Wednesday, February 23, 2011

W. and I are celebrants of rivers, and always feel the need to hail them. —‘The mighty Tyne!’, W. might say, and I might say, ‘the mighty Plym!’ The sight of a river is always an occasion. So, of course, is that of the sea. It’s the ozone, says W., it makes you feel alive.

It does, and in particular the view of the sheet of the sea, just past Exeter. The whole sheet of the sea, viewed from the train, neat Plymouth Gin and ice in your plastic cups. —‘This is happiness’, says W….

W.’s felt ill nearly all his adult life, he says. When was the last time he felt well?, I ask him. He can’t remember. —‘It’s been years’, he says suddenly. ‘Years!’ He used to go for great walks on the moors, he remembers. That’s when he last felt healthy: on his great weekend walks, when he would set off with his walking friend (whatever happened to him?) with no particular end in view. They’d just walk for miles across the moors.

There’s nothing better, he says, than to climb up to the moors, and see the blue strip of the sea in the distance. Are there really big cats up there, panthers and the like? He never saw any, he says. There might be. But his moor walks are long since over. He lacks something, W. says. There’s something missing in him. Why doesn’t he go on his great moor walks any more?, he wonders, as we look out to sea.

It’s important to hail rivers, we both agree, but just as important to hail the sea, although we do not do so by name. We do not, for instance, hail the sea south of Edinburgh as the North Sea, or the sea south of Exeter as the Atlantic (is it the Atlantic?, I ask W. It is, he says.). A simple, ‘The sea!’ is enough. Just as when we see the edge of the moor on our train journeys in Devon, we cry, ‘The moor!’

Ah, the moor! W. is feeling regretful again. How can he become a better person, a better friend? How might he become a better thinker? His life is full of regret, he says, and gets out his Cohen. He’s going to read now, he tells me, and I’ll have to entertain myself.
Lars Iyer, Spurious