Sunday, 29 April 2018

Spirit level


I had to spend the hot sunlit days caged inside an office. Outside there was the repetitive pounding of a crane, breaking up the hard ground beneath the silt under the Thames. I imagined it giving migraines to those walking by, but filtered through my thick walls it was like the quickened strikes of a clock tower, madness. 

I ride the train every morning and some days I can concentrate on reading, other days I cannot and stare past people. There has been a lot of that lately and the views are not great. The backs of buildings and concrete. Scaffolding. As we approach the city there is too much glass. The whole train carriage overhears something that sounds salacious to the speaker - sleeping with a middle manager - but for the rest of us it as a nuisance disaffecting the daily commute.

Amongst one of these days I am leaning against a luggage compartment, blockaded by a rucksack and some shoulders, then holding on to the railing before me I see the back of a hand close-up. In biro it is written SPIRIT LEVEL. I think hard about what this could mean, until I follow the hand up the arms to see it is connected to a man dressed in overalls, with dust and paint all over his shirt. I turn back to stare at the grey everything with an extinguished sense of wonder. 

But for the last weeks I have been thinking about what it could have meant before I realised what it actually meant. ‘How’s your spirit level?’ Is a good question. If I asked myself that recently it would be, ‘Particularly low today. And your’s?’ There have been invites sent in the post sealed with happiness about weddings for me to receive in my pyjamas to feel slightly saddened about. My twenties are over. I have managed to accumulate things, which remind me that I once got that with the hopes of... then I feel a twinge of disappointment in myself or the thing for not following through with it. 

An ex-boyfriend sends me an e-mail about turning thirty and living in Honolulu or ‘Wherever the wind takes me’. The billboards on the side of buses carry slogans that don’t make sense with the aim to make me linger on their messages; I fall for it. The possibility of getting a dog seems distant, while I get invited to flat-warmings and take in the nice scenery and accept that people are moving on.

Though spirit levels are about balance and some days I am high. Like when sitting in the sunshine in a park I have only just discovered and fallen in love with, for it’s the site of a Victorian ruin. Resting a sleepy head on my lap, stretching apart my toes and watching a grandmother fanning herself, as her grandson shows off tricks on his new scooter. Spirit level rising. Later I had a bubblegum flavoured ice cream from a van, which was bright blue and had a similar chewy consistency to gum. Proving that childhood memories can be bettered by current ice cream flavours. 

So things are not all that bad and not all that good. But I do feel slightly off-balance.