Perhaps a stinking cold is the body's way of standing back from life for a week or so, of placing you on a different plane to reflect and take stock, putting distance between you and the mundane. I have been making my way through these last few days with my ears muffled, my sense of smell dulled and my temperature raised just enough to make daily life feel an awful lot more frenetic than normal. Ironically this is the week I've been busier than for ages - four days of work, each of them workshops. I wonder if I would have been more anxious about them if I hadn't been bunged up with mucous. As it is, I actually enjoyed getting up at 6 and driving into Surrey, West Sussex, Kent where suddenly I'm aware of autumn, its mist, blazing trees and yellow tunnels into winter.
For two days I was working with the potter Julian Belmonte, making clay discs with children who first composed questions after listening to me read from Pablo Neruda's Book of Questions. These lines were rolled into clay sausages and cut into letters that they stuck around the edges of their discs and painted with different coloured slip. Julian will fire them. He and I are also commissioned to produce our own series of discs for the school to display.
Another day was a workshop for the Arts and Business Unleashed programme, this time working with adults, focussing on the use of journals, reflection, the craft of writing and yesterday with older children in a secondary school, again working with Neruda's questions and a wonderful poem by Penelope Shuttle called Inventing. A combination of coffee, lemsip and Locketts sees me through the day but by evening I'm ready to crawl under the duvet and last night was in bed by 8 pm. I need to time adjust to this early darkness.
Last night was the first full night of fireworks. Strangely there hasn't been the lead up to this weekend we've had in the past, when from the middle of October every night's been one of explosions. Perhaps there are fewer on sale. Perhaps people have less money.
This morning, though, is glowing and the cold feels as if it's weakening. I am keen to walk by the sea, take in this gentler sun and breathe. I've been inside all week, apart from Monday on the allotment, digging up the last of the potatoes. I've been fantasising about wilderness, longing for mountains, wishing I had the means for a trip to the Himalayas, Andes, even the Alps or Snowdonia would do......It may have something to do with a bizarre book I picked up when I bought those jumble sale Penguins: Bengal Lancer by F Yeats Brown. This is towards the end, in the chapter, Temple of the Undistracted Mind:
"Then Hastini capped him with: 'He who has seen Himalaya is greater than he who has performed all the worships of Kashi'.
"Hours had passed, and although it was not yet dawn, its foreglow had already lit three hundred miles of snow before me, remote and plumed with storms that never cease; yet in appearance so close and so quiet that it seemed to me that I might stroll there in an hour or two and bask in a white peace.
"The three now sat silent, with the old bitch at my guru's feet, looking over those titanic masses that have given India her fertility and her faith. In the increasing light, the clouds above them took the shape of beasts. A dragon pounced on the mountains of Nepal, a lizard with eyes of flame devoured a fly upon Nanda Devi, a sprawling giantess stretched her length from Trisul to Diwalghiri and searched the valleys with a luminous rapier.
"Surya had begun the skyey chase that never ends......"