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a time for fear
 
Saturday, August 09, 2003  
Orange moon. Stanstead flightpaths dot a deep August evening. Heavy air compresses sound, the street is like a vacuum. The street is, actually, gorgeous right now, in this heavy, heady twilight, all its rage implicit, sapped, beaten by the heat, bad boys stuck in doorways in vests. And full of slow-motion, sodden, sensual beauty: fit girls in a kind of element, drifting or driving through the sullen air, the soft air, the slow air. Like the opening scene in A Touch of Evil: deadly hot night, song drifting, skirting the glaze and glow of neon and lamplight, low roar of cars, high heels scraping the street. The song here is some kind of ragga karaoke event in the back room of a cafe, crowds milling on the pavement, sitting on railings sipping malt liquer and lager, smoking cigs and weed. The city contains itself, in this heat especially: creates its own extreme heat island, hotter than offical Met office predictions, its own coping strategies, its own routines, incubated in hot, thick air. This heat lives. It gestates new organisms, new lifeforms. New modes of behaviour. New codes. This heat seeps in. You sweat it out, and it sneaks back in through the pores. It gets into your bloodstream and your bones absorb the heat like concrete. Cells swell, veins suck and palpitate, skin purrs. Brainwaves buckle like railway tracks...! The air is like feverish sleep. Sink into city heat like the sea. I like this heat. It's exotic. It unwinds The UK. The old isle cracks. The sunny or cloudy or damp English summer dies not correspond: this heat is new. Pressure builds, is released, builds, is released: a layered pattern. A chaotic pattern of instinct and intention. You stop and then you move. The heat dictates your movements and your actions. The heat drives you and exhausts you. It creates an appetite for life and denies the satisfaction. It's a gift and a curse: mostly, a test. It says: how do you exist? And how do you exist now? Do you adapt, or do you die out? I eat: Ice Cream Mars, and other heavy-duty dairy or carbonated products, and think about the freedom of the sea and cliffs and sand. To wish away what's there: this oppressive, exciting heat. The heat you can only enjoy or cope with if you surrender to it, be absorbed, merge in. This is rare heat. It's special because it's not Kuwait heat, not California heat. This is heat that nobody prepares for, heat that is an event, heat that disrupts normal life instead of setting a context for it. This heat creates a holiday, even if you're stuck in work. Like the Foreign Office or the Treasury (can't remember which), forced to leave early because their air conditioning is faulty. This heat creates new conditions. A country becomes an unexpected place. Dogs aren't used to it so you have to feed them more water than normal. You're not used to it: perceptions shift into new zones. I love the heat: escape work, quaff a can of Lilt, sit on a step outside a brothel doorway in Soho, watch the beautiful, the idiotic and the mundane drift by, listen to beats bound and bounce out of an open window. Moments slowed and waded through. On a bus rattling through East End streets: shops, take aways, bars and clubs winding up for the sweaty, sexy evening. Heatwave life. Courted, coloured, contained and uncontained. The moon is orange, planes fly off to Europe, and the Pavillion packs out. Fireworks erupt in the night.

Smoke, cobwebs, street lights. I love this city. The movement and compression. The cohesion, the collisions, the cars, the clubs. Values and passions and possessions can never be a private affair: each choice demands capitulation, complicity. I just pluck things from the air. The smoke, it smears street lights: daubed across sombre mists, fading fires, it's only in the imagination, what you see after the fact. Lay yourself open and spiders crawl through cracks everywhere, with such unseen speed, such caution and determination. A mind preyed on, and caught. I fall into a trap. But the street lights are beautiful anyway.

11:45 PM

 
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