mixing up the medicine

photograph by jeanloup sieff.

Like a lot of people, I spend much of my time looking out my window. Like a lot of people who live more than twenty floors above street level, I spend more time looking out my window than most.

It has not always been this way. For a period of time I lived in a basement flat, like Johnny in Dylan\’s \”Subterranean Homesick Blues\”. Most of the time all I was able to see were people passing from the waist down. The view was much better in the summer. I probably have that bedsit to thank for my appreciation for a well-turned ankle. Or the development of something approaching a foot fetish.

I did not idle away my time hatching revolutionary plots. On the contrary, I whiled away the hours drinking red wine, white wine, cheap cider and the cheapest of spirits. Sometimes I banged away on a typewriter. When I was lucky, I banged away on the mattress on the floor which served as a double bed. When I was sober enough to even think about getting it up, that is.

And through it all the grind of the job. The monotony of servitude. Which seems much healthier in retrospect. And unobtainable.

Of course. The view from on high is much different. Things take on an altogether eyrie hue; events unfold in minute detail like scenes from a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. Sometimes one can\’t help but feel a little like a general surveying the battlefield from a distant hill. Or a refugee in waiting for the tsunami to roll in through the valley, laying waste to one and all. I have dreamed that particular recurring nightmare since I was a child. A delirium born out of I don\’t know what.

Another thing. I have lived in a number of apartments overlooking railway lines. Three now in succession, over the past sixteen years. Each apartment higher than the last. Why is that, exactly ? What a strange turn of events.

Edward Hopper was a master painter of lives lived furtively behind windows. I began this post fully intending to host a detail from his \”Hotel by a Railroad\”, 1952, to illustrate that very point; but I changed my mind at the last moment and chose something else instead. I am weary of the window frame. And the drafts which creep in between it and the glass.

The east winds do not trouble me unduly. It is those gales which blow in from the west which cause me the greatest concern.

BERT JANSCH & JOHN RENBOURN: EAST WIND from \”Bert And John\” LP (Transatlantic) 1966 (UK)



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