Trains backing up into Surrey and the onslaught of the crush at the barriers.
A roadside reek of last night’s piss and the morning’s nicotine and bleach.
A man laughs into his hand.
A woman switches to flats.
The freesheets are a coconut shy.
Two shots please. I like my coffee very strong.
I couldn’t sleep because of our stupid neighbour upstairs playing music and crashing around at four in the morning.
Did you eat there? It’s amazing.
I am booked up pretty much all day, back to back. Sorry.
A notebook on a desk.
The words: ‘Dream of plenty.’
I dreamed we had to cross the creek where the old ford once made it easy. The river was deep and the current strong. Silt turned the water brown. Or was the river a lake too wide to swim across? Or was it a sea? There were boats crammed full of people, shouting, who stood on cabin roofs, clinging to anything that would keep them aboard. They were the boat people of Vietnam, Somalia, South Sudan. They were toppling into the water, over and over, disappearing under… And I floated, floated, wakening, over, swimming, crossing, hoping, toppling, clinging, floating, floating…
1. Dress up and jive dance at the Clore ballroom.
2. Watch carol singers on a giant screen in Paternoster Square.
3. Take the kids to My Brother the Robot at the Roundhouse.
4. Shop for last-minute gifts at a ‘German’ market on the South Bank.
5. Donate blood at Leytonstone Methodist Church.
6. Hear Atila, King of Crooners at the Park Plaza Hotel.
7. Enjoy a Victorian Christmas with traditional mince pies at the Charles Dickens Museum.
8. Check your numbers for the Euro Millions draw (top prize £62,469,261).
9. Watch Christmas Eve dawn on Walford.
10. Breathe. Sleep.
Outside the bookshop, where you bang on a can to buy Nathalie Sarraute and a map of the Lakes, and get offered tea and coffee from a man wearing a headscarf, the drakes bask and preen round the pond near the pub, and cabbages dot the garden of a small terraced house next to a café that seems always shut, down the road from the heath where the church bells stopped chiming and succumbed to the sea, where lobster pots are sunk down the coast, where a company sings opera on a pebble beach – and the mist, does it roll?
That a life builds, grows
Is what she had heard.
But it sometimes felt
It was as if a life
Started with a mountain
A mass of granite
And then things happened:
Events, thoughts. The mountain
Was chipped away at
Tiny etchings, furrows –
Surfaces scuffed, worn –
From the corrasions
Of many histories.
All that stuff that happens –
Happens to – as if
A man had no part
In events, that they
Were inflicted –
That he was a victim
When no, no.
That man is no mountain.
He built his own downfall.
He deserves what he gets.
Before he left the house, after kissing his wife goodbye, he turned to the mirror and smiled, stretching his lips wide so that he showed his teeth. He liked to set off for work confident and, seeing for himself that satisfying glint in his eye, felt rather proud. When he was convinced that the world needed him – loved him – then everything would go his way. Of course, his hair was now whiter by the week, his spectacles prescription stronger and the palms of his cold worn hands looked like raw flesh. But always, always, his faith in himself would prevail.