Into autumn. All summer I was drawn to the cold sea at Brighton. I went into it, became accustomed and stopped flinching. I began to understand how people did this all year round, and why. It shocks the body into a kind of alertness – wakes it up. On one of the colder days there was just me in the sea and a woman in a pink rubber bathing cap, the kind you don’t see any more. There was a faint smear of matching pink on her lips. I pictured her applying it earlier, preparing for her date with the sea. She had English sea-blue eyes. She said, I like to do this until December, but I don’t like it so much when the boys have gone. She meant the lifeguard who sits in the small enclosure made of deckchair material, between the yellow and red flags. Lifeguards are there from May until October. The other person on the beach was an old man, very thin, a little bent but sprightly, and he hopped over the stones barefoot as though all of him was used to this and at home there. Stones no longer cut his feet, his skin was tough enough to withstand the wind and the rough sea only made him stronger. I was there with M.E. and my clutch of auto-immune diseases, pretending to be like them. Later I would have to balance the benefits against the after-effects.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Good morning from Brighton. I say this because I had a good night, meaning that I slept, more or less, right through and got an actual very-much-needed nine hours. I think there are ghosts here that help with this. The ghosts are not of dead people but of the previous occupants - a lovely family with two small girls. The children slept in the bedroom and the parents on a sofabed in the living room and despite the fact of lack of space surely driving the parents bonkers, they and the flat had a lovely vibe. The mother was French, softly-spoken and the father wore a gold earring and had a voice that was both camp and masculine. He told me how much they had loved the flat. The children were quiet, but in a happy, absorbed way. The little one was still a baby, carried around on her mother's hip. I heard the mother sing a short phrase to her in French. I imagine that she sang to her children at night when they were going to sleep and that the walls of the flat absorbed the songs and the mood. After we had bought the flat someone emailed to ask me if the walls were happy. Anyone with even a trace of poet in them knows that walls are never just walls (small nod to Freud who said that sometimes a cigar was just a cigar) so I got the question. And yes, they are. The walls of Signs Cottage also. This is one of the reasons we decided to live there, even though there wouldn't be enough space to swing a cat. Also, we are not people who would ever wish to swing a cat. But the Signs Cottage walls have other moods also, they are more complicated, as you'd expect from walls that are covered with so many books and where much has to be fitted into small spaces.
From the small balcony of Brighton flat you can look down and see the sea, which rises up like a blue or grey wall, depending on the weather. Sometimes it is possible to forget about perspective and imagine that it is a wall that dissolves the closer I get to it and becomes something I can immerse myself in, as I have been doing whenever possible. I think I will go in again today as the water temperature is 16.9 (I can check this online), the warmest it has been so far. For many people this is much too cold but my body has become accustomed to it - welcomes it, even. I don't know if I am in my element, but it does in some measure restore me to myself.