-means bad selection either!  But this record was obviously quite another story, and one that I could ill-afford, even with ten quid to-hand.  Had he not made such a show of checking it, the crafty old devil, I would have informed him it was too expensive or, at any rate, musically unsuitable and that I would therefore have no option but to select something else.  But his unassuming politeness had lulled me into a false sense of complacency, so I reluctantly fished out the note from my pocket and nervously handed it across the counter to his outstretched hand.  After all, I had only myself to blame!

     Well, as can be imagined, I beat a demoralized retreat and headed straight back home, oblivious of the book and wine shops which would otherwise have arrested my attention and possibly even secured my humble patronage.  Somehow, I knew from the moment I bought this cursed record that I had made a dreadful mistake; the rest of the afternoon was against me.  Even the leather bag in which I had hidden it wasn't really protective enough.  Every glance from other people would inevitably condemn me.  I walked back rather hurriedly with my head bowed most of the way; for I didn't want to see or to be seen by anyone, least of all anyone whose face was familiar to me.  But when I got indoors and tentatively, nervously, almost reluctantly placed the disc on the turntable, turned-up the volume, put on my headphones, and sat down in my creaky armchair, everything was gradually revealed to me; I had made a dreadful mistake!  Never in my life had I encountered such an appalling row, never before experienced music so far removed from my tastes.

     When I came to my senses I was in a fit of rage; I could have smashed something - the Venus statuette, for instance.  The room became as lugubrious as the music, the clouds pressed heavily against the window panes, and I cursed to myself, as though complaining to an imaginary audience: "To think that there are so-called cultured people who are actually impressed by this sort of noise!  They're all mad, absolutely mad!"  So saying, I stamped my foot on the floor in Hamsunesque vein and then exasperatedly threw myself onto the bed.  Yes, I had certainly put money into circulation all right, but, for once, I had duped myself in the process.  Things were looking awfully down that afternoon!

     Largely on account of my financial constraints, I don't buy records or cassettes all that often these days.  But, whenever I do, I'm usually fortunate enough to be able to appreciate the greater part of what I hear, particularly the classical music which, for reasons of economy, I almost invariably buy on disc.  On Thursday, however, the law of averages was against me.  I certainly couldn't appreciate the greater part of what I heard then!  It was far too disjointed and atonal.  Everything about the music only served to make me feel more depressed and dissatisfied.  There didn't seem to be one worthwhile melody on the entire record, not one!  For the most part, there were just notes, notes which weren't particularly interesting and which didn't seem to lead to any logical resolution.  It was the sort of thing that you instinctively know you've heard before: fairly nondescript 'serious' music - absolutely characterless!  To think that there were people who regularly allowed themselves to be taken-in by this kind of stuff, I said to myself!  They read the blurb as quickly as possible, if in fact they read anything at all, and immediately their minds are made up for them; they see the calibre of the music even before they hear it.  They go along to the concert hall and sit through several hours of barbarous insanity, sheer cacophony, an anarchic degeneration euphemistically marketed in terms of modern experimentalism but the product, more usually, of cultural reaction, and rather than appear unappreciative, and hence naive, ignorant, superficial, presumptuous, conservative, philistine, impatient, ignoble, etc., they behave like a flock of sheep being led to the slaughter and clap as loudly and enthusiastically as possible, as though the cacophony, however unintelligible, was actually well-worth listening to and paying for, since something that constituted musical progress.  Some of them would doubtless continue clapping until their hands sprouted blisters if they had to, the mugs, or even until their hands were blood raw!

     Well, at least I have the consolation of knowing that I haven't fallen so low, that I'm not so easily satisfied.  My musical eclecticism usually saves me from succumbing to such self-deceptions by preventing me from going too far in any given direction, by fixing definite limits to my respective predilections.  I am evidently a member of that breed of culturally conservative souls who feel much safer with certain of the established classics, compositions known to possess a discernible quantity of agreeable musicality; piano concertos, for example, like Brahms' 2nd, Prokofiev's 3rd, or the Grieg and Dvorák ones.  Where many of these so-called avant-garde works are concerned, however, I remain unflinchingly sceptical, if not downright contemptuous!

     Well, so much for all that!  I wouldn't have taken the trouble to write about this affair with the Scriabin had I not gone out feeling like a fool today.  I knew that I would pass the record shop and I also knew that I wouldn't be able to force myself to look through its plate-glass window into the brightly lit interior, at least not for the time being.  That shop was strictly taboo!  For, when I eventually walked past the place, it was half in the assumption that the proprietor would recognize me and classify me as a fool, and half in the assumption that I really was one, with little or no musical taste.  Therefore it was only natural that I should prefer to retain a low profile, so to speak.

     Of course, in all likelihood the proprietor wouldn't have recognized me even if, by some remote chance, he'd had time to see me.  And even if he were to recognize me, I wouldn't have been any the worse for it physically.  Nonetheless, such a perfectly rational consideration wasn't sufficient to prevent me from feeling acutely self-conscious.  Quite the contrary, I hurried past like a guilty thief.

     However, now that I have recorded my impressions, like a little schoolgirl, I feel slightly better.  I had to get them off my chest somehow and, since I don't have anyone with whom to discuss my affairs, writing them down in this journal is the only solution.  But I ought to have learnt my lesson by now.  I oughtn't to make that sort of mistake again!

     So the day has passed, the rain has stopped, and I am sitting in my little box-like room as usual.  I don't feel such a fool now and, besides, things are beginning to look up this evening, an outcome I hardly dared anticipate in the morning, and not only because I feared that I would turn into a marionette dangling from unenviable domestic strings, a boot thrower, a directionless wanderer, or something even worse, but also because, for some time now, Saturday evenings have been the most depressing of the entire week.

     Now I know that may seem an incredibly strange statement to make but, all the same, it is rooted in indelible experience.  More precisely, on Saturday evening you would like to socialize a little, to enjoy yourself with a woman.  That is all it really boils down to, I'm afraid.  For Saturdays and Sundays are pretty much alike in this respect: they each have their fixed limits.  On Saturday evenings you imagine that people are having a good time and letting themselves go, and on Sunday mornings you imagine that they are lying in bed with a hangover and recovering from their 'sins' of the previous night, just taking things easy and slowly preparing themselves, confessions or no confessions, for Monday, because Mondays also have their fixed limits.  Yet this is precisely what bothers me about it.  My Saturday evenings are too much like any other evening to be particularly enjoyable; they usually amount to so many wasted hours.

     Sounds penetrate my eardrums from other parts of the house.  I hear radios mumbling, televisions screeching, neighbours chattering, bedsprings jingling, children crying (the people in the next-door flat are a family), telephones ringing, footsteps clumping across the upstairs floor, tap water running, the front door slamming, and, in addition to all these routine disturbances, a medley of fairly nondescript sounds which I can't even begin to fathom.  Now if I wanted to assert my presence, to become a part of the Saturday-evening atmosphere and add to the general hubbub, I could do no more than play a few over-familiar records on my stereo and/or make a rather bluesy sound on an old acoustic guitar.  But I don't always feel in the mood, alas, for such little cultural diversions which, in any case, only succeed in depressing me after a while or, worse still, engendering a feeling of merciless self-contempt.  Saturday evenings should be dedicated to better things than self-contempt!

     For example, romance.  A beautiful woman lies on my bed and stares me unashamedly in the face.  I don't know where I stumbled across her and I don't really care either, though it must have been somewhere quite interesting, and she must have been interested in me to attract my attention so openly, because I noticed, from the moment I clapped eyes on her, that she wasn't the usual glum-looking sort of woman but seemed possessed of an engaging generosity of spirit.  Indeed, her entire appearance, the intelligence and charm with which she conducted herself, suggested the likelihood of a person utilizing life to her own advantage rather than being submerged or crushed by it.

     But what matter?  She is here and I recognize her for herself, as also for the transformation she has wrought in me.  She is at one with her personality, confident of herself though by no means haughty or intimidating.  We are accomplices who understand each other and, as such, we are prepared to show patience with each other, to make allowances, to revel in our respective idiosyncrasies.  We know, too, that we are going to revel in each other's bodies in another hour, two hours - what matter?  Time is immaterial because time is no longer the governing factor.  Our conversation is spontaneous, frank, absorbing.  We read each other too well to be interested in playing silly little games, in stalling for the 'perfect' moment, in creating little 'theatrical' effects.  Our mutual sex-appeal is too obviously evident to allow us to be side-tracked by considerations of mechanical etiquette or petty convention.  We didn't even go to the cinema; there was nothing either of us particularly wanted to see.  No, and we certainly didn't make gastronomic fools of ourselves in some expensive restaurant; that would have been completely out-of-the-question!  But a moment will come when, lying on her back, she will feel me run the fingers of my tender hands over her dark-stockinged thighs and up under her close-fitting miniskirt to the contours of her groin, where, advancing under the gusset of her panties, they will contentedly nestle in the dark mass of pubic hair which crowns her sex.  This is an evening that won't be wasted!

     I awake from these tender reflections with a painful start and the concomitant realization that I have achieved nothing more than a gratuitous erection.  There isn't even a blue stocking to be seen.  I'm an idle dreamer!

     It is almost half-twelve, so I am going to bed.  There doesn't seem to be much point in staying up any longer.

 

 

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