There’s a meme floating around (I choose that verb deliberately) regarding humorous responses to noise pollution. It’s not always funny, though, this daily hazard of incessant public announcements, music, phones, sirens and other environmental nuisances. It drove me out of London to rural France for eighteen months so that I could catch up on some sleep. What is rarely addressed is the impact of non-mechanical noise, the personal, physiological racket (aside from shouting) due to the general inability of the population to move quietly and with composure.
I flew away on a rare clear blue day. Towards the land of Antonio, Valentine, Romeo, creations tangled in the language of banishment, passion and despair.
Edging towards the albino coast, breaker of storms and smugglers, hunting ground for traffickers of shells and slaves, I surfed the drifting memories that most British children harbour – Whitsun half-terms, a new swimsuit, sandcastles and burial pits ploughed into a grainy, grey shore.
As a rule, I don’t cry over celebrity deaths. Well, Ian Curtis perhaps, but I was very young, depressed and I think more than a little affected by John Peel’s understated, heartfelt radio announcement. Now I’m older and less depressed, but hearing about Mick Karn’s death from cancer on 4th January really upset me.
I have been pondering how best to dispose of my wedding dress for some time now. It’s a thing of beauty, ivory beaded silk, embroidery, a ton of material and all the subtle frills and furbelows of majesty. I rightly felt beautiful wearing it and regardless of the events that life has dished up to me since that hazy day, nothing changes the fact that it was a terrific wedding and everyone had a great time.
I have a fondness for the occasional footy game. Now and again, a major Final can be a grand thing to watch. It reminds me of being a child round at my Nan and Grandad’s in East London, commentary blasting out from their huge colour TV, (a fiftieth wedding anniversary present from their sons), a rumbling accompaniment to Nan’s overcooked yellow vegetables and crusty rice pudding. Dad also enjoyed his Sunday soccer, as did my formidable lesbian great aunts. We’d all watch the game while the adults smoked roll-ups and quaffed a pint, after which I would be taken for a walk round the cemetery. In later years at drama school, I used to support our luvvie team who courted controversy (and potential assault) by playing matches in netball skirts and lipstick, so there’s a definite whiff of home comfort, roast dinner and insanity that attaches me to football.
Two years ago today, I was in Lithuania with a bunch of like-minded people, celebrating the midsummer festival of Rasos among the revivalist pagan Romuva. Lithuanians were still practising their formalised folk religion as late as the 15th Century, until Christianity finally encroached. Communism all but drove polytheist religion underground, but since independence there has been a resurgence of interest in its theology and rituals, with the Romuva community active as guardian and propagator of its traditions.
Every celebration contains a shadow, every shadow an ecstasy, and I always shed tears at Summer Solstice. Vita Sackville-West wrote about the “small despair” of the year’s summit, when the sun glowers in its waning glory and we measure the meagre rationing of light that highlights another year devoid of sufficient freckles, unfettered feet or fucking. It marks the passage of so little done and so much to do.
The Wheel of the Year turns with Love, and we who know of its perversities and paradoxes know too that it is as fierce and painful as a babe’s precocious tooth upon a mother’s breast.
Phoebus reveals the wrinkle, the blemish and the sparkling eye. Stagnancy is an illusion. Gnōthi seauton. How immense the arc of change. I have achieved far more than I realised.