Sunday, 14 June 2009

What's missing from this picture?

(originally posted on myspace here)





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At nine o'clock it was still light in Battersea Park, and I'm trying to put my finger on what it is that's missing, and why I feel I'm wasting my time here. I mean, look at it. Where else would I rather be? Just behind me is the vicarage I lodged in when I left school, attached to a round church with a photograph of the planet Earth where Jesus would normally be, or at least that's what was there back in 1993, when I first left home. And it's becoming difficult to maintain that enthusiasm for independence now I'm 34. London has never looked more beautiful, and I'm limping to keep up. Battersea Park is practically deserted and there are party-boats on the the Thames but this doesn't feel like home tonight. It feels like a very well-appointed waiting room. 

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I don't know what's missing.

Maybe this is because of the fire, because my home has gone but I'm only now getting ready to entertain. Maybe it's because of the pain in the right leg. Maybe it's because I should be writing. I've had another week off and done... not nothing I suppose, no, on Tuesday I went to the hospital to blow into a robot and receive a clean bill of health, good, and on Friday I went to "The Hospital" to eat Eggs Benedict and discuss a script about a hitman - but it's not much. I mean, Gemma went over to California for the week and still managed fit in research for the show (from a book about Manet... and there's a mur-mermuh-mermuh programme about him on iplayer right now in fact). It's all good stuff she's found. Here's some:

"This is a quote from the charge d'affaires at the British Embassy in Paris in 1869.
'The second empire has gone off the rails. It is no longer being guided it is hurling itself at an accelerating speed towards the abyss'... 
"The 1867 expo opened late. On the opening ceremony, they were surrounded by builders. because of bad weather, barely half the exhibits were there. Of those that had arrived, only a fifth had been unpacked. The opening ceremony, conducted by Emperor Napoleon was on 'a muddy fairground amid packing cases, tarpaulin-shrouded exhibits and crews of frantic workmen' one observed described it as 'a sickly child that was bound to die', so. That became the biggest show in Europe. It's all ok... 
"London in 1867 had a heatwave. They drank cold tea and gentlemen wore wet cabbage leaves inside their top hats... 
"Abolishment of arbitrary arrest and obligation of workers to carry identity cards... 
"Napoleon went to war in Alsace Lorraine with bladder stones. In a lot of pain, he rouged himself, and tried to die in battle but failed. He lamented he was 'not even able to get himself killed.'... 
"During the seige, they killed all the animals in the zoo to eat. The richer Parisians therefore dined on all sorts of curiosities. Castor and Pollux, the two elephants in the Jardin de Plantes, had been cruelly and bunglingly dispatched with a chassepot firing steel tipped.33 calibre bullets. Elephants had long been the most esteemed and well loved residents at the zoo. They were fed honey cakes and were said to enjoy the singing of patriotic songs. Their keeper, M. Devisme, had protested at the execution (which was watched by several big-game hunters and other Parisians) and afterwards fell sobbing in the snow, huggling the trunk of one of his dead charges. Elephant steak promptly found its way onto the plate of Victor Hugo who was further satisfying his gastronomic curiosity by tucking into bear and antelope. (Horse meat gave him indigestion. Wealthy Parisians were able to choose from zebra, reindeer, yak and kangaroo)" 

The night before Gemma mailed that, I had a dream about dying elephants in the Shunt Lounge, a whole pile of them at the foot of a low ramp being gored by elephants that had failed to make the jump and goring the next ones in turn. It was a mess. Maybe I need a desk. There are four canvasses stuck to the wall of the room I now occupy. They're stuck there with blue tak. Two are blank. The other two bear this picture:

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But as long as this isn't my home that's not my problem.

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