Wednesday, November 17, 1982

The long, long thoughts

Well, so here I am, home again, the world of Watermouth a million miles away: somewhere out there they'll be in someone’s room, smoking and laughing and being lunatics.

A full day’s journey by coach: I read selections from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which has an interesting intro by Mark Van Doren: “In himself he is nobody, but in the end he is everything.” I sat in cold grey Victoria bus station, struggling to read as all around me people lived out their worlds of experience, utterly remote from my knowledge.  I got a little thrill of recognition when I saw the first signpost for Easterby.

Then we were back and I clambered down and into the station to wait for Dad in my stained trousers and threadbare coat, Pete’s ink-splashed haversack slung over one shoulder, plastic bag clutched in left hand. Soon Dad’s red Viva drive slowly into the station car park, Dad flat-capped, just the same as ever. But I'm different. It’s impossible to remain the same and you truly “can’t go home again.”

I walked into the house which now seems tiny and impeccably neat; Mum peered round from the living room to smile her greeting. Dad seems the picture of contentment, no unemployment traumas and despair as Mum and I had secretly feared, but instead a calm glow of satisfaction.

He’s keeping a diary and recently began a vast recollection of his life titled “The long, long thoughts,” 250-odd pages scrawled already. He's a frustrated poet. He let me read some of it. After a mundane start he soon warms to his theme and paints an idyllic, romantic portrait of his childhood days. I felt moved as I read his sad and rending account of his Dad’s final illness and death; he didn’t want his Dad, who “loved cricket, long walks, mended my bicycle,” to die smothered beneath a black ‘iron-lung’ in an alien hospital. He told me he and Mum have drawn up wills, on the advice of their bank manager.

And I hear that Robert too is a diarist again; I must be setting an example or something. This journal’s value is its immediacy. First and foremost it's a record of the moment, of the here and now, which is lost when I struggle to relate events in long tedious travelogue prose. I'm no good at doing extended essays in recollection. They strike me as dry and forced, and as I read through them I see the same strained phrases over and over again.

On nights like tonight I could write pages. I feel I'm gradually expanding my ‘lifespace,’ that space in which I feel at ease. Last night, with everyone in the kitchen, I didn’t really want to come back, but it’s good to be home.

I rang Grant, then Lee, who is now a vegetarian and Animal Liberationist, planning raids on fur dealers and city centre banner protests. I’m going out with them tomorrow night.

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