You don’t get to see a lot of sky when you live in a city like London. For the vast proportion of the time the sky is an adjunct to your life. It’s outside your frame of reference. It’s barely relevant in fact. It’s the thing above the buildings, but only because there’s got to be something above the buildings. For the vast proportion of the time you’re surrounded by walls.
I feel different when I’m in the country now. There’s more sky there, and it tends to take centre-stage. I’ve come to love the sky since I’ve lived in London – because I miss it, I suppose. Sometimes you catch glimpses of it – the sun sets down Oxford Street when you’re standing near Holborn, and the walls become a frame for the sky for a moment. I feel like I’m straining my neck. In the country, the sky pushes down on the earth. It keeps everything in perspective. How can things seem important when there’s streams of colour in every direction as far as the eye can see? And the clouds hang in strips, or build like islands. And the sun ruptures through it all.
One of the most transformative experiences of my life was to do with skies. I was driving towards Bristol from London and it was raining everywhere. It was just before sunset, but it seemed like the night because the clouds were so thick. The air was more water than air and it was very difficult to see anything. And then for a few moments the sun came below the level of the cloud, and the sun was pink and red, and literally everything turned pink. The clouds lit up pink from below in all directions, the road was wet and reflected pink upwards. Every particle of water in the air caught the light and glinted and flashed. It was probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
When I went to Los Angeles to see Kerry and Sean, we went to the pier. And we saw Tyne Daly from Cagney and Lacey. And there was a man on the pier with a bubble-blowing machine. And when the sun set over Malibu, I think I nearly cried because it was so beautiful. And I think Sean and Kerry thought I was a bit soft, or a bit insane.
There are times in the city when the buildings seem to high, they seem to block out the sun too much. They get in the way. Then the things that happen around us lose their perspective. They grow out of proportion. They’re huge. Their shadows are huge and cold. And then the relationships that have frayed and fallen apart seem spectre-like, inhuman. And the future seems formless yet empty – like it’s on a reel or tape loop, like it’s the skipping sound of a CD gone wrong. And then you take comfort in your friends, such as they are (or great as they are), and wait for something new to happen.
I saw Gideon and Nick today. We shopped for coats. I talked to Matt Webb over AIM, and met up with Kelly to celebrate her birthday. I met four new people today. Two were women, two were gay. I spoke to Danny on the phone, and tomorrow we’re going to see XXX. And I e-mailed my other Nick to see if he wanted to join us. And then there was the text message conversation with someone I’ve only recently been back in contact with. I’ve got a presentation to prepare and a sitting-room full of cold curry and empty drink cans. And a younger brother who means more to me than anything else in the world.