I'm sitting here trying to see what I can write, and it's different from thinking, because I have my eyes open and I'm staring beyond everything in front of me. Further than the beef and horseradish sandwich in my hand, past the paperwork on the desk, past the scrawny handwritten word "Uganda" and a long, long way past the window in front of me.
I can see all these things but my eyes are pierced sharp into a loch; a deep, deep, beautiful, ice-cold loch. I'm in Scotland and I'm standing next to somebody I love and it's like a strange surreal dream. The water is icy still and the sun, a cold lemony winter yellow, shines across the loch like a Nordic pathway. Even though I am in Scotland I feel like I'm in Scandinavia. I feel like I'm standing in an Edvard Munch painting.
Everything is slow motion, I think of a title of the painting that I'm standing in. Maybe The Lover's Conversation, The Reunion, all sounds a little bit clichéd but it has to be in the early 1900's Munch mode when great paintings were titled, such as Three Girls On A Bridge, Jealousy, The Dance, The Sick Child – paintings that had meaning for the person making them, which then transmitted meaning to the person viewing them. It was all done in a very simple alchemic referral.
Three times last weekend whilst in Scotland, I had the most incredible déjà vu's. They scared me. It wasn't as simple as "I think I've been here before," it was as though I was re-treading my footsteps.
We went past one loch, pitched deep between bleak, gargantuan hills and on top of the hills were even bleaker, jagged mountain ranges. As we drove past the loch I looked between the winter trees and I said: "God that place is really dark there." We both nodded in agreement. I said I imagined something from the dead rowing across the water.
These lochs, it really is as though they are gateways to another world. But this one loch in particular seemed so dark, as though light had never shone on it. The kind of place that makes me feel ill at ease just thinking about it. I should stop thinking about it.
All this week I've felt ill at ease, nervous and slightly sleepless. Scotland is very romantic and very beautiful and very old, it seems so much older than England. Maybe it's because so much of it is unspoilt and it's easy to feel spiritually involved, to imagine ghosts and mystic worlds, when things are so natural and nature rules.
I wonder if as human beings we become physically ill when deprived of nature. I thrive in an urban landscape, I breathe bricks and stone, pavements, streetlamps, shops and traffic lights. For years this has been my natural habitat. It's where I feel comfortable.
But in truth it's years since I felt comfortable. Sometimes I have small sleeps where upon waking I feel that my soul has been replenished and a certain degree of poison has left my body naturally to join the ether and slowly disappear.
I'm sure that we have strange stains of ourselves floating smeared but yet invisible, creating strange atmospheric patterns on the earth. That's the kind of thing that Edvard Munch painted. The kind of thing Ibsen wrote about. The invisible things that are there, that make themselves known within our daily existence.
Every night when I go up to bed I have a tray. Sometimes hot milk, sometimes herbal tea, but usually full with a book, telephone, Blackberry, whatever usual paraphernalia I feel is necessary to sleep with. Docket will run ahead of me at each flight. I usually have the landing lights on due to the fact that I'm afraid of the dark. I know that my carbon emission trail is going to burn me in hell but my fear of the dark unfortunately far out weights the decline of our planet. But this week, the night of the earthquake (just to keep things low key), as I came up the last flight of stairs to my bedroom the night light wasn't on.
As Docket ran ahead, I placed the tray at the top of the stairs and fumbled for the light of my bedroom. Just for a moment, as I stared across the room, I saw someone sitting on the end of my bed. Instead of being totally afraid I just stood there staring at this dark apparition. I thought to myself, imagine how frightening it would be if it was a real person sitting there! And at that, as I turned on the light, picked up my tray, a few quick meows from Docket, the apparition vanished.
I used to think that darkness came from fear, but now maybe, just sometimes, the dark comes to comfort us. As Friedrich Nietzsche once said to Munch: "The darkness has not come to take you away. It has come to embrace you." I just made that up. Hee hee.
I went to Edvard Munch's studio – a tiny wooden house on the edge of a fjord. The thing that really amazed me was the telephone by his bed. I remember picking up the receiver and saying in a deep Norwegian accent: "Allo, Edvard Munch here." I actually held the receiver – the earpiece to my ear, the mouthpiece to my mouth – that Edvard Munch held all those years ago. And for so many years I had studied Edvard Munch and his paintings but never in my wildest moments of my imagination did I ever imagine him laying in bed on the telephone. Yes, with a broken heart, surrounded by apparitions, but never attached to the world by a telephone line.
Tonight I will go to bed with my pot of tea and my cat, and no doubt after I have made peace with the ghost I will punch out a few poetic lines on my Blackberry and send it out into the ether where all invisible things belong. Long live the darkness.Reuse content