the m john harrison blog

Category: lost & found

28.09.2008–

…nostalgia is part of your life come back to burn your fingers, so you piss on not just this fire but the whole idea of fire, as quick as you can.

I stood a long time watching the raindrops strike the brickwork in absolute silence then fade in the warmth and the wind.

nant ffrancon

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google maps, 2am

A half-built estate. I remember kneeling over frozen puddles from which all the water seemed to have evaporated, leaving only ice on top of air. Later in the year a stile; a narrow pathway between hedges. I used to have a dream about walking on the flat green water of a canal. I remember looking down from a bridge. The water on the left, narrow lawns with trees on the right. Sunshine and shade. Ecstatic happiness. In the dream the water’s right at the level of the path, they form a single continuous surface. By the time I was twenty I’d forgotten all this except as flashes, glimpses, nothing that could even be labeled as a memory. I’ve been looking for the childhood source of the images for almost fifty years. I also have an image of playing with wooden building blocks, faded grainy blue, orange and brown. And from the same period, I think, nightmares featuring a train with a coloured dragon coming out of its chimney instead of smoke. With some of these dreams I associate the distant sound of shunting engines and the leaden buzzing noise–apprehended as both a taste and and a smell–I used as an index of the uncanny in some stories. But those images may be from later, when we had moved somewhere else.

you left the door open

Your hands & feet are cold. There’s a certain amount of rain. The dogs are howling in the next garden. Someone in the street says, “Almost everything can be interesting,” & then, “August the first is too late.” You read:

“A few days later Lanny tried the crystal ball again, and there came something new. Blue water, sparkling in sunshine–everything was always bright in that globe, like a technicolour film.”

This leads you to wonder if Upton Sinclair–surfacing from the deep trench of your early teens to bob around 50 years later in a backwater bookshop in Much Wenlock–is, in fact, some sort of forgotten “influence”. Better read on, now you’ve got him home. But perhaps first close the door & find some socks.

i seen things in wales

The hair of the Dead Boys of Bangor beneath the surface of Lynn Ogwen, as they stream east towards the Siabod Cafe for a late breakfast of sausage & eggs.

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parsing the bedrooms of lily

Imagine this as a photograph found in the usual collapsing shoebox at the usual car boot sale, you know the score by now. The Dali family’s urge towards meaning is as mistaken as your own. Their attempt to force an arrangement on the world by composing themselves in it collides with your attempt to interpret their attempt: in the ensuing confusion, nothing can be understood. It would help just a little if you didn’t see it as a picture of the Dalis–or, especially, of Dali. Everything else in it would begin to matter. The boat, for instance, which you see as leaving rather than arriving, might suddenly become a lot more important.

just in time

I like the idea of putting periods of your life in storage for such a long time you forget them. It’s a productive repression. When you experience the return of the repressed, you experience it as the act of writing and the content of the fiction. Memories come back not as memories but in inexplicable actions or feelings, mysterious nostalgias, psychosomatic jolts and shocks of disguised language. I resent the “healing” to be gained from retrospective understanding and acknowledgement. I wouldn’t want a healthy relationship with the past.

(Tarted up from a BTL exchange with Nick Royle, here.)

retrospective

Things I have bought over the years to convince myself I was happy: a brass lizard; a wire lizard; two small boxes, one in some featherweight lacquered wood, the other ceramic and half glazed with a stylised picture of the local architecture; a bowl in striking fire and earth colours now faded; various earrings; two belts and some peculiarly sordid- and pre-used-looking suede shoes; Italian things; Canary Island things; Spanish things. All these things bought out of a mistaken elation or assumption, all this unwarranted semiosis, all these unmemorable memories and tokens from moments unviable from the very start. You can’t quite call them kitsch, but they don’t have a quality of personal nostalgia either. It was weird being a romantic and living in a constant aura or vibe, a “dream” I suppose, or at any rate a sense of something happening when nothing, in retrospect, was. Luckily, age lifts you out of that, enabling a proud shiny new impulse control in boutique, fleamarket and gallery shop; freeing you up to buy the rubbish you actually like. (Something resembling a small wormy stone brain picked up on a beach does not belong to this class of objects.)

the Master from Venus

In the early 1970s I was introduced to two or three sweet old ladies, probably younger than I am now, who lived in a vast, light-filled flat near the seafront in Southport. They were members of a cult that believed in a “master” who would soon come down from the planet Venus to save us from ourselves. They were excited by The Pastel City, which they assumed was a kind of oblique spiritual nonfiction, assembled by some inner self of mine. When I said I didn’t believe in flying saucers, they said, in unison, “Oh but you do. You just don’t know yet.” This demonstrated a generosity of spirit I was unable to extend to them, and which I’ve never forgotten.

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