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December Blues

Going home.#camdenroad #overground #london #trainstation

5.30pm, Wednesday 28 December, and I’m standing on the platform at Camden Road Station, waiting for an Overground train to take me to London's East End. It’s cold, the sun has set about an hour before and there’s hardly anyone about – not surprising during a week where most people choose to stay at home.

I usually wait for the train right at the end of the platform, where the last carriage stops. I notice a man walk slowly past me and nonchalantly move into the “no entry” area which leads to machinery and the bushes that run alongside the tracks. He’s dressed head to toe in black and carries a backpack with neon green stripes.

At first I think he works for Transport for London (TfL). Then I wonder if he’s just someone needing to piss. But he takes his time back there and when I check again I see that he’s moving deeper into the bushes, as if planning to walk home beside the train tracks.

I go down the platform in search of a TfL member of staff because now I’m thinking “what if there’s something in that backpack meant to hit the train?” There are no staff members around. I go back to the edge of the platform and look over the fence.  I can see him now and he’s standing right at the edge, waiting for the train to come.

I shout “Hey!” He turns around and slowly walks back to the platform.

“Do you work here?” I ask.

“No.”

“What were you doing back there?”

“I was looking out for the train.”

“It’s a strange place to wait for the train,” I say. All his answers are delivered flat, without any emotion. I can see now that he’s a white English guy in his 40s. “Were you going to jump?”

“No.”

“There is help out there if you need it.”

“I know,” he says, still emotionless. He returns to the edge of the platform, just by the barrier, and looks out for the train.

“Are you going to jump?” I ask again.

“No,” he says and moves away from the edge.

I repeat that there is help out there for him and again he says that he knows. A few other people stand near us but they are oblivious to our conversation - too absorbed by their phones.

We notice the train pulling into the station. I look at him and he looks at me. My heart’s in my throat because I know I’ll have to grab him if he makes a dash for the edge. The train stops, the carriage doors open, and people step out. He lingers behind everyone who’s boarding, as if waiting for me to go in first. I don’t move, waiting for him to get in. Once he does so, I step in after him and sit down one carriage away.

I chat with friends on WhatsApp and post a question on Facebook about what I should do next. The consensus is that I should find a TfL member of staff.

The train reaches its destination, Stratford. Everyone gets out and I see him lingering by the stairs, as if planning to turn around and get back inside the train. When he sees me watching him, he joins the crowd leaving the platform. I go after him but lose him in the human flow.

I find a young woman who works for the TfL and tell her what happened. She asks me to follow her and says she needs to report it. We go into a small office on another platform and I give her as best a description as I can of the guy. She says there are many suicide attempts this time of the year and that she’ll put a call out across the network to look out for him. She thanks me for reporting it and I say goodbye.

Just a quote

"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest --- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."

Albert Einstein

Bristol

I'm failing at this Save Livejournal Month... been a few days without updates and now I'm heading to Bristol for the weekend and won't update again until, probably, Monday.

Anyway. Have yourself a lovely weekend! My boyfriend and I are celebrating 18 years together tomorrow. I think it will involve tapas. ❤️

The Power and the GloryThe Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish my book club had suggested this book during wintertime. Then I could have approached it in a suitably dark mood. As it was, they suggested it at the tail end of a very nice, sunny summer in London, where my thoughts were more on fun things I could do outdoors then on bleak hours I could spend in the company of a nameless “whisky priest” on the run from police officers.

Graham Greene is a master stylist, one of the best writers in the English language – perhaps even the best? But he’s not the kind of author you can pick up anytime. You have to approach him in a certain frame of mind, in a certain mood – at least if you want to get the most out of his prose.

From John Updike’s introduction you learn that Greene wrote this novel after spending a very short time in Mexico, but his ability to capture a place and time was so successful all Mexicans who read the work afterwards felt immediately transported back (unhappily so, probably.) It’s a testament to Greene’s talent as a writer that he can conjure so much – write so evocatively – of a land he wasn’t raised in.

The novel’s nameless narrator is one of the last remaining clergymen in a Mexico run by a government that has decided to burn all churches and execute all priests. But he’s no saint: he has a daughter he loves more than anything in the world (and who hates him), he loves a tipple (hence the “whisky priest” nickname), and he often has uncharitable thoughts about others. The landscape he travels through is one of desolation, poverty, struggle – one he feels at times responsible for, at times disassociated from. All the while, the police are closing in on him, cutting off his escape routes.

I was reminded of Cormac McCarthy and his brutal worlds, in particular “The Road”, which also features a nameless man travelling through a barren landscape. Both novels show characters and animals pushed to the extreme when humanity and the rule of law have disappeared – when the question of God’s existence is at the forefront of everyone’s mind as it seems only He can deliver them from their living nightmare.

Greene’s flawed priest is aware that salvation is perhaps not even available for himself, and if he notices the similarities of his own predicament with Jesus’ story (the mule he escapes on, for example, or the bread he breaks with the man who will later betray him) he doesn’t show it. He tries his best to bring some Christian comfort to the people he encounters, but it’s so tinged with his own imperfections the reader begins to wonder if salvation is available to anyone at all.

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A writer's prayers

The beautiful season.#victoriapark #fall #autumn #london

He runs in the park on weekends. The sunlight pouring through the red and golden leaves brings a silent thanks to the universe for letting him be alive and healthy.

He takes a bath in the dark, just a small white candle for company. He calls upon all his dead ancestors, and even a few pets, to watch over and protect his family.

Then he lies on his bed and watches the clouds speed east. He sends a silent prayer to the ones he loves, wishing for them complete happiness on Earth and that all their dreams may come true.

A writer's autumn

Young and old.#victoriapark #fall #autumn #london

He wakes up to the smell of coffee and the sound of his boyfriend in the kitchen frying pancakes and bacon. After they are done with breakfast, he looks outside and thinks: “it’s a writing day.”

He types handwritten notes for a few hours then showers. As a reward, he gives himself a walk through Victoria Park.

He stops to eat a bagel on a bench facing the pond. Each tree warmed by autumnal light begs to be photographed. A passing old man watches a young couple kissing in a rowboat.

One day, he realises, he will only have memories.

Question?

As part of Save Livejournal Month, are there any topics you'd like me to write about, or questions you'd like to ask me?

Please leave a comment and I'll write a LJ post on it.

Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday LifeSidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the movie The NeverEnding Story, a boy accidentally ends up in a mysterious bookshop, where he borrows a book without the owner's knowledge. As he sits in an attic reading the book - which tells the story of a warrior on a quest in some fantastical land - he realises the book is aware of him, and speaking back to him.

My experience with this book was a little bit like that. My boyfriend gave it to me as a birthday gift because he knew I had an interest in synchronicity (or maybe the book "fell" on him in the bookstore? This is apparently a very popular "starting" point for synchronous events.) As I started reading it, a few topics discussed on its pages happened to be random topics I was already reading about elsewhere.

Robert Moss paints the world as a place filled with symbols that are waiting to speak back to us, if only we'll pay attention to them. Then, what we do with them, is a matter of how creative we want to get. Moss' style is conversational, very easy to read, and the book has plenty of exercises to activate synchronicity in your life.

I decided to play one of his games by asking my Spotify playlist a question and letting a randomly selected song give me the answer (or guide me, as Moss would say). The song that came up was Madonna's "Cherish", with lyrics which actually fit perfectly what I was asking. Just as I was listening to the song, going down Camden and paying attention to its lyrics, I walked past a young woman dressed like Madonna circa 1980s. From then onwards, other coincidences started to appear related to that song (mostly to do with the song's reference to Romeo and Juliet). I'm not really sure what it all means except, perhaps, that the universe has a sense of humor (or maybe it's just our own mind's comedic power when it focuses on something?)

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Hard

Updating LJ every day is a tad difficult.

Judy

"Beauty fades, dumb is forever." - Judge Judy

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