Friday 22 March 2024


Read the first chapter of Lynne Tillman on the plane, Haunted Houses. Too speedy at thirty-seven thousand feet. A quick whizz through the early lives of three girls,  Short sentences. All emotion kept to the full stops. I already had enough haunting of my own. I was impatient with Jane, Grace and Emily. I wanted to sleep. The cloud cover over southern Portugal was frayed underneath, shreds of it dangling in yellowish light as we approached the airport. 

On the communal bookshelf in the guest house in Tavira, on the main square, by the Ponta Romana, I found Graham Norton. 'Like sucking on sweets', said one of the puffs. I knew Graham Norton when he was twenty or so. He was defensive/derisive then. So I expected him to be wielding his material with some mix of his former self. But no. He was right in his small town mystery and the concoction of his plot. As advised I read  Forever Home at a gallop. It's a deepening puzzle, a domestic mystery plot, with wit, description, decisions and solutions in West Cork, a little emotion, not enough to be frightening, enough to affirm, in view of a positive outcome. Well, Graham, I would hardly have recognized you if you weren't so famous.

The next day we took a long walk along the beach, into the rising mist and the sun. Thinking about footprints and sand, how far we've come, how far to go, to the anchor cemetery where we learn the history of tuna fishing, its energy and then its demise. There's yellow broomrape in the marshes. Broomrape grows on the energy of other plants. Resplendent yellow flowers on a fat stem coming out of nowhere. The tuna do not run any more, straight in April into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic, athwart in September, the other way around. Seventy men, fourteen boats that formed a circle in which the massive tuna were trapped. A whole summer of work back then.

On the beach by the tuna cemetery I read the first paragraph of 'The Umbrella' by Tove Ditlevsen, and stopped, so pleased by this quietude, this unpromise. Every usual situation undermined, under threat. The stories in The Trouble with Happiness are very short, no one comes out of them well. Something that was already underway has come to a head and the future will scarcely be different. Writing is more than redemptive. It is a lone signal of being alive. My nephew Tom was in a band called Redemption but did not know what the word meant.

Hallélujah, says the accordion on the Ponta Romana, Tavira, that evening.

There's a wooden hut with a rusty padlock we occupy most of the day on the beach. We have a table for lunch, an old plank. Bread, cheese, tomatoes, olive oil. I read a Tove Ditlevsen story and then lie back. 

On the plane home I am still not ready for Lynne Tillman. My neighbour is a large woman in red who is doing Tesco Sudoku puzzles and eating crackers and chocolate biscuits alternately..  

No comments :

Post a Comment