online: 13 february 2003

12 february 2003 this is paradise

16:32 Misty day, cloud reaches the ground on the heath, yellowish drizzle as I approached Kenwood...

...I passed six women with about fifteen dogs between them - I imagine that dog walking has now become a regular job for women - a new part of the service industry... Apart from these women and dogs I saw almost no one walking on the heath today.

Here in the cafe there are only a dozen people - plus a party of five young women with four infants in baby chairs. The new life of the world. I try to imagine these young ones becoming obedient and wealthy in middle age and then wise and grey and slow-moving in old age - but I cannot. The transitions of size and appearance and manner are too great to imagine... and perhaps these children will grow up differently from us... or not grow up at all?

But now the children are quiet (apart from an occasional yell) and the young women are talking quietly. On the front page of the newspaper is a huge colour photograph of an undernourished child in Iraq - it has very thin arms and its ribs protrude - whereas the children here look well fed and contented. If only we could be confident that all children have an equal chance of growing up healthy and that poverty and starvation and war and divisiveness could be ended - immediately! Time for action - and no more acceptance of such injustices as unavoidable or permanent!

The people are leaving now - they remind me of Adam and Eve leaving paradise for what Samuel Beckett called 'the catastrophe of life'*...

...I've been reading of his privileged but anxious childhood against which he reacted with poetic stories and plays of the poverty and misery of life as he saw it, with a formal beauty that contradicts the seeming misery portrayed - writings which baffle some and inspire others. What would he say of my idealistic imaginings? I guess he'd say nothing.

On the way back in the misty drizzle I looked at Barbara Hepworth's sculpture The Empyrean standing alone in the mist as it has stood in all kinds of weather. The drizzle was so fine that I could only just discern the ripples where tiny droplets of water fell into puddles in the gravel road. I was almost alone - passing only one man, running energetically, and three others to whom I said hello. The first seemed soaked through and did not reply - the other two said hello and smiled in the rain. I was the only one with an umbrella.

Everything seemed wetter than I've seen it - I guess there was zero evaporation. The ground looked muddy everywhere and I found it quite difficult not to slip on the down slopes. But I was glad to have walked there today.

*This remark appears somewhere in James Knowlson's biography of Samuel Beckett:

James Knowlson, Damned to Fame: the life of Samuel Beckett, Bloomsbury Publishing, London 1996, 872 pages.

but I can't find the page.

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© 2003 john chris jones

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