It’s already the twentieth. I can’t believe this month is escaping me as well. The to-do-list are never completely crossed over, new tasks appear every day. Life at the moment feels like a slope of sand rushing towards Christmas.
We spent last weekend in Margate. Thanks to one of Gerry’s customers we got to stay in Arlington House, in an apartment on the 14th floor overlooking the harbour and the city. It was a bit like living in a slightly run down version of 60s utopia, which is lovely if you like that sort of thing (and I do). There were North Korean blue communal hallways with lonely plants lurking in the corners, an empty car park for five hundred cars that never appeared, grey concrete with grass and moss growing through the cracks, marble in the entrance, lifts that haven’t changed since the sixties, broken lightbulbs as you sweep past unannounced floors, the lift coming to halt with a shudder.
Margate is a fascinating place. This is a good article if anyone is interested in finding out more about it. Living there seems impossibly cheap compared to London. Property websites tell me you can get a three bedroom flat with views across the sea for 60 000 pounds, a fraction of what a similar property would go for in London.
And having just come back from the seaside I can’t help but dreaming of property. A recent Brainpickings article on writer Rebecca Solnit made me think about it some more. Solnit writes “the dream of a house can be the eternally postponed preliminary step to taking up the lives we wish we were living.” So what is this idealised life I’m dreaming of? The life I will lead when we have a house of our own? It’s like thinking about time and the lack of time. One day, when I have a lot of time, I will … But what is it I would do? What would I achieve with all this time and personal space that I’m not achieving now? Or change achieve to be, because life’s not and shouldn’t just be all about achieving, it’s about being, about resting in the moment.
I’m not very good at that. There are mad, stressful travelling times in my life when I’ve been able to live for the moment, forgetting about my fear of things ending. And maybe that’s why I also sometimes dream of having and owning my own home. To quote Solnit again “Maybe a house is a machine to slow down time, a barrier against history, a hope that nothing will happen, though something always does.”
What is it this ideal house could give me? My dreams never stretch further than to a kitchen with yellow morning light, always this light streaming in as I’m drinking coffee and reading or writing. Perhaps this longing for a house is also a longing for newness and for change. But I will never get there, or anywhere, unless I work with and on what I have now.
As Solnit writes.
Maybe we all dream of being God, the god who breaches dams, moves houses suddenly, erects bridges, decides where forests will be and who will die; and we graduate from the dollhouse to our own house if we are lucky, where we assume a role somewhere between God the Creator and the chambermaid, choosing but carrying out more painfully the clean floor, the dinner for six, the potted plants, the framed prints. The execution is difficult. The dreaming is easy and unending.