A car journey taken by someone else, who also wrote about it, also yesterday, as did I.
The difference between the two accounts was marked: one a sweet, contemplative meditation on the beauty of the landscapes and the art of the audio book, the other (mine) a supercharged rant about everything, really. I can, I have, driven like the former writer, but these days that state seems like a different person to me. Every journey becomes an epic in my mind and that, I suppose, is where the trouble lies. For years, it has been a well-known fact that I have a tempestuous nature, something that has been oppressed, suppressed, medicated and subjugated, but here’s the thing, whatever is done to it: it won’t go away.
It will for a while which is fine, it leaves me to Get On, but sure enough eventually, like the many-headed Hydra, it rumbles into action leaving me trailing, dazed and confused, stumbling in its wake. It is not, of itself, a bad thing. It is the management of it that can be a full-time job. It is like keeping a unruly dog on a tight lead (I have an unruly dog and that is probably a better analogy than a Hydra, but I know some who would err towards the monster), you cannot let down your guard. I have learned, the hard way, do not loosen the leash. And then there is the place between waking and consciousness where you have to and then, oh boy, does it come out to play.
I sleep but only by necessity and by forcing myself to ignore the unruly one’s many calls to action. It whispers in my ear – do this, do that, not that, not this. See this, here this one, this is THE thing. Quick write notes, take this down, do not forget it, quick, quick, quick! Last night it became convinced that each building has a sound (actually, I think that’s one worth thinking about) and it became specifically concerned with The Shard in London and the vibrational sound that it might have. And then because it really is a Hydra, it became certain that there was a symphony of the the River Thames urbanscape waiting to be written, by me, at bedtime. It really does take some convincing that this is not the time, nor the place, and maybe not even the right person to be telling.
The trouble is that some of the things it comes up with are interesting and drag me along. This was how I discovered this piece by David Byrne, of Talking Heads. It’s a South Bank soundscape, taking in some of the things that were preoccupying me last night and some that weren’t: Southwark Cathedral organ, Spitalfields market, for example. He also has a project where he plays buildings; that’s not quite what my unruly beast had in mind, but I am going with it, for now.
I still can’t seem to think at all. I’ve got a lot to do, and with the cognition switched firmly off, not much is happening which in turn is a bit of a worry… In the past the grey matter usually turns itself over again at some point, I hope it’s the same this time around.
But, where one faculty is dulled, another one steps in the breach and for some reason, all I can do at the moment is hear things. This is slightly unsettling – I have what is termed mild deafness, particularly in one ear, where I have difficulty making out speech when there is background noise – so being acutely aware of strange sounds puts me off kilter.
Yesterday, two sounds brought me up short. One was a stranger, a man, who was repeating ‘All women are scum’, to any woman who crossed his path. He kindly repeated it twice to me, in case I didn’t quite get it the first time, which I hadn’t, only lip-reading the ‘scum’ part. Then on the top of a multi-storey car park, standing with the supermarket shopping, rather than getting straight into the car, I listened to the wind whipping round this huge building that has been encased in scaffolding and plastic sheeting. It sounded to me like a strange symphony, it’s just that I couldn’t place the instrumentation. Was it only the wind crashing things around or were there hidden workmen on percussion, adding some extra clanging and banging? I even wondered how the sounds would turn out if I tried to record it. Crap probably, I thought, so I didn’t.
Maybe it’s something about the supermarket. Last week an old lady came up to me. She had an internal monologue that would not be contained. I won’t share all of it, it was too personal, but this is a snippet of it as I walked round the shop with her for a bit.
‘Oh your skin. When you get old – am I cracking up? – your skin, the doctor told me this. When you get old, your skin. Your skin is as thin as tissue paper. It just rips like tissue paper. And there’s me, well I didn’t know, just ripping off plasters, tearing my skin. Oh no. Am I cracking up? Don’t get old. Your skin is like tissue paper. Did you know that?’
Poor Josephine. She was bent double, literally, with a bad back and the monologue was a little heartbreaking.
Today I went for a walk and stopped to listen to the extraordinary sound of a field of wheat popping. I don’t know what was causing the noise, I couldn’t see anything. They used to grow wheat in the field alongside our garden when I was young, so I know what a field of wheat sounds like. I know what the wind sounds like in it, for example. But popping and crackling? That was a new one on me. One of life’s mysteries perhaps.
I can’t help wondering what I’ll hear next?