Archive for the 'Fragments' Category


June 12, 2007

Last week I travelled on the Eurostar for the first time. Here are my observations:

  • Ensure that you are not sitting anywhere near chatty people returning from holiday.
  • Avoid the ham and cheese melt – despite a brief but no doubt bright experience in the microwave, it has nothing to offer. Preferably take your own food and drink on board.
  • The speed of the train on the British tracks is just embarrasing – roll on November, and the switch to the new tracks from St Pancras.
  • Overall, going to Brussels and back in a day is very doable, albeit a bit tiring.

Also, as past readers of this blog (bless you) will know, I like to observe coincidences between my life and the universe. These coincidences are often quite… loosely coupled.

But on the way to Brussels I experienced one of the strongest coincidences of my life – heart-stopping.

At THE PRECISE MOMENT that coach 2 (that I was in) of the Eurostar train emerged – rushing – from the channel tunnel, I was reading this sentence in A Case of Conscience by James Blish (in which the main character, Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez is on a fast train from Naples to Rome):

The rapido hurled itself from the mouth of the tunnel as impetuously as it had entered, and the renewed blast of sunlight forced Ruiz to close his eyes once more.

Art doesn’t get much closer to life than that!



November 7, 2006

They’ve changed the disembodied voice-of-the-train on the Piccadilly Line from the whining, tired sounding man to a smooth and sexy sounding older woman. I think it’s the news announcer from BBC Radio 4 and The News Quiz – Charlotte Green.

Lady Komachi

July 2, 2006

A description of an historical geisha named Lady Komachi, from Geisha by Lesley Downer:

…raven tresses that cascaded to the floor, a face like a blossom and eyebrows painted into perfect crescent moons. She would glide through the cedar-scented halls in her multi-layered gauze and damask robes, oblivious to the thousands of love letters which lay discarded about her chamber. At night she slept in a room bright with tortoise shell, where golden flowers decorated the walls and strings of crystal beads hang in the doorway. When she passed the cup at banquets, people said it was as if the moon lay on her trailing sleeve. (p315)


May 15, 2006

They say I am going to die. Aren’t we all? I ask in return.

I stepped up onto the raised dais and looked out into the raked darkness before me; I imagined this darkness was rolling toward me, a cloud of lethal black gas, a wave of thick and airless oil. So this is life, I thought. This is light. God help me.

"I stand before this assembly," I began, "as a broken man." Silence. A cough.

I continue. "I stand before you today as a man who is no longer himself. I have travelled to another world, have passed through its bloodstream, and have returned bearing its stain. Indeed, I stand before you as an alien, an anomaly, an insurgent."

sung to the tune of…

May 15, 2006

Dear, I thought I’d drop a line. The weather’s cool. The folks are fine. I’m in bed each night at nine. Yesterday we had some rain but all in all I can’t complain. Was it dusty on the train? Write to the Browns just as soon as you’re able: they came around to call. And I burned a hole in the diningroom table. Now let me think . . . I guess that’s all. Nothing else for me to say and so I’ll close, but by the way, everybody’s thinking of you.


P.S. I love you.

I Mention This

May 15, 2006

From The Medusa Frequency, by Russell Hoban:

Often in my researches I’ve come across old books of a specialist nature in which the author, usually a retired wingcommander, expresses in a modest foreword the hope that the little volume may be a vade mecum for the model steam engineer, coarse angler, sado-masochist or whatever. I feel that way about these pages: I hope that this little volume may be a vade mecum not so much for the specialist as for others like me – the general struggler and straggler, the person for whom the whole sweep of consciousness is [sometimes] too much. Here I am reminded of the words of H.P. Lovecraft: The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.


May 1, 2006

From A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce:

His heart trembled; his breath came faster and a wild spirit passed over his limbs as though he was soaring sunward. His heart trembled in an ecstasy and his soul was in flight. His soul was soaring in an air beyond the world and the body he knew was purified in a breath and delivered of incertitude and made radiant and commingled with the element of the spirit. An ecstasy of flight made radiant his eyes and and wild his breath and tremulous and wild and radiant his windswept limbs… His throat ached with a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk or eagle on high, to cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds… An instant of wild flight had delivered him and the cry of triumph which his lips withheld cleft his brain.


March 20, 2006

It's about time we had some Barth on this blog! From The Tidewater Tales: A Novel

Andrew Sherrit, directing the number-two cameraman to dolly in tighter, is surprised at the husky male sound of his own voice. It is himself at his present age, in the bed of his bedroom at home, on a green and tender late-May morning. But the smiling woman beside – tawny-haired, brown-eyed, brown-skinned as a Coppertone model sans bikini, across whose nakedness the sweet air moves as over his – is his wife. Her head is propped in her right hand; her left rests lightly on her upthrust hip. Her face, also he body, is of a surpassingly friendly beauty; Chip will remember that phrase, the ease of his lying there with her, the air on their skin, the feel of their being husband and wife. He'll recall her face exactly; it reminds him of no one's he knows, nor any composite that the can sort out. He'll wish he had gotten her name, at least, and wonder why in the world he was filming them in bed together. He'd never do that! His eyes and nose will sting: his first real wet-dream, and they were such good friends!


March 13, 2006

From Nostromo by Joseph Conrad:

At last the conflagration of sea and sky, lying embraced and still in a flaming contract upon the edge of the world, went out. The red sparks in the water vanished together with the stains of blood in the black mantle draping the sombre head of the Placid Gulf; a sudden breeze sprang up and died out after rustling heavily the growth of bushes on the ruined earthwork of the fort. Nostromo woke from a fourteen hours' sleep, and arose full length from his lair in the long grass. He stood knee deep amongst the whispering undulations of the green blades with the lost air of a man just born into the world. Handsome, robust, and supple, he threw back his head, flung his arms open, and stretched himself with a slow twist of the waist and a leisurely growling yawn of white teeth, as natural and free from evil in the moment of waking as a magnificent and unconscious wild beast. Then, in the suddenly steadied glance fixed upon nothing from under a thoughtful frown, appeared the man.


March 9, 2006

From Chatterton by Peter Ackroyd:

The saliva fills Chatterton's mouth, a river overflowing its precious banks. There is a pain in his belly like the colic but burning so, my liver and spleen might roast in the heat. What is happening to me? He tries to rise from his bed, but the agony throws him down again and he rolls in terror to stare at the wall. Oh God the arsenic. He vomits over the bed, and in that same spasm shit runs across his thin buttocks – how hot it is – and trickles down his thighs, the smell of it mixing with the rank odour of the sweat pouring out of his body. Everything is fleeing from me. I am the house on fire. Oh God the poison. I am being melted down… a birth pain, my bowels ripped open to find the child, oh mother mother. Chatterton is being tossed up and down upon the sodden bed, the agony rising from him like mist into the attic room. Hold on oh hold on until this fit is past but my hands are nailed to the bed, my flesh being torn from me as I curve and break. His face is swelling, his eyelids bursting in the heat. I am the giant in the pantomime oh God save me from melting, melting, melting