Coales' Notes: Feeling the earth move

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
MONDAY: Rowena: I feel the distance between us has become insurmountable. Today we walked up a hill. I wanted something to be said. At the top, I spoke about my forthcoming interview with Ars Longa. I told her I had met the man in charge, and he seemed to be looking for someone with cultural weight. But I just didn't believe I could play this role any more. On the other hand, if it came off, it might involve my moving to London. What did she think?

She looked out over the view and said: 'Don't you feel it? The transformation is happening. We're all changing. The earth is moving on to her next stage of evolution. New energies are beginning to encircle the planet. A new spirituality. You must allow yourself to work as one of these energies.'

Stirring in its way - but with Rowena, I can never work out whether this kind of thing is an invitation or a brush off. Probably she is just warming up for her story-circle, which re-starts at the library this week.

I said I really didn't think this approach would cut much ice with my employers. These people weren't into ultimate values. They were in the business of a brisk turnover - not least in personnel apparently, as the last man in the job had been killed in an art accident.

We parted. Later, I had a call from someone at Ars Longa called (ominously) Di. Could I possibly make it Thursday, not tomorrow? I said fine. It gives me a little more time to think. I dare say they're having to dispose of another body.

TUESDAY: No ideas. I have nothing to offer anybody. I am an empty husk of a man.

WEDNESDAY: Rowena turned up here at a very late hour, aglow. She said: 'I think the transformation is happening.' Her circle apparently went exceptionally well, it was practically a seance. One man had told a tale about a dog with such commitment that he had literally barked for 20 minutes. So she wanted to come over.

This hasn't happened for many weeks. But now I cannot sleep. It is 6am, and I must be off before lunch.

THURSDAY: Started terribly late. Missed two trains, and had to take a taxi from Euston. I eventually found the address. They said 'fringes of Islington', but I think fringes of Archway would be more accurate. The Ars Longa offices are above a sort of alternative bookshop, but quite smart. I was shown into a conference room.

Silver came in, followed by Di, who was introduced to me as someone I would be working with closely. She said she would just finish her story, and went on: 'So I thought it was just going to be liaising, but when I walked in they said: OK Di, so what's the festival? I had to think really fast. So I thought: what was I reading in the paper on the train? And I said: Right, the idea is, it's going to be about Bosnia. And they said: Great] And then I thought: Oh Christ, what Bosnian artists can I think of? And then I thought: Yes] The architect, Le Courvoisier.'

Silver must have seen my face, and he gave me an enquiring look. I took this as my cue to play Mr Knowledge, and murmured: Le Corbusier surely. But wasn't he Swiss?

Di said: 'Oh hell. So who was I thinking of?' I suggested Brancusi possibly, though he was Romanian. Di went on: 'Well, they're not going to know that in Somerset, are they? Anyway, they really like the project.'

I must say my fears about the outfit were thoroughly confirmed by this stage. Then Silver smiled at me, and said: 'But hypothetically, Gordon, in a comparable situation, what would you have proposed?'

My mind of course was entirely blank. But I opened my mouth, and heard myself say that something that was very much in the air at the moment was what might be called, in the broadest sense, a new spirituality etc. I've never offered such a ridiculous proposal in my life.

Silver asked: 'And what about spirituality in the narrowest sense?' I was completely thrown. I said well, presumably that would mean the Church of England. They might like to throw themselves into the arts, since they seemed to have tried every other option.

Silver exclaimed: 'Good. Now what I like very much about this New Spirituality Project is: one, it's nationwide, and two, it exploits an existing structure. So, how many bishops d'you know, Gordon?'

I replied, none. And he said 'All right, let's start with the man at the top. D'you want to do it, Gordon?' I protested that one couldn't just ring up the Archbishop of Canterbury out of the blue, but Di said 'You can - that's the whole point,' and got the number.

I dialled.

But thank God it was now pretty late and they knock off punctually at Lambeth Palace. And then the interview seemed to dissolve rapidly, hands were shaken, and I travelled home in deep shock. I am nothing.

FRIDAY: Astounding. Just received a call from Di. 'We'd like you to start next week if you could.' I thought it best not to be a push-over. I said absolutely not. I couldn't even think of anything until the week following. She said 'Great'. I feel extremely well. I very nearly rang up the Archbishop at once, just to get things moving. Now I'm going over to Rowena's.