Making Marks

1975 Oxford


I charged through Gore Vidal’s Collected Essays, bowed several times before his formidable intelligence, wit and humanity. Laughed at his searing character sketches (assassinations) of Nixon, Rockefeller, Howard Hughes. An entertainment, an education, an encouragement to make some mark with the only life I have.

And there’s the rub. How to make that mark. Looking up from my drawing board at work and out over St Thomas’ beyond the green-black bulk of Beaver House, Boars Hill and Wytham Hill are daily growing in size. Accumulation of leaves. Bulky, green, rich and beautiful under the occasional sun. Flashback to Stoke when I would go to the attic window in the winter months to watch the sun dip behind the Penkhull ridge, throwing redness onto Fenton Tip. The nearest thing to natural beauty invading the worker’s consciousness there. Here the grand cloudscapes, magnificent approaching storms. An eyrie almost. And just that square of glass between me and a living, natural world. I don’t seriously consider escape. Maybe I have inwardly accepted that escape is impossible though still keeping myself aloof enough from the work and most of my colleagues to preserve some pride. Some individuality.

The third floor of M House is a barren landscape peopled by shades mainly, shackled, shuffling, lost. Have they never had a bite of Captain Hook’s leg? I feel there should be more goodness in the work situation. More stimulus from the arrangement of furniture, from the movement of the planners through the spaces between, from the words that issue from their lips, from the hints and suggestions of what their lives “outside” are really like. But I continue to suffer from malnutrition. Get out then! Leave them to it. But, sir, where can I go? Who shall I go with?

And all the time now, though not to be at all morbid about it, I have the full realisation of my own mortality. A dreadful thing for someone so young to carry about on his person. In the midst of a wasteland here, I feel I have some value. Silly ain’t it? Yes, I’m frightened of dying before showing, clearly, what I am capable of…

On the Horizon


Landscape 116 · Filey Bay


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