- Martin Amis, London Fields
I saw my first poppy today, while running around the edge of Trafalgar Square. I saw three poppies on my run.
The first roasted chestnut vendors are also out, as of last week.
And the nights are really drawing in. Really drawing in. Many find this depressing. Some find it cosy.
Until very recently, I was sick as the proverbial pooch from Friday afternoon to, more or less, Tuesday morning. It was overdue. If one lives in a teeming metropolis and commutes to work everyday on an underground railroad elbow-to-elbow with three million other passengers, one is going to get sick periodically. Of course, I always enormously resent it. I mean what's the point, really, of being a raving health nut, if you have to get sick just like everyone else? But I've been trying to get better at it being sick that is. For instance, over the weekend, I spent 36 straight hours on the sofa. Didn't leave the property. Hardly moved. Seemed to work. Go bed rest.
In other news: In two days, I permanently depart the 21-34 demographic and join, irrevocably, 35-49. (I'd probably feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation. That is, I mean to say, I'd feel worse if I didn't look pretty much like I did 10 years ago, except in a bit better shape and with rather more money, experience, confidence, and general equanimity. Lucky bastard, yeah? Lucky old bastard; but certainly lucky bastard.)
On Friday evening my lovely mates (I hope) will be gathering at the Founders Arms, my favourite pub on the South Bank (one of my very favourite bits of all of London), for the inevitable birthday drinks with mates.
The main reason the Founders Arms is my favourite aside from its stellar setting by the water, and amazing views is its extreme proximity to the Tate Modern, one of London's greatest cultural blandishments. Though, admittedly, I've really been getting into the National Gallery lately particularly their free afternoon and evening lectures, which I'm basically using to pick up a belated, and free, art history education. Actually, I'm really starting to see the value of, well, painting, say in a Victorian elaboration of the Venetian tradition versus, say, stacking up blocks in the corner. But there's room for all of it, I suppose particularly if you have the Turbine Room to fill up.
On Tuesday morning, at precisely Stupid'o'clock (GMT) Sara lands at Gatwick, performing the palpably brilliant manoeuvre of relocating to the Big Smoke (for at least six months, the length of her initial work visa). I'm chuffed. Just chuffed.
On Tuesday evening, however, at precisely 19:25, I'm on a train out of London's St. Pancras station to Sheffield, in Yorkshire, where my presence has been requested for most of a week of handholding some civil servants through "user acceptance testing" (of this system I've been working on for a year now). Yeah, it's Sheffield and, yeah, the timing's awful but I have a real soft spot for business (read: "free") travel. I've already been to Newcastle (three times) and Leeds (once) on the taxpayer's farthing.
So, life could definitely be a hell of a lot worse. Which is a good thing, as it will soon be over! Just ask Omar Khayyam! And if you can't trust an 11th-century mathematician/scientist/astronomer/philosopher/poet par excellence on these matters, who can you trust?
Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare,
And those that after some TO-MORROW stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries,
Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.
Perplext no more with Human or Divine,
To-morrow's tangle to the winds resign,
And lose your fingers in the tresses of
The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine.
And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in what All begins and ends in Yes;
Think then you are TO-DAY what YESTERDAY
You were TO-MORROW you shall not be less.
When You and I behind the Veil are past,
Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last,
Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As the Sea's self should heed a pebble-cast.
Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit
Of This and That endeavor and dispute;
Better be jocund with the fruitful Grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.
Of threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain This Life flies;
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.
Heav'n but the Vision of fulfill'd Desire,
And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
Ah, with the Grape my fading life provide,
And wash the Body whence the Life has died,
And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf,
By some not unfrequented Garden-side.
Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits and then
Re-mold it nearer to the Heart's Desire!
Ah, fill the cup, and in the fires of Spring
Your winter garment of repentence fling;
For the bird of time has but a ways
To flutter and the bird of time is on the wing.