Thursday, September 10, 2009


Clink of paintbrush tipping against the side of a jamjar full of water as it's dipped. Sunny morning, this. The blooms on my skin are quiet. It's difficult to remember, of course, whether upon this particular occasion I have escaped into, or out of, the hospital. Certainly the old familiar bits and pieces seem familiar, but familiarity's like that.

Sound of the brush being swished in the water. The thought occurs that if I sit up I should be able to see what he's painting. Which thought of course comes clattering along afterwards like half of the Crazy Gang hurtling onto the stage and tripping over the other half: Brush means a hand to hold it. Hand means an arm. Arm means a person. A person means, well, that there's another person in here.

Tink, tink again- the sound inflected with a roundness rather than a pointedness- as the excess water is tapped off the brush. Well, comes a not unwelcome thought, this corpse won't sit up by itself. So I give it a try.

He must have heard the groaning as my defamiliared bits managed at last to move in concert. All I could see was an easel, over near the window. And I had an impression that there was someone standing behind the canvas mounted on that easel, artisting away.

Tired from the sitting up, I rested awhile, holding on to the bars and remembering that, yes, I receive my care in a cage. But the familiarity with which that thought asserts itself makes me immediately distruct it. Either way, there are bars.

Speech is still some distance from being possible. Fine. I just want to look. There's the jamjar, resting on the window ledge. Flutter of sun ripples through it, throwing little white spots onto the floor. Then a hand reaches out from behind the work in progress and dips the brush to clean it again. Only...

...The water was and remains clear. Even after another dip. "Don't worry", the painter reassures me. "You're not imagining things. I'm not using paint."

Which fact he proves by making both of his hands visible to me. No palette. He had what looked like a duelling scar on his face, however. But I was more interested in what he was painting.

"You know very well what I'm painting", he said, as I finally realised that I had not, in fact, asked any question. "And you know why I can never use paint on my brush."

I began to guess what he was talking about, and for a moment I was back in BERG-1, tootling out to where it's not even safe to think about tootling to. If we even ever tootled there.

"Oh, you did", said the painter. "And such things you saw. Here, I've painted some of them."

So he turned the blank canvas towards me. It's funny the way we give familiar (that word again) names to things we have no names for. I'm thinking of the chaps in the trenches, calling this bit of muck Piccadilly Circus, or that rock Gibraltar. Which I hope goes some way to explain why I can only describe what he had painted for me as the grasses of Soho Square burning as the red water of Bury St Edmunds erupted through them from the caverns of Bermondsey below; a night scene, this, lit by the fifth moon of Clapham, idling above. Scattered throughout, oranged by the flames, were numerous examples of the things we jokingly called buses (until such time as they ceased to be a joke) walking about on their...well, they were sort of like legs.

"I'm sorry", the painter said. "I've upset you."

"No," I managed, speaking for the first time in months. "Not at all. It's just...nostalgia, I suppose."

"I understand, Victor", he said. "You don't mind if I refer to you as Victor?" Of course I didn't. Victor was a familiar name. "I understand, Victor", he repeated. "We all get homesick."


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home