September has been a weird month and it is getting weirder.
I’m still preoccupied with Egress and so the blog will remain on the back burner for a little while longer. Whilst it is “finished”, it’s had a few rounds of editing to go through, during which I’ve discovered a whole smorgasbord of writer’s tics I didn’t know that I had. Mixed-up tenses, overuse of the word “likewise”, overuse of the word “would”, sparse use of commas… I could, unfortunately, go on and on and on.
Let me take this opportunity to apologise to my readers here who have undoubtedly had to plough their way through much worse.
When it comes to blogging, I am far from a perfectionist but I’ve discovered a side to myself that I didn’t know I had throughout this finishing process. It is a side that is neurotic and obsessive and isolationist. I’ve been very aware of just how anti-social I’ve been, but I’ve been incapable of dragging myself away from it.
I’m only glad I’m not a total prima donna control freak, inflicting the fallout from my own ego on anyone around me, but internally the struggle has been real. I’ve been chastising myself and having crises of confidence on just about every other page. As proud as I am of it, it’s hard not to hate something you’ve spent so much time with.
Thankfully, just before sending the manuscript back, I had come to terms with the fact that if I add anything else to it at all now, I’ll ruin it. The book is done. I need to focus on tidying it up rather than tweaking or adding to it any further.
In the midst of all this literary pedantry, I started a new project at work, somewhat outside of my primary job description, which I can’t talk or post about, but which has had me driving back and forth along the M4 at ungodly hours over the last two weeks, working from sunrise to sunset.
It’s a photography project that has taken me from barren fields to neglected suburbs, occasionally navigating dog patrols and security fencing. I went into Eton College and even inadvertently trespassed on the Crown Estate. We’ve got security clearance but you wouldn’t think it on sight. I don’t think, I’m the face of things, I look like someone who should ever be given security clearance for anything. Good thing they haven’t found the blog.
Suffice it to say, getting guns pointed at us has been a regular expectation. It’s been stressful.
In the process, I’ve discovered a part of the country I never knew existed before, where obnoxious wealth and latent power are more visible than I had ever previously thought possible.
Windsor, in particular, is very weird. The geographic closeness between social housing and fairytale wealth was worse there than in the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea. And that’s saying something.
On top of all that, the frequency of government-sponsored “Get ready for Brexit” billboards, peppered along the route, have only helped to unnerve me further. They’re ominously banal PSAs.
I feel like our boring dystopia is about to enter level 2 of Boring and Dystopian.
Burnt out from working so many hours and trying to sign off book edits when I get home, I didn’t get the chance to fully appreciate a quick return to Suffolk that we did last weekend. I spent most of it working, even sitting with a borrowed laptop right on the beach at Dunwich.
My brother-in-law and his girlfriend came back from a long trip and so we took them to our temporary Suffolk hideaway to show them the walks we did on our previous escape.
I discovered I no longer fear spiders, for whatever reason. They were out in force as the summer starts to ebb away and I found myself feeling quite affectionate towards them. We walked through the marshes tickling their webs hello.
We also spent a rainy day in Southwold, where I went to find George Orwell’s former family home.
In the local bookshop, where I’d previously picked up Lucy Ellman’s Ducks, Newburyport when we were last here, I heard someone inquire to the owner about his presence.
“Some people are still alive who remember him walking around the town,” she said. “Although they knew him as Eric then.”
In a window on the ground floor there is a sticker that says you can rent it as a holiday home if you so wish. Perhaps because I still had Brexit on the brain, I felt like there was something banally Orwellian about that too, with the price no doubt hiked up because of its providence, serving the town’s transient seaside tourism.
There is little else of note in Southwold besides a big brewery. But no matter, escape Brexit in the house that birthed 1984 and drink yourself into oblivion.
Down by the sea, I passed the Sailers’ Reading Room, W.G. Sebald’s favourite haunt in The Rings of Saturn — an alcohol-free zone for fishermen to pass the time in, and a good place for him to write up his notes.
Apparently it is full of seafaring records and scraps of history, recalling many events out at sea that have been witnessed from the Southwold promenade.
Unfortunately it was closed when we walked by.
On Saturday night, we took a more Ballardian excursion, lighting a fire on which we failed to roast smores, instead lying on our backs on the pitch black beach at Sizewell, staring up at the stars, the nuclear power station pulsating behind us.
I drove us home a while afterwards to Kode9 and the Spaceape — back on heavy rotation as my go-to night-driving soundtrack at the moment — and it felt very special.