Saturday, 14 July 2007

Join me in Headlong Hall

My favourite place in the world is the inside of my own head and the older I get the more time I spend there. It is, above all, the one place in the world where you cannot be got at; the ultimate freedom. The room in which you have chosen all the furniture, the pictures and the books. Shut your eyes, kick off your body’s boots and you can go wherever you like, do whatever -literally - you have a mind to do.
There is even a little workshop at the back where you can rebuild conversations, including the things you would have said, if only you had thought about it at the time.

I had a friend, Kenny the Creature who abandoned his surname as unnecessary baggage and who came to the Isle of Angelsey every year in his horse drawn caravan. He used to insist it wasn’t his home but just his shelter. He told me once that his home was in his head and the idea so chimed with my own thoughts that I appropriated it.

Of course you have to spend a great deal of your time keeping it tidy, throwing out all those useless sideboards of bulky information, the dusty filing cabinets of facts we acquire and keep in the belief that one day they will prove useful. They never do.

It helps if, like me, you have not had a formal education. I am blissfully ignorant of the whereabouts of India, but since I have never had occasion to look for it I cannot see that it matters.

Anything that has a place in my head I have fuddled out for myself, in second-hand bookshops mostly and just window gazing my way round Europe. As I say,I was educated by paper-back book. I am a sort of M.A. (Penguin)

There are leather bound volumes there too, albums of memories I have not looked at for years. But I keep nothing that is not either useful or pleasureable.The mind is the perfect librarian. Ask it for anything and you have barely settled at your reading desk before it has blown the dust off a memory and set it before you, open at just the page you need.

I have won Grand Nationals up there behind the eyebrows, fought tribesmen, ridden with the Wild Bunch, served with the cavalry and rescued distressed damsels by the bushel

I have a collection of novel plots that would stock a library. Every painting I have ever loved; every piece of sculpture I have ever owned or touched in wonder has its place in the gallery under my thatch. My ears, my nose and my eyes are indefatigable collectors. Forever on the look-out for the music, the scents and the objects of art they think I will enjoy.

I can flood my space with Beethoven’s Ninth or turn down the lamps to listen to the best of jazz played just for me by Miles Davis, Count Basey or Duke Ellington, those matchless aristocrats. I can instantly command the scents of gardens after spring rain; the taste of asparagus. The soft reassurance of burgundy, the crisp joy of Anjou. Mine is the most extensive cellar with cases of the ‘24 and ‘45 ports I tasted in youth.
I can make myself instantly thirsty and quench my thirst with the Draught Bass the brewery used to make before the market men took over.

I can talk to who I please, raise the dead if I wish. My friend, Tom Firbank is still alive there and Ken Williams and Alexander Cordell. My bloodhounds Amy and Minnie Kip my lurcher. Jorrocks my bulldog and the collie Mitzi who was my surrogate sister in childhood are comfortably kenneled there.

All the world sees of me is a belly like a spinnaker, the whiskers and a nose quietly erupting like a volcano with nostrils. Up there behind the forehead, a different creature stalks. Considerably taller and much thinner. He never spills soup on his ties. A fearless horseman always up with hounds, hands of steel and a remarkable seat. Walks like a cat and pierces with a glance. Wears - the ultimate bliss - a curly rimmed brown bowler of a stamp and style that have long been banished from the streets outside. Never seen without his monocle and gold topped malacca cane.
Now there is a chap. Made his bones with the Mafia; got Sam Spade out of many a hole and fought at the side of Glyndwr. Hotspur, the bravest soldier in history is a boon companion. Hell of a gardener between wars; his roses are the wonder of the western world. No-one leans over HIS wall to tell him they have bigger onions in their garden and has he tried mixing sugar with the water he gives them.

Quite commodious too is Headhigh Hall, with two windows in the main reception area. Rather special windows I can swivel in any direction. I can choose what I look at so the prospect always pleases. Landscape, mountainscape or seascape
I have merely to register the thought and the whole edifice turns in the direction I wish.

But the nicest thing about such a home is that there is no waiting list for a tenancy. Everyone in the world has their own key. Just climb the neck and there you are.

End

1 comment:

Laura said...

Raising the tone of cyberspace single-handedly, well done.