Friday, 10 October 2014

Gladys

A funeral was taking place and I wasn’t invited to it. I didn’t know the dead person so why should I have been? Maybe it was the notice board that made me feel left out.

The Autumn has set in and the leaves are well and truly off the branches - it’s wet pulp on the ground - and the commuter train carriages are condensed. I always think of leaves at Autumn even though there are barely any trees here, I look around and there may be the odd tree that’s been positioned to hang over a bench, but benches are sort of rare finds too. Like telephone boxes. People don’t want loitering. The mute passage of time. 

“Autumnal— nothing to do with leaves. It is to do with a certain brownness at the edges of the day… Brown is creeping up on us, take my word for it… Russets and tangerine shades of old gold flushing the very outside edge of the senses… deep shining ochres, burnt umber and parchments of baked earth— reflecting on itself and through itself, filtering the light. At such times, perhaps, coincidentally, the leaves might fall, somewhere, by repute. Yesterday was blue, like smoke.”¹

Hanging, waiting for someone to show up by a street lamp you definitely notice the urgency that sets in about people as the days get shorter. We scurry more. Previously in the sun’s long haze people looked off in to the distance, looked a bit more sure of themselves, ‘Yes the sun is here and today is another day amongst many days’ sort of stares (‘Gentlemen to bed… for we rise at daybreak’ sort of tones). 

Tonight the orange humming glow from the fluoro pallidly skims off the gravel. 

How did people cope in the past when light faded.
It felt colder. 
It was darker. 
Darkness often means danger or the unknown, I mean you can’t see.
You have no idea the confidence light gives you, I mean you can see.

There is a house in South Croydon where a notice board hangs off a south-facing wall. The message reads:

Gladys (8) died
Residents are welcome to celebrate her life. Funeral at 4

Room 8. That must be the 8 in the bracket. There’s nothing to it really, the message I mean: 'Somebody [room number] died’. Simple. But god, that’s a life. A whole life just ceased and and it’s plain there to see that it’s gone or done or whatever. 

Gladys, sometimes I worry that I’m too preoccupied with death - but it’s not just a morbid curiosity it’s the shock to the system that the concept conjures up. I don’t see enough old people in the things that I look at and I rarely have to think about ageing in my life. It’s like youth is sold to me as choice rather than a stage, and I don’t know how I’ll feel Gladys, when I grow older. 

Yesterday, in a film, I saw dentures popping out of a wizened laughing old face and the crooked thin-lipped smile of a white-haired gent. And the lens was so clear. And it stirred in me a delight. And his words reassured me, ‘We grow small trying to be great.’²



³


¹Tom Stoppard, “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”
²David Hockney
³Grancha