CHAPTER TWO: SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION

 

I came to Norwich in an endeavour to get over my solitary years in London.My depression was so severe when I arrived here that I supposed it would take me at least three years to get rid of, even under the best possible conditions.These conditions were not only environmental but, no less significantly, sexual, and it was because Susan lived in Norwich that I chose to move to this particular part of England.She suggested we buy a detached house in the suburbs, and so we duly did, though not before we had scouted farther afield in the hope of finding somewhere cheaper.Our house, modest by palatial standards, overlooked the River Wensum and stood in a pleasantly residential area not far from the outskirts of town.Here one had the benefit of suburban peace and space, as well as easy access to Norwich itself.To me, this seemed a big step on the road to recovery.For I was convinced that living in one of the more built-up parts of north London for eight years had been the prime cause of my depression and that, by nature and temperament, I needed easy access to the country.But, much as I had loathed London, I found Norwich even more loathsome at first, primarily because, in my perverse way, I had got used to a big city and discovered life in the provinces to be comparatively boring.The only real consolation, however, was Susan herself, whom I leaned upon quite heavily during those early months - as much from gratitude that I actually had a woman at last ... as from disenchantment with Norfolk.

†††† I had married her shortly after leaving London, though not because I particularly believed in or wanted marriage ... so much as to prevent her from being snapped-up or distracted by anyone else.I wasn't deeply in love with her now, nor, I suppose, had I ever really been so, but found her company agreeable and her body, well, as everything I had always hoped it would be, when I lay in bed alone in my shabby little room in Crouch End and thought about her, wondering if she would have forgotten me from our brief but momentous encounter some five years previously.Other women hadn't made any great impression on me in the meantime, while my straightened circumstances ... coupled to my disdain of the intensely urban milieu in which I languished, a captive of poverty and neglect, weren't exactly conducive to romance.Thus Susan was understandably surprised that I still had an interest in her when I eventually moved to Norwich, but, luckily for me, she wasn't averse to marrying anew and settling down, in relative tranquillity, with a self-proclaimed genius.

†††† Later, when she came to read my works, especially the best and most revolutionary of them, she knew who I was and had no doubt that she had done the right thing.I told her that I had a mission to perform in the service of my ideological beliefs, and she vowed she would do what she could to help me perform it.This she has done and continues to do, as I have already intimated in connection with her body.I needed sex so badly, in coming to Norwich, that I damn-near made passionate love to her every day of the week for the first year or so.I knew I had a backlog, so to speak, of missed sex to catch-up on, and was grateful that she was prepared to help me catch-up on it, even at extra and sometimes wearying cost to herself.But I went to her under no doubts that the process of ridding myself of my crippling depression would be long and difficult, and I explained to her that much of what I did was done not because I particularly desired it, but because I had no alternative if I hoped to fully recover my mental health and be in a fit state-of-mind to address my future ideological responsibilities.

†††† Thus my daily love-making was not the obsession of a satyr or otherwise extremely lecherous individual ... so much as a kind of sensual penance or duty I had long been deprived of, but which I now had no option but to carry-out in the hope of a full recovery.Likewise, my penchant for wine and cigars, though morally abhorrent to me, was upheld in a spirit of stoical perseverance, of paying the Devil his dues, so to speak, in an attempt to acquire a mild downward self-transcendence which would contribute towards my attainment of sensual gratification.I usually hated the taste of the one or two cigars I daily smoked, but I persisted in smoking them if only to counteract the painful results of the excessive asceticism which my previous solitary lifestyle in north London had so cruelly inflicted upon me.In the same spirit, I took regular walks in the country or, at any rate, along country lanes outside Norwich, sometimes with Susan but more often alone, and would soak-up what sensuality I could from the relatively close proximity of so much temperate plant life.Occasionally, too, I would sunbathe either in one of the municipal parks or, preferably, in my back garden for an hour.Tending the flowers there was another way of soaking-up sensuality, and although at first I found this activity rather obnoxious, my persistence in it gradually resulted in a degree of pleasure which, despite all the physical inconvenience, stemmed from the sure knowledge that here was another way of combating my depression, and therefore something well-worth performing in the interests of total recovery.Add to this the fact of better meals and a slightly deeper, longer sleep - a consequence in part of Susan's reassuring company beside me at night - and one has the chief ingredients in my war against the past.

†††† Another ingredient, though one less frequently employed, was to take periodic holidays in the hottest possible countries, such as Greece, Spain, and Sicily, where I would soak-up as much sun as possible, and so lead a more intensively pagan existence than ever I could in England.We had thought, previously, of moving to the Mediterranean for good, but I had decided that, for the time being at any rate, we would stay in England, as I would thereby be in closer touch with the art dealers and more accessible to my agent, not to mention to people connected with my political interests.If the depression persisted or showed little signs of improving, I had decided that an entire winter spent in Greece or Sicily would be the best course.But, at present, I was still optimistic that such improvements as had occurred would continue to occur, regardless of the climate, provided all the chief ingredients of my war on depression were maintained at approximately their usual obdurate level.Despite my faith in the healing powers of the sun, Susan and the countryside still remained my best medicine!

†††† So much, then, for my pagan-oriented existence, which I considered only a temporary measure on the road to full recovery and, in consequence, no more than a stepping-stone to my future ambitions.I came to Norfolk, however, with a strong transcendental bias, hating nature and everything that stemmed from it.I haven't lost this bias even now, sixteen months since my arrival, and I know that, fundamentally, my opinion of nature will never change, even when and if I get well again.I will always be a transcendentalist using nature for his own purposes, not an ignorant adherent of it complacently acquiescent in everything sensual!I have recorded my thoughts about nature in the most progressive of my works, whether essayistic or novelistic, and I know that, objectively considered, such thoughts will never be refuted by me or withdrawn as errors.To get to the truth, I had to live in the solitary hell I have described in my experience of north London, and forego all identification or association with nature.I suffered terribly, but I did get to the truth, and that truth will remain, no matter what happens to me personally.I may live like a pagan now, but there is no chance of my actually becoming one!Whatever I do to get as much sensuality as possible into my life, I will always despise the sensual and live as an outsider in nature - at an evolutionary remove, so to speak, from those who have never lived in a giant city for any length of time.

†††† And this, of course, includes Susan, who is much more intrinsically fond of nature and the country in general than me.One reason why I can't read her novels is that they pay tribute to nature in a way which I, with my urban background, find disgusting and positively sinful.In this respect, I dare say she is merely voicing the heartfelt instincts of her gender.But, being a man, I don't share them and never will.I could have told Dr Richardson the other night that my wife takes as little interest in my paintings as I take in her writings, but I somehow didn't get round to it, possibly because of tiredness.Of course, she occasionally says nice things about them, telling me how pretty the colour arrangements look.But, fundamentally, she has no real appreciation or understanding of what I am doing.And neither, for that matter, has anyone else, least of all Major Saunders, who nonetheless recently bought one of my works - as a gesture, I suspect, of neighbourly goodwill.Yet painting is really passť now, no matter how abstract or transcendental one's canvases may appear, so I can't pretend I do it with any real enthusiasm or conviction.I am no Mondrian or Kandinsky.For the age of abstract painting is long over, having died shortly after them.If one isn't a pioneer of new trends, using new technologies, one isn't in the front rank.One may even be a boor or amateur play-acting at being a serious, professional artist.

†††† Well, I know that, whilst I may not be a pioneer of new artistic techniques, I am at least doing the best I can to fill-in time, as I overcome my illness, before I take measures to abandon art altogether and enter the political arena in obedience to my true destiny.I have never thought, regardless of what others may have said, that painting was my life's vocation, to be continued into old age.It was simply expedient for me to put one or two of my philosophical concepts into paint, while living with the certain knowledge that some day I would be ready and willing for higher things.Besides, there is such a prodigious backlog of novels and other writings for my agent to wade through - assuming he is prepared to - that I would have been mad to carry on writing, thereby adding to the pile and virtually guaranteeing myself that my foremost works would not be published for at least another 8-10 years. In point of fact, I stopped writing nearly two years ago, and shouldn't need to write anything else for at least another five years.But, of course, I know I am not referring to all of my works when I say this, only to those which could be published here.There are others ...

†††† But I digress slightly!Suffice it to say that painting prevents me from being idle now.It is also a further ingredient in my war on depression, since a step down from the intellect, as demanded by literary production, to the senses - principally the eyes.By comparison with writing, it is quite relaxing to paint, so relaxing, in fact, that at times one feels positively moronic, like there is nothing in one's head because one is simply reduced to a pair of eyes with an appendage on the end of one's hand.And my works, being more abstract than concrete, provide little food for thought, so simple is their overall appearance.They are primarily designed for contemplation rather than reflection, as objects to be looked at rather than pondered over.But that is perhaps a shortcoming which I intend to rectify, in some measure, over the coming months, as I grapple with the problem of outlining, in quasi-representational terms, the physical constituents of the Supermen and Superbeings of my conceptual projections in regard to a post-human millennial future.Few people would be able to make any constructive suggestions to me here, for I shall be on entirely novel ground, as already explored in my writings or, at any rate, in the best and most progressive of them.

†††† I ought perhaps to add to the above statements, concerning these writings, that I attained to a maximum of truth in regard to human and subsequent (post-human) evolutionary stages which made it virtually inevitable that I should abandon writing for painting, where I could translate some of my ideas into visual images.Having attained to the unadulterated truth in my writings, I couldn't very well indefinitely extend them, since the end or, rather, goal had been reached, and only embellishments or refinements could have been added.For my writings progressed from dualism or, rather, humanism to transcendentalism, and so attained to a thematic climax beyond which no further progress was possible.I had no option, therefore, but to switch to painting, in the hope that some of my evolutionary ideas could be clarified and better-illustrated through that medium.

†††† As yet, I have only concentrated on the simplest and most straightforward ideas - namely those which don't put too great a strain on my limited technical facility.But I shall soon have to extend the subject-matter of my paintings to embrace my conceptions of the Supermen and Superbeings, as already mentioned.†† By now I am tired of depicting Spiritual Globes and, in a still higher context, the Omega Point, or culmination of all spiritual convergence, as originally taught by Teilhard de Chardin, that in many ways most revolutionary of Catholic thinkers!I must go back down the evolutionary ladder, as it were, to grapple with the millennial contexts of both old brains and new brains artificially supported and no-less artificially sustained.Of course, no-one really knows what I am doing or what my intentions are.They are much too stupid and naive here for that, and this applies as much to Dr Richardson as to Major Saunders or Matthew Sharpe or even Robert Dunne.As to Edmond Shead, whose acquaintance I have yet to make ... despite hispresence at Sharpe's wedding anniversary the other night, I suspect he will be no more receptive or enthusiastic than the others about the future course of evolution, as envisaged by me.That is what you get for living in a country which is fundamentally dedicated to thwarting evolutionary progress and maintaining allegiance to liberal humanism, come what may!I write and speak much too frequently on the transcendent plane for their comfort, and am accordingly obliged to confess, in somewhat Nietzschean vein, that 'I am not the mouth for those ears'.Even Susan, who is supposed to be Irish, takes umbrage at certain of my theories, which she regards as detrimental to traditional female norms.But at least she is prepared to grant them some credence and to acknowledge their long-term plausibility.At least she accepts that I speak the truth, not illusions or half-truths, like our friends and acquaintances.

†††† But if the unadulterated truth is unlikely to be published here, in Britain, it should at least see the light of day in Ireland when the time comes for me to return, as I am sure it will soon.In the meantime, I must persevere with things as they stand here, and thus make an effort to take the general lack of appreciation of higher thought for granted, which makes pariahs out of freethinking intellectuals of a progressive stamp, like me.The English are fundamentally a materialistic people and, consequently, one could hardly expect the idealistic truth of religious or psychological evolution to be championed by them!Even the truth of political evolution is apparently beyond them, insofar as they remain chained to capitalism and thus oppose socialism or anything socialistically transcendent.That is why only my humanistic literary works, stemming from my earliest years as a writer, have been published in England, while the transcendental ones languish on the shelf in my study, awaiting their rightful place when the time comes for radical change in Ireland.There is also, however, an in-between literary realm transitional between humanism and transcendentalism which amounts to a significant proportion of my work and which, if it couldn't be published here, might well find some appreciation in America - that leading transitional civilization of the Western world.For if America isn't exactly on the transcendent level of evolution, it is at least beyond humanism to an extent which makes it more receptive to what might be described as a bias for truth, and so to literary works reflecting a stronger penchant for truth than would be acceptable in England.If 'Betwixt Truth and Illusion', my first volume of philosophy, is acceptable here, then I see no reason why 'A Bias for Truth', a more evolved volume, shouldn't be acceptable there, since it should appeal to a transitional civilization in containing approximately 75% truth (as opposed to merely 25% illusion).However, 'The Unadulterated Truth', my latest volume of philosophy, I must reserve for the coming Ireland, which will, I hope, be entirely transcendental and accordingly able to endorse the strongest possible degree of literary truth.I would be a fool to offer it to any London publishers!

†††† But there are serious drawbacks from being in this position, not the least of which is the tendency people have to identify one with one's published work."Ah, so you're the author of 'Betwixt Truth and Illusion'!" they exclaim, and, somewhat shamefacedly, I have to admit to the fact.The worst part is when they begin to discuss it, asking me about specific parts of the book or giving me their own opinions on the subject-matter under surveillance.Then I really have to grit my teeth and persevere with them in an attempt to avoid a show-down, to spill the beans about my best, i.e. unpublished, work, and thus to reveal my utter contempt for and indifference towards the humanistic material which they mistakenly imagine to be truly representative of my philosophical position.To say: "I no longer believe a word of all this" about such material would be too cruel on them and would expose me, moreover, to a degree of incredulity, on their part, bordering on nihilism, since they would have difficulty in believing that I existed under false pretences, ostensibly as a liberal bourgeois like themselves but, in reality, as a transcendental revolutionary whose best and most progressive work still awaited its rightful publisher!No, that would cause too many complications, including the necessity of my explaining to them exactly what I do believe in - assuming they could be expected to understand it!

†††† Indeed, there are more than a few occasions when I come dangerously close to giving the game away, as it were, with inquisitive strangers whose persistence in dwelling on my published works almost unhinges me and virtually compels me to defend myself from their inaccurate observations and callous accusations by refuting everything they say.But somehow I manage to restrain the impulse to vindicate myself to them, even though at a considerable cost to my intellectual self-esteem.One man even tried to point out the moral limitations of 'Betwixt Truth and Illusion' recently, accusing me of reactionary conservatism.To be sure, I could have emphasized the moral limitations of that work far more cogently and stringently than ever he did!Nevertheless I remained silent and swallowed his shallow criticisms as a matter of course.If he knew who he had really been talking to he would probably have pissed in his pants, the silly sod!But where most people here are concerned, it's the "Forgive-them-for-they-know-not-what-they-do" attitude one is obliged to endorse, if only because the whole truth would be beyond them.

†††† Thus, despite my numerous temptations for self-revelation, I have generally held my tongue and thereby refrained from giving the game away as to my real inclinations.I am something of a wolf in sheep's clothing, though occasionally the clothing has shown signs of wear-and-tear which have come dangerously close to exposing the wolf!Especially is this so of my neighbours and acquaintances - for example, Major Saunders and Dr Richardson, who have had more than a glimpse, in recent weeks, of my true self, and this after I have attempted to reassure them that, at heart, I am a perfectly docile middle-class citizen, with no revolutionary predilections whatsoever.

†††† Of course, I'm not entirely lying when I describe myself as middle class.For I was born into a professional family, even though my father was a comparative failure whom I never saw anything of, while my mother was of working-class origin and didn't live with my father for very long.But I have lived so long in intensively urban environments that my class instincts are somewhat ambivalent, and I often find myself thinking like a proletarian when I am expected to show middle-class sympathies.This has happened quite frequently since I came to Norfolk, so that even my wife has had occasion to raise her brows when I refer to some middle-class habit or value with derisory contempt, and then in the company of people who could only be surprised, if not offended, by it.With regard to appearances, however, they take me for a gentleman, since I don't particularly look or dress like a yob.But the influence of lengthy confinement in a working-class area of north London persists in intruding into my conversation from time to time, so that, if well-intentioned, these respectable bourgeois folk are obliged to shake their capitalist heads and think something to the effect: "Poor fellow, he was really up against it there!", or: "Poor fellow, his class integrity certainly suffered in consequence of all that urban conditioning!", and so on, with accompanying sympathetic expressions thrown-in for good measure.

†††† A bourgeois isn't supposed to hate nature, but I do.They explain this in terms of my long confinement in the city.A bourgeois is supposed to have confidence in parliamentary democracy, but I speak disparagingly of it, likening it to a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.They explain this in terms of my previous lengthy exposure to proletarian views.A bourgeois is supposed to prefer classical music to rock or jazz, but I don't.They explain this by saying that poverty prevented me from regularly attending classical concerts whilst I was in London.A bourgeois is supposed to affirm the relevance of Christianity, especially in its Protestant manifestation, but I detest it and am all in favour of churches being replaced by meditation centres in which transcendentalism prevails.They explain this by saying that my exposure to modern jazz had a detrimental influence on my morals, and so on - all rubbish, to be sure, but that is the only way they can excuse me to themselves and thus save face for having to deal with me either directly or through my wife.

†††† No, I am not middle class, in any strict sense of that term, and I doubt if I shall ever be, no matter how long I live in the country.Rather, I am an amalgam of contradictory elements subject to fluctuation, depending on the environmental and/or social circumstances in which I happen to find myself at any given time.When the time comes for me to throw myself into the battle for social revolution, then I dare say I shall do so with a clear conscience, irrespective of whatever efforts I am now making to lead a perfectly unassuming provincial existence.If I lived above myself in London I'm now being obliged to live beneath myself in Norfolk, until eventually I may regain my psychic equilibrium and live on something approximating to my rightful level.Exactly when that time will come, I don't presume to know.But it will make a pleasant change from living in alien contexts, veering from one extreme to another as one strives to attain a balance.

†††† Tomorrow I shall be going to see what Shead's revolutionary invention is all about, but, in the meantime, something curious has happened.I received a letter from a certain Philomena Hawkins - one of many dozens of letters I receive every week - referring to my latest publication in sympathetic and even flattering tones.She writes that she couldn't quite believe that I was the person she had once known, albeit briefly and superficially, in London all those years ago.For she had no idea what became of me since we last saw each other.The fact that I had become a writer, and a philosophical one to boot, came as quite a shock to her; although it was an even greater shock for her to discover that I had based one of my principal characters in 'Crossed-Purpose' on her, and then in the context of romance.Was she imagining things here, or had I really based Petula on her?Could I please respond?

†††† Well, if respond I must then respond I did, informing her that she may well have conditioned the workings of my subconscious to some extent in the formation and subsequent development of the character in question, although I had no specific person in mind when it was drafted.However, as Philomena had always charmed me whenever we chanced to meet in the past, I added that I should be glad for an opportunity to meet her as soon as possible, even given the fact of her London address, and hoped we could discuss 'Crossed-Purpose' in more detail thereafter.The letter from me was duly posted and now I await, with a certain trepidation, her reply - assuming I get one.Curiously I never once found out what Philomena's surname was, so I had no way of personally contacting her, even though I possessed the rudiments of a Finchley address.It couldn't have been Hawkins at any rate, since that appears to be her marital name, if the 'Mrs' she put against her signature is anything to judge by.She was a Catholic, I remember, and had bright-blue eyes - very Irish-looking really, though spoke with an upper-middle-class English accent.I haven't of course mentioned any of this to Susan, but I expect I will be able to concoct some kind of plausible excuse for going down to London, if and when I receive a positive reply from Philomena.There is always the art dealer and publisher alibi, as well, for reinforcement's sake, as the obligation of a loving son to visit his ailing mother from time to time.But whether I shall be mixing business with pleasure ... is something that will depend on the impression Philomena makes on me, not to mention I on her.Yet I am convinced that she wouldn't have gone to the trouble of writing to me in such flattering tones, if she didn't have some ulterior motive in mind - possibly romantic.I'm not a complete fool and neither, so far as I can recall, is she.In fact, she seemed very intelligent, a literary student and woman of musical taste, when I knew her.More cultured than any other young woman I had ever known or currently know, including my wife.