Covida: My new companion.

A disease of ruthless truth

Grey Flattened platelets

 

I felt her presence the moment she crossed the threshold. I would not claim she ‘breezed  in’, but her penetration came with a cold wind of dread, dread not of illness —nothing in me expected to be one of the chosen— but an unnameable dread that suddenly life as I had known it was to end.

It was certain, not apocalyptic.

I should set the  chosen victim in context before I introduce you to this ruthless calculating doyenne with her watch chain and gaunt resolve, a Mrs. Danvers mark ten. I was paddling slowly towards old age with some of the irritating symptoms, to which I gave no attention. I still had things to accomplish, a memoir to finish, other works to polish, and the days were filled with purpose and routines. Purpose had driven my puritanical life, to contribute something of small significance. I had long been indifferent to my appearance, or clothes and I wanted little. I hardly saw anyone. A reason to keep writing was all there was, and it was enough for some to say ‘You don’t seem anything like eighty’. I was nowhere near eighty, then. It was three months ago, that ‘then’.

Like any professional invader, Covida cleared her workspace, which was my mind, exterminating any resistance. She knew exactly what was required. I would submit, no nonsense, and since this would be a rehearsal for death I would lie down and sleep while she went about eliminating the value of anything I had achieved, chopping down and uprooting  before the pyre of correction consumed it all, the garden of my life lived. All illusions were swept away by her broom of unvarnished truth.

I slept uninterrupted for eight days and eight nights, only broken by a glass held to my lips every four hours, but the inner journey I took was her prelude for the other still to come.

First the landscape went pewter and metallic-ally grey, and the maw of a funnel sucked me slowly and inexorably towards it, until I fell, like Alice into a wonderland of bleak revelations. Grey flattened replicas of Covids floated past, like blood platelets or planarias with their characteristic spikes, as though suspended in a viscous medium, not threatening because being omnipotent they had no need for menace. They were masters in the medium of my blood and brain, and they were a tribe that had total possession, make no mistake.

Then, one at a time, I floated down past recent friends, and each was wrapped in a coloured film of slight colour, blue or green or grey. I saw that film as my projected imprisonment of those friends by my hopes and expectations of them. Those friends wrapped like mummies, had never been fully seen because I had projected upon them roles that answered to me. My longing for a reader had failed to differentiate between someone who admired my writing— in sich— from what I was writing which she couldn’t believe in, not really. Since the substance of what I was writing was my memories reconstructed with all their innocence, she, not believing them, was not believing in my world or my integrity. So my friendship built over years now seems to lie shattered.  My hope had blinded me and imprisoned her. Already I miss her.

So it was with each of them. Another, much younger, was wrapped in my confidence that she had never seen me other then as a contemporary, but Covida ripped off that illusion and showed her as kind but never carelessly equal. I wanted her youth, and she had granted it. I had expropriated her kindness. Others more distant were not mummified by my expectations but patiently waiting for their deserving recognition. I had neglected so many. There it was. One cannot unsee what one has seen.

Covida is a ruthless excavator of truth, the truth about oneself.

After the pewter funnel of recent life I landed in a black landscape in which the setting sun was a thin sliver of light on the horizon. It had the atmosphere of a Caspar David Friedrich painting, bleak but inevitable. That light was the remnant of my future life, if I was to live.  I took a vow, then and there, that if I survived I would not return to the unthinking, semi conscious existence I had been living. Nor re-clothe myself in the goals of self-importance, although without them the air blows cold about me. How will I spend my days?

Sunset_by_Caspar_David_Friedrich

I have not yet found another life to live. Perhaps when Covida gives her consent to let me walk more than three hundred yards without staggering, and remain vertical for a whole day I will. She is parsimonious with her spoonfuls of stamina. Some morning I rise with a teaspoonful that will last until noon, other days she is liberal with enough to see me through until tea time, and I have fed the dog before the desperation to lie down takes me back to bed.

Being stripped naked of all clothes of self belief, all the satisfactions from accomplishments ( and I had a few) leaves little from which to restructure a new existence. Perhaps a dulling of Covida’s influence will tempt me to return to smug satisfaction. I hope I will resist.

I have long had a place I go to in the imagination, a weather beaten grey wooden shack above a cove, shining like a coin, enfolded by the arms of the earth, and known only to gulls. That is where I hope to find a new life. Needing and wanting nothing.

I am now just as old as I look, perhaps older than even I know.

I do wonder whether my single experience is also to be the collective consequence of Covida’s invasion of the planet. Will she strip us collectively naked to repent of our blindness? Will we find its ruthless truth cleansing? I give Covida a female gender since women have a deeper appetite for truth, and are deeper mired in roles which imprison them and those they serve.

Humanity has received new vision, and been stripped of outworn illusions. Here is a lesson for greedy monopolies, you will all live with less, and you, extinction rebellion warriors, see in my power instant cleaner air, grounded flights, and the reduction in the population. Go home dears, your strident protests have been heard. For you, Identity Minorities is the colour of your skin, or the temper of your unhappy gender still important now you are hungry and nobody cares about your statues or petty obsessions.

Perhaps Covida is God’s new tough love?

MOVE OVER. BOOK WITH SHARP ELBOWS

The Dangers of the Memoir

Move Over- Book Seeks Space for Indefinite Period. Period

I don’t suppose anybody has noticed my absence, but in case anyone has I must include you in some reasons. The minor medical scare was not a reason but a release. I may never have to write again! Marvellous. I’ll tidy out the cupboards, sell the beloved cello. Weed the garden and wait. Maybe I’ll need a crucifix? Shall I dig a trench next to all the dogs and make life easier for everyone all round?

Milly grave

Instead the ‘all clear’ verdict has re-locked my ball and chain, fastened me to the throne of myself, and re-filled the Parker pen. Metaphorically speaking. Get to work. You don’t escape that easily.

Now here’s the problem. Or some of them. What I write does not have commercial appeal. Never did, never will.

I know ‘page turning’ ( I do it myself) means plot, means tension, means the hero’s quest, means structure. But the only quest I can call on is to understand my extraordinary life.  I have been trying to puzzle it out since I had teeth to chew upon. Too much extra-ordinariness IS the PLOT. A wholly improbable life that implies something; orchestration, purpose, intention. Towards what? I still don’t know how it ends, though it is fairly imminent. Maybe time for one more book?

But, and here comes hell, there is simply too much of it, and a life is a whole. A book, any book must make a judicious selection and pull out threads from the tapestry, and weave a hair or wrist band and leave it at that.

Here have been some under consideration.

The veldt and Denys Reitz149979483_640

1.The view from the bridge over the chasm between Africa and England? End up offending both sides? Boer the reader with the Boer War, teach them to ride bareback over the koppies, and my grandmother’s views on Cecil Rhodes, Jock of the Bushveldt, Baden Powell et al. Then transport them to Mary Quant and sixties hip London for the blast-off, that fizzled out? You get the drift. Mandela followed by Zuma- no absolute heroes,  a fair few villains. Margaret Thatcher?  Over-cooked. Yet there are distinctive flavours.

Denys Reitz 9acfca0d466326ff6bb3d4dc24fdc721--africans-book-jacket

 

-Deneys_Reitz
Denys Reitz: A Boer Commander who inscribed his book ‘Commando’ to my grandmother after he was banished to Mozambique by the victors- les Brits! In the inscription he referred to their ‘unparalleled generosity’!

Denys Reitz 00341db61fe4ef5b4a623178ba6a8569--war-horses-days-in

 

 

 

 

2. The Search for love. Now that is a kinda quest. Literature as a kind of painting by numbers ( choose your own heroes) and all the seductions of wrong directions. Just William and Ginger would never have welcomed you in their gang. There is no John of Gaunt for you girl, and Rhett Butler? Nah, never.

Rhett-Butler-rhett-butler-27877846-500-452

Oxbridge and Virginia Woolf? Getting warmer but all that racism and preciousness? You don’t know about the overt racism? Just you wait! I took Harold Nicolson’s letters home personally since they were written while he was a guest of my Zulu speaking grandfather, who was forced to endure the company of a man who despised the people he loved. And said so. Explicitly.

But wait! There is a story and one with a literary bite. George Eliot picking up the odd stitch until I faced her full frontal at a graveside in Natal. That could make a novella for a discerning small publisher? But how I came to find her, and find the grave, weaves back into the fam-damily and the WHOLE narrative. Otherwise it looks flimsy, or contrived. It is neither.

So okay a memoir. Threads of all the above discerningly selected. I probably won’t have time to manage more than one.

Can you see why I have been silent? Six beginnings, all expiring at the third chapter.

Last night I had a rescuing dream. I had summoned my Daimon and appealed. ‘Give me a sign’.

In the dream I was contemplating the need to accommodate a guest I had never met. I was apprehensive because I knew it would be a long sojourn. I drifted through my beach shack house ( clapboard, glass, and sparsely furnished swept rooms with a lot of light but few creature comforts).

Lilwala

This small room at the back? Too dark. I want her to be able to read and entertain herself.

This large room I like? Where will I spend time? She’ll command the only bathroom.

Ah, this pillar that holds up the roof? With a well supported ledge? She could curl round it to sleep and would, in consequence make herself scarce during the day? A sort of Simeon Stylites guest?

CIS:E.445-1965

Imagine being looked down upon all day? I woke up.

On contemplating this signal dream, I understood my wrestling dilemma. I was trying to accommodate this book by avoiding her, as much as possible. Confining her to an isolation ward, that would not infect me, keep her distant; feed her scraps.

I have created the shack of myself over the years. I go there when I am overwhelmed. It sits above a cove of beach, and tidal plashing sea; its enfolding arms stretch to the horizon. The shack has a porch with a grass chair and a hammock. Below, through an arch of rock, where the tide leaves small pools, and crushed shell is the opening to the beach. Across the sands lies a moored boat with a single sail. The mariner never faces me but I know he waits to unfurl that sail when I have the courage to enter through the rock and walk towards him.

I realised that if she were to be welcomed she would have to occupy, (and be invited to occupy), the whole house, from foundations up. Wander from room to room, and interrupt. I will probably end up hating her.

Because it is the whole house of myself I seek to understand. Perhaps when I have finished, the mariner and I will depart

 

 

 

An Eclipse I Made Earlier

Astronomy;_the_corona_of_the_sun,_viewed_during_a_total_sola_Wellcome_V0024739

 

Eclipse

Tick moon gorging on blood from the sun

proceeds to suck dark the impervious sky.

Blushes under scrutiny, slowly winks, shutters half an eye.

 

Blind to waistcoat watches, eluding expositions…

Slicing its oyster along, along

the incessant speculating tongue. Far out

 

novice stars, newly born, flicker excitedly.

Dim television drones on; ‘new initiatives,

forty wounded, fifteen dead’.

 

The Virgin kneels to annunciation, accepts

a necessary puberty and the cowl.

 

Darkness in the grace of yes.