sitting on a train on the way to edinburgh i am surrounded and enveloped by scottish. also present is the dual-hum of the train engine: bass drawl and mid-rangey growl from the wheels on the long bars of metal rolled out on the northumbrian countryside. rattling also from the seats. a sign continuously tells me that i am sitting in coach f.
i have become accustomed recently to the sounds of cities their approach their retreat. most recently i have lived in three metropolises and i am beginning what i believe to be a regular companionship with a fourth.
the first was loud and generous, tense in anticipation for the next adventure whatever it may be and still aching from the last. never a quiet moment i lived until my ears rang with the sounds that leaked from its companions and the multitude of life spilling out onto streets finding something worthwhile in even the dampest abandoned wreck. appearing converted to this mode of experience i sought out the spaces it recommended, bought it books and albums and drinks and kept it entertained — why was i entertaining it? — by humouring its recommendations and careering through its roughly shod and sloppily, spontaneously contrived plans, whilst pretending that i was allowing myself to be entertained by a gracious and generous host. reeling i returned home late the feel of fingers still in mind. the blackened and dusty concrete scratch the edges of my mind that do not quite fit into the narrow tall streets filled with something i have not yet found. there is always something missing and something else absent one is not yet here and the other was here but is temporarily on leave when it will be back i cannot say. the scant few hooks that kept me in place are still tugging but i cannot properly reach them they provide a strong enough anchor for the lucid portions of my memories but i fear that i do not pay them enough attention and have shamefully neglected them through distance and the laziness of routine which not even the longest letters can assuage.
second was a quiet idyll. echoing to the sounds of recently removed living the walls themselves were an unbearable repercussion of the sounds i had grown accustomed to but did not, at this point in time, profoundly miss as i had been lead to believe i should. however everything was familiar again and i fell into unbearably memorous arms that smelled of all the soaps and washing powders that i had left behind me. i could hear the small sounds of the ground beneath my feet and the leaves in the trees. unity over the raw divided uncertainty of my last companion who hung on my shoulder and wept in the dark when everyone had finally gone home. the cool green shades i sat with my old friend the soft wind that is channelled down narrow rills in the hillside and cradled recluses hidden beneath trees hedges and downs cultivated over centuries for the purpose of concealment and peace. by my side we sat framed in the history of the county, consecrated earth packed under the bric a brac of mediaeval minds while above us both soared the peak of our collective dream that cast long long shadows in the wake of its children who leave their doorsteps forever forgotten to join the world at large beyond the water clogged meadows on which this mountain was foolishly constructed. we walked its foothills and climbed to its summit to a view already familiar from the weight of imagination bent on this place. my companion says little and is content to wander the narrow streets, old bricks and chalk walls embedded with cold fists of flint quite happy with the georgian windows they protect, unexpected mill races, and quite corners to place memories for safe keeping.
other memories were kept safe by my third lover, neglected but missed. little changed welcoming with open arms. the pathways of the memory pristine despite both lack of thoroughfare leading to overgrowth and frequent oneiric revisiting crumbling the soft stones under my feet. cold wind the year is old and the trees are whispering together. footprints i recognise and faces in the crowd that smile and are distant. shoals of fish and not one the leader murmuration based on those close to you. the warmth of the throng of bodies and the comfort of soft voices in familiar coffee shops. hand slipped in mine so familiar i do not recognise and the voice in my ear recounting the things that i have missed whilst cavorting with a fast crowd. melancholia in the eyes missing me as much as i have missed to be longed for as much as you have longed is always startling. old books and cups of tea low lighting and the music that we both like, the room warming to the sounds of our voices and our breathing and ruffling the pages of dusty volumes stacked on shelves purely for show. the comfort of knowing the other room is forever occupied but visible only in the corner of your eye or the back of your mind or the bottom of the clear pool of sleep
but fingers are still feeling amongst the dark demanding attention. the hills still echo. the streets are not crumbling but they ring to the sound of footsteps. jealousy and paranoia rise bubbling with the false tongue i had used to whisper to those i had needed. there is much to be undone and done again or done with open eyes.
i am nearly here. i know my fourth and new companion will be waiting. i cannot say much only float on the surface of the stream and wait for a point to take notice. vague memories arise as it seems i know them from before. gaily dressed as jesters singing and dancing and laughing. someone i didn’t know but with whom i could spend immediate time without serious deliberation. the future wasn’t a concern. large flats and creaking floors rising out of the hot molten earth soon to be steep streets and eccentric lanes. they are a seeker of small brightly lit windows high up in the night sky with enigmatic glimpses of shelves or chandeliers or well shined lamps. they are the recluse amongst the rowdy and the finder of cramped fortitude folded in between sprawling flats and densely packed cafe culture the dimly powered light in the high tree that sparkles alone in the wide park. the only one to have changed and developed simultaneously with me although we are an unknown length of train track apart. the one to have sent me letters that document not just home life but the otherness of a foreign everyday.
and now i am leaving. the small windows still glimmer. they cannot be extinguished, they have the lingering quality of dreams and will always cast their light on some small part of my mind now that i have committed these words to paper just as they with fine penmanship paint the ground the night air the winter trees my recollection with fine gold ink.