The Blue Notebook
The American, Mr Green, was coming today, so I got his room ready. He telephoned to say he was invited to spend a day in the country, could he come tomorrow? Many careful apologies. Was annoyed, had made arrangements that I had to change. Later Molly telephoned to say that her friend Jane told her that she, Jane, had spent the day with Mr Green ‘showing him Soho’. I was angry. Then Molly said: ‘Tommy met Mr Green and didn’t like him, he said he was unorganized, that’s a mark in Mr Green’s favour, don’t you think? Tommy never approves of anyone who isn’t just so. Don’t you think that’s odd? Ever such a socialist he is, and all his friends, and they’re all as respectable and petit-bourgeois as — they’ve only got to meet someone with a bit of life in them, and they start drawing their moral skirts aside. And of course that ghastly wife of Tommy’s is worse than anybody. She complained that Mr Green was nothing but a bum, because he doesn’t have a regular job. Can you beat it? That girl’d do beautifully as the wife of a provincial businessman with slightly liberal leanings that he uses to shock his Tory friends. And she’s my daughter-in-law. She’s writing a great tome about the Chartists and she puts aside two pounds a week as a nest-egg against her old age. Anyway, if Tommy and that little bitch don’t like Mr Green, it means you probably will, so virtue won’t have to be its own reward.’ Well, I laughed at all this, and then I thought that if I could laugh I couldn’t be in such a bad state as I thought. Mother Sugar once told me it had taken her six months to get a depressed patient to laugh. Yet there’s no doubt that Janet’s going, leaving me alone in this big flat, has made me worse. I am listless and idle. I keep thinking of Mother Sugar, but in a new way, as if the idea of her can save me. From what? I don’t want to be saved. Because Janet’s going has reminded me of something else — time, how time can be, when one hasn’t got pressure on one. I haven’t moved, at ease, in time, since Janet was born. Having a child means being conscious of the clock, never being free of something that has to be done at a certain moment ahead. An Anna is coming to life that died when Janet was born. I was sitting on the floor this afternoon, watching the sky darken, an inhabitant of a world where one can say, the quality of light means it must be evening, instead of: in exactly an hour I must put on the vegetables, and I suddenly went back into a state of mind I’d forgotten, something from my childhood. I used at night to sit up in bed and play what I called ‘the game’. First I created the room I sat in, object by object, ‘naming’ everything, bed, chair, curtains, till it was whole in my mind, then move out of the room, creating the house, then out of the house, slowly creating the street, then rise into the air, looking down on London, at the enormous sprawling wastes of London, but holding at the same time the room, and the house and the street in my mind, and then England, the shape of England in Britain, then the little group of islands lying against the continent, then slowly, slowly, I would create the world, continent by continent, ocean by ocean (but the point of ‘the game’ was to create this vastness while holding the bedroom, the house, the street in their littleness in my mind at the same time) until the point was reached where I moved out into space, and watched the world, a sun-lit ball in the sky, turning and rolling beneath me. Then, having reached that point, with the stars around me, and the little earth turning underneath me, I’d try to imagine at the same time, a drop of water, swarming with life, or a green leaf. Sometimes I could reach what I wanted, a simultaneous knowledge of vastness and of smallness. Or I would concentrate on a single creature, a small coloured fish in a pool, or a single flower, or a moth, and try to create, to ‘name’ the being of the flower, the moth, the fish, slowly creating around it the forest, or the seapool, or the space of blowing night air that tilted my wings. And then, out, suddenly, from the smallness into space.