February 6th, 2007


Something is cracking

I expected it to be strange being back in Oxford, and the strangest thing so far is that it isn't much stranger, but there are still some sore spots out there, like salt on the ice. I discovered the first landmine when I walked along Broad Street and past the Bridge of Sighs and the Radcliffe Camera and I thought, ah, that's where it went, that's the Oxford I thought I was moving back to, and I felt that lifting-up inside, that sense of being immortal, the fluttering terror of what is it he calls them, the wings of thought, even more incongruous now in a mind that knows just enough to know that it's already past its peak. Small and dry. It wasn't even the bridge, normally that's the jumping-off point (as it were) for these recollections, but I don't need someone else's sighs; I've got the curve of the kerb and the path to the library doors and the brittle colour of the sky. It's the present, not the past, that towers over me and reaches around me and twists the road beneath my feet.

And this morning I walked from Marston to Banbury Road in the sharp morning frost, with every blade of grass like a grave-ornament, marking my paces. The fields are flood-plains, treacherous where the water wells up under the weeds, and there is the sun on a cold hard path, and here is the place where the brambles will be in the autumn. So many stones, so many trees. These roots are not a metaphor. I walked past the place where I would have probably died if I'd been able to find a surface on which to scratch a single word, but before that there was a trickle of water stopped still in its tracks, all the sand turned to darkening glass, and just before the stream there was a cat pushing its body through the frozen undergrowth at the side of the path where the brambles will be, and a small warm motionless thing not realising that its life was nearly over, and these things just keep on happening in any order they like, and putting the words together doesn't make any difference, any bloody difference, any difference at all.