I never quite got used to crawling through the attic. The windows were irretrievably caked with dirt, casting murky shadows across the dark room, in swirls that showed at some point, someone had tried to clean them. It was hopelessly dark. I'd go up from my bedroom, clambering up on my elbows. Once up, I'd sit with my legs dangling through the hole, eyes shut, for two renditions of Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, until my eyes adjusted. Like I said, I never quite got used to it; my heart would pound and my mouth would go dry. Once my eyes had adjusted - sightless as nightmares - I'd bolt through, often in such a hurry I'd scramble through the eaves on my hands and knees, with no further goal than to make it through the dark and into the light.
My. How very biblical.
I spent every free moment that summer sitting up on the roof. The roof formed an M shape, and the hatch opened out in the middle V part, which sort of flatttened off towards the tip, forming a comfy space to sit. I'd lean against the sloping part of the roof and read, or I'd lie flat on my back and watch the clouds.
It's been a long time since I whiled away an afternoon picking shapes oout of the clouds.
I went on a temple stay, while I was in Korea. Its something I'd had organised for a while - spur of the moment choice, heavily influenced by a desire to spend some time in Seoul and see some of the surrounding area - and then I successfully forgot about it until my plane tickets came through the post.
It was all very exciting. I thought they were a gift from a mystery admirer who wanted to whisk me away for a weekend of consolation sex and champagne, but obviously not.
What I got, though, was a week of meditating and Buddhist teaching, followed by a spontaneous fortnight worth of wandering around Seoul, where I got slapped round the back of the head by an old lady.
The temple stay was amazing. There was a question and answer session on our first night; we sat on the floor with cups of lotus flower tea, and I waited, and I listened, and I got all introspective and curious and asked, "What are we doing here?"
The question was roughly as out of character for me as the rest of the trip.
He gave me a wide beautific smile and said, "We are drinking tea."
Either that was a linguistic glitch - which I doubt, his English was better than mine, lots of multi-syllable words - or a hint to live in the now. Which is my default position, and unfailingly gets me in trouble.
But, for perhaps the first time in my life, I decided to take him at his word.
South Korea, chopstick master class and new friends. Japan, hot springs and a wedding invitation. Russia again, Petersburg and Moscow, a broken wrist. Eastern Europe, backpacking across Poland. Woring in Spain, au pairing and bar work, La Coruna and Madrid, some remembered kisses. Came back briefly as documented, month of absolute unlimited debauchery and good memories before the itchy foot syndrome kicked in. Ran out of money in Italy, where I discovered a side to the country I'd completely missed last time I was there - travelled up from Venice to a small town just up from Rome by public transport and plain luck, and was told that, actually, Italian men aren't rude in the slightest, because if I wasn't so pretty they wouldn't stare, so really it was all my own fault. Concentration camp hop, week of absolute sobriety. Switzerland hike, Oktoberfest, Bulgarian spa, herded sheep in Toulouse, helped thatch a roof in Hereford, helped break apart an interior wall in Hackney-
"Are you sure this is ok? I mean, that's a LOT of building going to come crashing down on top of us if we fuck up."
"Dolly, it's fine. Trust me. Just think about how much lighter it's going to be in here without this wall."
A good excuse if there ever was one to hoist a mallet and start swinging.
Which brings me, pretty much, to where I am now. Which is working in a call centre in Old Street, living in highly embarrassing circumstances in London Bridge and trying to scrape enough money together to move into a flat, pay off my overdraft and be able to stop living off soup and reduced Sainsburys food.
It's certainly something of a comedown for a North London princess such as myself.
I'm back at my mothers' place, house-sitting for a few days, and in a fit of inspiration borne from the fact I'm not smoking this week had me scrambling up into the attic and out the window.
As it turns out, I'm not scared of the dark any more.
It looks like nobody's been up there since I was a child, a good many years ago now - the window was jammed shut from dust, cobwebs and general neglect, and by the time I managed to cajole it open I'd forgotten it was still daylight outside. The light pouring in around the edges of the window made me blink a little, and fall back a step.
I'm not sure I like metaphors.And on some days that were the very finest of all days she could feel only sunshine and see just a strip of blue sky
I spent the afternoon lying on the roof in the delicate Autumn sunshine, alternating reading some of my favourite books from my teenage years - sometimes, a little humourous comfort reading is essential to ones emotional survival - with just lying back and watching the clouds pass.
Labels: insomnia, will-o'-the-wisp