Sunday, 13 February 2011

Book 2 - Neglect

No Stars, No Moon
‘Have you looked at the sky?’
‘No’ he says and looks up. ‘Why?’ but his voice tails off. Why is obvious. Why hadn’t he noticed it before? The night sky is as black as... what? It’s hard to think of a simile – except perhaps blindness.

Close your eyes in a cupboard in an unlit room at night, with the curtains closed. What’s that expression? ‘You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.’ It’s very rarely literally true in life, but here, in death, once the sun has gone, that’s often what it’s like. Pull a pile of blankets over your face. Seal the edges. Feel the damp warmth of your breath collect in the dusty fabric. Feel the carbon dioxide accumulate. For where the night sky in life gave us some feeble sense of the infinite (terrifying or thrilling according to taste), here it holds you down, seals you in, encases you. The sky is as black as your hat, as they say, but that hat is shoved down over your face.

Death # 2 - Man in a shed
My name is Gabriel Fortune – artist, philosopher, man of the road.
My life ended rather enviably as it happens. We’ve all heard of someone that lived to a ripe old age and died peacefully in their sleep, and, inevitably, someone says ‘That’s the way to go’. Well, that was what happened to me that time. I'd got to about 68 I think when it happened – must have happened in about 2030. I was living in a shed at the bottom of the garden and nobody found me for nine weeks, which wasn’t so much fun for them, but, on the plus side, nobody knew me well enough to care and there wasn’t a lot to find. The animals had seen to that.
How had I ended up in a shed? You may well ask. At the time I’d have given you short shrift, grumbling on about life’s iniquities and ruing my own shortcomings, but really, I have to say, that last couple of decades I was as content as anyone I’ve ever known, and I think I was aware of that at the time too. Grumbling was just how I was. It was a habit.

Things had got weird early on. Time came to leave school and I’d screwed up my A levels and all my friends (so called) went off to university, and I was at a loss what to do. I'd hated school – was totally bewildered by the whole abysmal experience, but whatever horrors lay in that particular institution were as nothing compared to the prospect of the “outside world”, or “real life” as some insisted on calling it. Stupid really. I only had to get Cs to get into Art College. They’d liked my work that much. They hadn't even asked me to attend an interview. I was that good. As it was I didn’t even pass.

I don’t know. Don’t ask. It wasn’t drugs or sex or any other hedonistic adolescent excess. Chance would have been a fine thing. Who knows what I might have achieved had I got those rocks off! What heights might I have scaled after sojourning in some altered state of consciousness? Who knows indeed. No. I was scared. It was as simple as that – scared of the responsibility, of the teachers, of the other kids, of girls, my parents, study, work, life. I just couldn’t face it. So I didn’t.
I had a few crappy jobs early on, signed on, eventually moved out and stayed in some crappy places in Brighton, took a few crappy courses but nothing ever really lead to anything. I carried on with my drawing and even had an exhibition one year at the Brighton Festival but somehow it never came to anything.
Ok, I know now why that was. I can’t pretend I don’t. Some people said I had success issues – cue ironic double quotes, but that’s not quite right. Success would have been fine. I could have coped with that. My trouble was failure. All the while you mosey along quietly you can’t fall very far, but if you start to succeed, and then you fail... Sounds like cowardice doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s just a realistic assessment of my limitations. Sure, sometimes I did some impressive work. I know that, I’ve always known that. But I also know what happens to me when the pressure is on, when I have to produce to order, I know what will happen, or I’ve got a pretty good idea. I’ll go to bits, I’ll go get lost, and I’ll let everyone down. And I can’t stand it. I’d really rather not if you don’t mind.
But it was good. I did produce some good things. Sometimes I’d take myself by surprise and finish something, and people would go ‘Wow! You did that? You should do this for a living’ and I could be all modest and self-effacing and give people nice presents they couldn’t afford ordinarily. And it was ok. Really. We can’t all be Damien bloody Hirst you know.

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A life backwards

It's in the nature of blogs of course that you come across the latest postings first (or you find yourself in the middle.) Normally it doesn't matter but if you want to read my novel in order, the first installment is as you'd expect, the oldest posting.
Thanks for your patience.