1 And I am very tired
The first person said: “And I am very tired. My achilles tendons can barely support me.”
The second person: “But now it’s peaceful here, as we sit in our living room, barely furnished, the sky darkening over the West Hill outside the window and the occasional scream of a seagull drifting in. This was the closest I’d felt to tears, since … when?”
And the third: “Suppose we were not really here?”
It may be that that person was not, in fact, present. How do we know these things actually happen? You wake up to the light, and the images. The light coming back off the sea, which is out of sight. There was a bit of business phoning and emailing, and racing around in blind fear stuffing last minute things into last minute containers as the men marched in rapid rotation carrying cardboard and everything became glorious. The seagulls stood regally on the roofs, and music was introduced. It says in this book that there will be a sudden understanding. A contract was concluded. The colour is white.
2 Talking to the dogs
The sea glittered. They went from Christmas to about the middle of April, trawling. You shouted at me, and I was filled with remorse for my behaviour. On the Stade then, wandering among the beached fishing boats, abandoned tackle and rusting tractors, only a short distance from the bustle of crowds on the seafront. Then you cleaned the boats out, because you had about 300 shovelfuls of ballast in them when they had no nets in – they were empty, you had to put some ballast in to trim them. The breeze was very stiff near to the waves. You took me to the clifftop, where the cloudscape was magnificent. Jackdaws strutted in the grass.
They returned via woodland path and twitten. That the transit of Venus had occurred – you took it on trust. White clouds vanishing fast, renewed breeze via the stairs, past gorse and bracken. I blew my top at the guy on the premium rate support line. The two big dogs. They didn’t seem so alienating when we got to speak to them.
3 The house
The first person and the second person lived in a house near the sea. Like a great teenager, it stood awkwardly tall between the other buildings, weatherboarding on the gable end, its late 17th century ribs fashioned from ship’s timbers.* Its glass doors were darkened, so that it was a surprise to open them and come out into brilliant sunshine that fit the space perfectly. The house was filled with flourishing things: plants on a long windowsill, with the weeping fig right by the entrance, a great, black, crooked beam crossing the space, nestling alcoves, an apple mobile and a wooden parrot hung where they got a share of the light on the landing, a winding flight covered in oatmeal, kindlier spotlights installed in troughs by the white party wall. To the left of the piano, on the wall facing the front door, two of their tall bookcases had been placed, and these were quickly stocked. Lemon trees lined the patio.
The second person: “That business about ‘your life flashing before you’. It’s about making sense of it, making a structure of it before it’s too late. But if you look at it that way, it’s always too late. Just as you realise, ‘Ah, that’s what it was …’”
The first person replied with a few impromptu words. I can’t remember what they were.
The third person smiled, but said nothing – perhaps sipping reflectively from a wineglass. Semillon Chardonnay.
* There is in fact no evidence for this.
4 The sea
At the edge, the sea’s margin; the sea, and the things and beings in it. Their type, location and quantity, which vary dramatically according to the season of the year and the weather.
The themes were sea, fishing; margins, edges, boundaries; the boundary that defines; the passage from one to the other. “But we are all dying.”
Dover sole and plaice, and other flat fish such as dabs, flounders, lemon soles, brills, turbots, cod and the various types of dogfish. All can be taken by by trawling or trammelling.
Hard to keep your footing in the wind whipping in as you watched a group of surfers nestling and waiting under the harbour arm, or was it the eastern groyne, in the huge brown, grey & white waves that rolled in relentlessly from a long way off under a brightening sky. Choosing the wave to go with. Repeatedly, the gulls hovered over the waves, using the wind to remain motionless, hoping to pick up the odd stray fish flung up by the rough water. They waited, and then they took the opportunity. Skimming on the surface, and what’s under it. Breakfast, lunch and tea. Rushing of the shingle.
Large shoals of mackerel, herring, sprats, lobsters, shrimps and whelks.
5 Day after day
Yesterday, and the day before, and tomorrow, which is always another day, which begins and ends, never to be retrieved, which is always dawning and dusking for the first and last time, you will find the first person, lacking a broadband connection; the second person, doing practice. Crushed and fragmented boxes, heavy duty holes drilled in the brick of the chimney. Fairly fruitless activity, s/he said (the third person), but perhaps socially useful. It’s about space, going the distance, and keeping tight at the back, only to succumb to two goals in injury time. Or did they say it’s time for brandies in the garden at the back? Three cats inhabit it; you also get a good view of the herring gulls, which fly about constantly making a fearful noise and spotting the decking with their guano. “You’re such a chimp!” you said (the second person). I (the first person) was encumbered with a pair of heavy speaker stands. Five-finger exercises, it’ll come. They get up to a great hysterical kerfuffle in the early hours of the morning. I hate this computer, its touchpad is too touchy. This morning, to my horror, I lost it for a while, but got it back. In Courthouse Street, another stood in the middle of the road looking bemused, not flinching when the first person passed. The alcove is superb, and suddenly that L-shaped room looks homely.
6 The house (2)
The first house was the progenitor of the second house. Like a phantom on the far side of the mirror, it stood beyond the first, creaking in the weather, late in another century.
Its interior space was darkened, so that it could not be fathomed. The second house was filled with things that were dying, sentimental songs, cacti, the evil mother, a Mynah bird, ghosts of trees, the early hours of a morning.
Under the high eaves, between the rafters that spanned that unfathomable space, rich piano chords had been placed, and these quickly modulated. Reverberations limned the co-ordinates. They revealed the decay of time that we call the future. The house would not be made sense of, you’d fall asleep long before you could.
But look at it, and it goes away. Just as you realise, “It wasn’t that …” The second house was the dream of the first house. You can’t remember where you saw it. The second house was the mind of the first. Semi-transparent, charged with electricity.
7 In space
Under the high eaves, the darkness, and above the eaves, the light. And above that, more light. The weather is banded; there is self-similarity. There are no verbs or nouns in it. The house is a vast process, or series of processes, in which we (its inhabitants) play a small part, appearing and disappearing in it as characters do in a story; but, just as it grew and changed for centuries before our first arrival, so it will continue after we have gone, its timbers slowly decaying, until at some point in the future it, too, will fail. The space it encloses will no longer be enclosed. We drift in the sun, we drift in the lights of the moon. Drifting, long-lining, seining, trammelling, trawling.
The first person entered into a journal: “After we had visited the caves, pale sunshine started to come through while we walked down to the old town through the twittens.” The first person was as dissatisfied with this sentence as s/he (I) had been with any other. Always s/he had wanted to capture that illusion of interiority, the idea that there is someone or some entity in there. But the words s/he entered into the laptop captured nothing, and perhaps could never capture anything, not even white space.
Ken Edwards is the author of the sequence of 14 liners 8 + 6 from his own press Reality Street. He lives in Hastings where it is good to see that he's picked up good old Sussex words like 'twitten'.