Monday, 1 February 2010

in the first taxi he was alone tra-la.

The great housing debate seems to have wound itself mercifully down and, though the whole process has been (and continues to be) fraught with bizarre difficulties, we should, SHOULD, be going to sign the contracts in about an hour. I am excited/terrified/convinced that something will go wrong. What an unpleasant thing house-hunting is! The whole fuss was combined with a rotten fortnight of exams and basically I'm pretty freaking excited that January's in the past, not least because February is looking pretty good.

Tonight is the drama society's first meeting of the semester - I can't wait to go and see everybody again - and then this weekend I've a friend coming to stay. The future's bright/orange, is what I'm saying. She arrives on  Friday and then the two of us are going, with one of my flatmates, to see Ghost Stories at the Liverpool Playhouse. HMMM. It's supposed to be the Scariest Play Ever to Scare, and we're all gigantic cowards, so I'm sure it will be an interesting experience. Also, gigantic coward I may be, but I love horror (good horror, I mean. I'd take From Beyond the Grave over Hostel any day of the week), and I adore both of the writer-directors' work. Jeremy Dyson's books of short stories are brilliantly creepy and funny by turns, and I do believe he's also adapting my favourite Jonathan Coe novel for telly at the moment, as well as being one quarter of The League of Gentlemen - so, an all-round-excellent chap, then. And Andy Nyman, perhaps best known for his collaborations with Derren Brown, is... Yeah.

So, I've been thinking a lot about scary things, this week, and unnerving things, and (as ever) trying to pick this week's piece of writing. I might've chosen an extract from one of Dyson's short stories - there's a particular one about the London Underground in Never Trust a Rabbit that just ended me when I was fifteen - if I'd not stupidly left my copies at home. In the end, I decided on a piece by Louis MacNeice.

Couldn't find it online anywhere, so I had to type it up, which has slightly cut down the amount of time I have to talk about it, but basically: MacNeice was a successful poet of the 1930s whose work faltered after the war, as happened to many of his contemporaries, and recovered in an interesting and rather melancholic way. He wrote a body of poems belonging to a genre he termed "the thumbnail nightmare": brief, unnerving little pieces, and sparse in explanation. Perhaps my favourite of his thumbnail nightmares is this, written in 1961:

After the Crash
When he came to he knew
Time must have passed because
The asphalt was high with hemlock
Through which he crawled to his crash
Helmet and found it no more
Than his wrinkled hand what it was.

Yet life seemed still going on:
He could hear the signals bounce
Back from the moon and the hens
Fire themselves black in the batteries
And the silence of small blind cats
Debating whether to pounce.

Then he looked up and marked
The gigantic scales in the sky,
The pan on the left dead empty
And the pan on the right dead empty,
And knew in the dead, dead calm
It was too late to die.

Perhaps a little less subtle than Macneice's more well-known "The Taxis", but I still think it's beautifully done and something about it gives me the shivers.

Have to run now, unfortunately, but before I do: people who've been reading for a while (if there are any, etc etc) may remember my friend Celia, who I mentioned I used to talk to a lot about a lot of things, but we'd both gotten terribly busy lately and it was all a dreadful shame. WELL. It turns out, she actually came across this blog, and meant to call me for ages, and yesterday evening we had a lovely catch-up; after we got off the phone, I booked some train tickets to go and visit her in March. Which is rather a nice postscript, I think, for anyone who likes that sort of thing.

1 comment:

  1. 1) I am so terrified about Ghost Stories literally what are we doing
    2) I like that poem a lot but I also separately like "small blind cats", I think because it sounds like something on Alice's fridge magnet poetry.
    3) "intelligent thoughts"