Pouring rain this morning. Met AM, who told me it was snowing earlier. Sound of seagulls during the night and now. Didn’t associate Rome with seagulls. I’m sitting at my desk in my room in Villa Irlanda, an adjunct to the Irish College, a quaint and curious place, very sparsely populated by guests (given the time of year, I suppose). Seems relaxed, though.
Got my WiFi Password and User Name from the director, AM. Cannot access either of my blogs except to read what’s already on them. I’ll probably post excerpts from this journal when and if I can.
I’m looking at a mosaic type painting of the Virgin with her breast on fire, on the wall in front of me. Above her hangs a flat TV screen. Behind me a small, exquisite chandelier hangs from the high ceiling. The walls are painted whitish. I’m sitting at a lacquered brown desk which is marginally too high for my chair. Behind me a double bed where I slept well last night, alone and, as I anticipated, quite lonely. But this is something that has to be done: convince yourself.
One of the good things about going away that I have always found is the perspective it gives. Thoughts enter your head that didn’t find the occasion to when you were at home. Once you go away, it’s obvious that they had been seeking an outlet. Coming into your head simultaneously with the other thoughts is the thought of how obvious the other thoughts are, and you wonder why you hadn’t thought them before.
No sooner had I got on the airport express in Dublin than they began coming into my head. An awful lot of writing issues. Meanwhile my eyes were idly taking in the passing scene as we drove through Dublin city centre: why is that man standing in the middle of the traffic, gesticulating at the bus driver?And those three grotesque pop art sculptures of heavily booted animals, cast in bronze –what are they doing beside Busáras, marching one behind the other like Daddy Bear, Mamma Bear and Baby Bear?Are they somehow, in some quirky interpretation, an image of the New Ireland?
Pondering over all the convoluted and unresolved writing issues that were now articulating their theses and antitheses, I remembered how much I enjoyed writing ‘A Year’s Midnight’, and how much I still like it, despite a very stressful year of confused efforts at promotion and the learning curve of meeting indifference. (Although it was reviewed in the TLS.)
At this stage I was having cod and chips in the ‘Food Hall’ in Dublin Airport (reached via a serpentine itinerary, but well signed). I concluded that if I find something to write that I enjoy as much as writing 'A Year's Midnight', it'll suit me fine. As old EP put it, 'What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross.'
False memory: coming here in the courier's Mercedes last night, I suddenly remembered leaving my small black cabin bag on the ground at a Ciampino Airport taxi rank, and forgetting it. But I had in fact put it in my larger bag as soon I took the latter off the baggage carousel. In “A Year’s Midnight”, the main character George has a number of false memories; now, it seems, the author is beginning to have them as well.
Back to today. It stopped raining for about two hours around lunchtime and I was able to go out and get some bearings on where I was. I discovered that Villa Romana is about five minutes' walk from the Colosseum in one direction and from St John Lateran in the other. I bought a lunchtime panino with prosciutto crudo, mozzarella and rocket in a small delicatessen, which had a quote attributed to Virginia Woolf on a wall poster: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
'É vero,' I said. 'Si, si,' said the proprietor.
Now the rain is back, with an occasional rattle of thunder and screech of a seagull.