I slept in the bed without a hot water bottle last night it was so warm in the house in Manchester. The first night I got Helen to look through the cupboards for one. I told them I’m mostly hot all over but my feet are always cold. I like the air temperature cold at night but my feet warm in the bed. I don’t think I’ve ever had the heating on at night. They have the thermostat in the hall. It’s no good there because it gets the draught from the front door. Upshot being the house is always overheated. When it’s 18 in the hall, it’s 23 in the living room. I said to Helen, why don’t you get a rug down on this wooden floor in the living room, then at leat I know where I am. I can keep my feet warm and just judge the temperature from the rest. As it is, I’m taking two readings. It’s like the weather forecast when they say temperature 23 feels like 18. Helen said she likes wood under her feet. I said, wood’s overrated. Anyway Helen said can we keep this little window open in the living room. Fine by me, I said, I like the air on my face. Liz said she was chilly. I said what are you doing chilly in this house.? She said she has energy bills of £132 a quarter. Mine are £32. Say no more.
For my birthday, my brother and sisters decided to drive me and them on a walk down memory lane to the area where we grew up in Offerton Stockport. In the pouring rain we walked past the house we’d lived in, peeked over the garden fence to note what a paltry affair the garden had become. We walked down Graham Road and saw how most of the corner shops had disappeared. Then we went into Woodbank park. David took us on a wild goose chase down the woods and we followed him. It was only when we were wading in mud that I remembered that this was what he had always done since childhood, led the way indiscriminately. Then we got into Woodlands Park where most of the facilities (tennis courts and outdoor paddling pool) had been replaced by parking spaces. On the way back to the car we stopped off at the Strawberry Gardens pub, where I was happy to pay the round (it’s cheap up north) and where the creamy beer made me wince with pleasure. Back via a local shop for some milk and eggs. David was dawdling with the eggs and the shopwoman said ‘has he had too much Christmas cheer?’ and I said ‘no, he’s always been like that’ and so I got to share a laugh at his expense with a stranger. So it was worth it after all.
They are still working hard on the Northern Line extension near my flat in Kennington. This has been going on for many years now. When I say they are still working hard I am a little tongue in cheek. For the last year I don’t know what they have been doing. They have been milling around a lot in their high-viz combos. What with Brexut and sending all the europeans back home, I have nursed a suspicion. They are not construction workers at all now; they are actors performing the signalling and semiotics of construction work. It makes perfect sense. All those out of work actors and no Poles left to do the actual work. Actors know how to mill. For some of them, it will be the role of a lifetime. It would explain the reason why whenever I look through the grill at them, their use of the space is perfect, their manipulation of props flawless, but they don’t seem to be moving the infernal project on in any way.
I am time. It has taken me a long time to realise this. If you ask me the time, I can normally guess it to a couple of minutes. I can know how many minutes it will take me to shower, wash my hair, shave, get my stuff together, dress and go out. This is a much underestimated competence. I know instinctively how long it will take me to walk from Edgware Road to Covent Garden or from Smithfields meat market to Holborn station. I am rarely late.
But I am not space.When I come out of the tube and the stairs turn me about I start automatically walking in the wrong direction. On the tube I can never negotiate in my mind the way in which getting out of the train on the right equates with my instinctive memory of getting out of the train on the left. My notion of a short-cut will often send me haring in the wrong direction until I bemusedly realise I am arriving back at the same church steeple I started from seen from another, less flattering angle.
A Time person should get together with a Space person. All dimensions would be neatly harnessed. It would be the perfect package. But imagine how difficult it would be to coincide at the right pub. I’d be there on time at the Red Lion all right. She’d come dashing in half-an-hour late, hoping I’d be nursing a pint having given her some margin for manoeuvre. Unfortunately, I’d be consulting my watch in the Red Lion on Lion St and she’s be looking round the empty bar in the Red Lion on Scarlet Square.