Sunday, July 5, 1981

Ghosts


At nine we five set off for Ranelathe, donned boots and rucksacks (I had my new one), crossed Ranelathe bridge and were soon heading along the riverbank. We wandered through unthinking caravan sites and hordes of Sunday trippers, our way winding up through fields and stiles, along a hotchpotch of tracks and stretches of road. Before long we were approaching Grisedaw Gill up a valley of limestone and sheep-clipped grass that reminded me of Calverdale.

Grisedaw Gill is a dark, dank place that is supposedly haunted by a big black dog with flashing eyes whose appearance signals death. It was gloomy and overcast; Robert said it was a perfect place for reading Boswell’s papers on Death, but we were soon brought back to reality when we stumbled on 30 or so hikers picnicking at the top.

From here we climbed up onto brown and grey moorland that stretched away under a flatpan sky. We stopped and had some orange pop and enjoyed the utter bleakness all around, then got lost and blundered about a bit before eventually engineering a route back along a new cart track and an old green walled track to Ranelathe. It began to rain quite heavily, but we enjoyed it. We walked about 8½ miles and after tea at a cafĂ© and a look around ancient Ranelathe Church (which once frightened me with its oppressive pregnant silence), we drove home. Robert and Carol stayed for tea and we all got involved in a conversation which swayed back and forth between death, ghosts, philosophy and the past.

I’ve got so much to say I don’t know where to begin. The conversation was strange because it frightened me yet was so interesting I couldn’t leave. Robert held centre stage. Death comes to everyone in the end, he said, but the way he did so, so sad . . . an hour later the feeling's faded already. It was really weird. He told us that his friend Phil Wingert began to get manic depressive about death and its inevitability, and even stopped enjoying himself because he couldn’t see the point – why go out having a good time when it leaves you with a sad feeling in the end? Robert talked about all the thoughts and feelings people have ever had, how they all come to naught because death always robs them of it all. Death is the only certainty in life. The thought that one day he’ll not be a part of it, that the sun will rise, the birds will sing, babies will be born and he’ll be gone, never able to come back; the thought fills him with horror, he said. I felt so awful here at the way he spoke. There's a part of him which even Carol can’t reach, and that’s why even she must be left out in the end. He’s on his own.

I thought about everyone living with eleven ghosts at their shoulders.

When he was done there was a really melancholy feel in the air. I could’ve listened all night. Now I want to read Alan Garner’s Red Shift. It's good that this diary records these fleeting moments and, perhaps (who knows?) it may stand as my epitaph, and something to carry my memory on. I was thrust back into reality by the news of more riots, this time in Liverpool. Yesterday there was rioting in Liverpool, Friday in Southall. Is it spontaneous? Could the National Front be deliberately inciting them?

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