Thursday, September 03, 2009

Dark skies over Dunoon

Dark skies over Dunoon
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Another gloomy morning, the kind of day when getting on with it seems pointless and the book you're nearly finished (Pat Barker's Life Class) calls you to the red chair under the light. I would say I was depressed, but it wouldn't be true, for in depression books have no charm. But I am reminded of wet days in Arran, scene of my summer holidays from the age of 9 months until fairly recently (and I'll be there at the end of this month).

The house we rented every year had a cupboard at the top of the spiral staircase, watched over by two wally dugs - these china spaniels of unsurpassed hideousness. In the cupboard were two shelves of the most strangely-assorted books, among which I burrowed. By the time I was fourteen or so I must have read Dreadnoughts of the Dogger eight times, although there were also paperback Westerns and a hardback copy of The Flight of the Heron. (Does my younger son ever wonder where his Christian name comes from?)

And I used to welcome days like today, days when it seemed unlikely that we would be out for more than a few hours, days when I wouldn't be summoned by holidaying friends -"Is Christine coming out to play?" I would curl up on the step under the dormer window of the front bedroom and lose myself in the lost cause of the Jacobites or the adventures of Sea Scouts caught up in the naval activities of World War 1. I would be so far from the present moment that I would find it truly hard to join others in play, or even the family for food.

And that, of course, is the magic of fiction. Television, DVD, film - none of these has the same hold, the same secret lure to another world. I feel keenly the fact that as an adult I am no longer free to do this withdrawing from the world, and that as an online addict I have distractions which can prevent the immersion which is the true secret of enjoyment. And I shall never forget the time when I realised that being depressed - in my case post-operatively - stops the magic in its tracks.

The photo, by the way, somewhat contradicts the opening message of this post: this is the kind of sudden brightness that would signal the end of an afternoon's reading. I can almost hear my father's voice: drag yourself downstairs - the rain's off!


  1. Off - but for how long!

    However I know what you mean. Time ceases to have any meaning when you get immersed in a book.

  2. Just add hot chocolate and some hot buttered toast to the book reading - I can only fantasise. Instead I had the windscreen wipers on at high speed and observed the "A1 closed after Dunbar" (flooding) sign on the motorway as I made my way from one work commitment to another. Oh to be retired!