It started before dawn. I woke up to fog. Real Gothic fog.
Now, from my fourth floor window I normally look across a cityscape of roof and skylight and the odd church tower. The staircase of the nearest block of flats shows a searchlight beam all night. Fantasy-tall cranes in the distance carry a red warning light on skeletal antennae. In the pre-dawn, there are lights in a few attic windows.
But this morning early there was none of that. Just fog, swirling and eddying like sea fret.
I got up and went out. The lights were shifting and formless, like blobs of paint dropped in running water. I couldn’t find a lamppost I knew was there, until I was close enough to touch. It was cold; still and very quiet.
Gothic October Day
Am I writing a Gothic novel ? No. Have I got the idea of one in my Current Projects folder? No. Not one of those five titles currently highlighted as live? Nope.
So – why?
The strange light, the slightly sinister sense of nothing being quite where you expected, the chill…
The feeling that I could do this, that I needed to do this. All week I’ve been struggling with a book which should be speeding up and has actually slowed to glacial pace. In fact it’s very nearly stuck. And the fog had somehow set my imagination free.
I banged out a very respectable number of words, made myself a cup of tea and went back to bed. Well, it wasn’t yet sunrise.
Only then I overslept and when I woke up, it was a different universe.
No fog. Mediterranean blue sky. The whole street, houses, trees and lampposts, bathed in golden light. The pavements had that sparkly edge like newly washed crystal. The shadows were sharp.
When I went out there were people everywhere, many in summer clothes. I went out in a tee shirt and it was warm. The sun, low on the horizon at noon on this October day, hit me straight between the eyes. I was walking east. I had to go back home for my sunglasses.
Poetic October Day
And yes, I came back home, sat down at my desk and wrote about the light and the trees and the sun in my eyes until I ran out of steam. No time spent on my current and difficult book while I was doing that, of course.
In fact, I started hearing snatches of half-remembered autumn poems in my head. I looked them up. Well, I was sitting at the laptop, wasn’t I?
Was that someone feeling the same gentle warmth, the same faint guilt about playing truant from the business of everyday as I did? But not wanting to stop? Who wrote it, anyway?
Answer Robert Frost (he of the The Road Not Taken). Oddly enough it was first published in England (1915) before he returned home to the USA.
While here, he had been welcomed and encouraged by Edward Thomas – of Adlestrop, another wondrous poem about an brief, unexpected and lovely interruption of life.
And then there was “the sun of October, summery on the hill’s shoulder”. That turned out to be Dylan Thomas, writing Poem in October on his thirtieth birthday in 1944. You can hear him reading it, too.
Waste of an October Day?
Well, all the walking in the sunshine and writing stuff , looking up poets and then zooming with fellow writers, I had done nothing, not one word, on the book that needs an ending. So yes, I feel bad about that.
And no, the words I did write, don’t really count because they aren’t going anywhere. Yet, anyway.
But the sun, the golden light, the mirror-still lake in Battersea Park! The silent swirling fog before dawn! Oh yes, they were worth it.