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London

9 September 2004

A day of separate pleasures: not all anticipated, but the real shocker was the being up at six in the morning and really rather enjoying it, once I'd got past the actual getting-out-of-bed bit. I've noticed this in myself before, just not yet integrated it into my self-image. I guess it's partly that middle-aged thing where your body-clock does adjust, and your habits also; and partly I think it's the falling out of love with sleep for its own sake. I really can't do the meaningless lie-in any more, that's an adolescent habit that is truly lost to me. Sleep used to be a deep rich heavy thing, a serious indulgence; these days it's a thin and bitter broth most nights (as it is for my mother, the other end of the country: we both lie awake listening to the BBC World Service, and wondering if t'other of us is doing the same thing at the same time. Oh, and happy birthday, Mum. Not that she reads this, but hey...).

Anyway, so I was up - by intent for once, not incidentally - and it was a truly lovely early morning out there, and I walked into town through empty streets under a clear sky and this was all good. Then I sat on a train and read a book for three hours, and this was an utterly anticipated pleasure; I love that chance to focus, that sense of concentrated detachment where thereís nothing else you can do. Only works if the book is good, of course, but this I was confident of: The Confusion by Neal Stephenson, sequel to Quicksilver which I adored. More of the same - huge historical canvas with just a hint of an sfnal (oh, sorry - thatís fandom code for science-fictional) twist to it, rich and deep with a remarkable lightness of touch. Magical stuff.

And so to London, to spend three hours working with a musician/DJ on a soundtrack to a story of mine, for a Tell Tales reading in Manchester next Tuesday (my webmistress isnít here to put in a link, so itís at the Chinese Arts Centre in Thomas St at 7.30. Iím supposed to know how to do links myself, but, well, sheesh, I never learned. You do get so used to having people do stuff for you. Iím always grateful, but still far too inclined to let it happen. Itís one of my manifest flaws. Sigh). Wasnít sure how much I was going to enjoy the process, but in the event it was fun. Zak made it easy - thoí we did have to tear his collection apart, to find all the samples that we needed - and I love the result. Looking forward very much to seeing how it plays with an audience.

Then to the British Library, for an exhibition they have on the Silk Road (which Iím kind of hoping will be the book after book after next; Iím reading up and looking at pretty things, while Iíve sent my friends Helen and Mark off to spend six months travelling the actual road. See above, under having people do stuff for you...), which is one of those private pleasures that make most people look at me pityingly. I like proper old-fashioned exhibitions, with objects in glass cases, and maps and documents and information on labels and all that stuff. Itís what I grew up with, and it feels - oh, I donít know. Adult, perhaps. Iím resentful of kiddy-friendly exhibitions that take no account of the notion that adults might be interested too, but on a very different level. Value-added stuff is fine - I was very glad to hear the sound of 150 camels at a watering-hole - but contemporary curation seems to find it easy to focus on the touchy-feely and leave out the core.

Anyway, the BL did me proud, as I was sure they would; and I went from there to Kingís Cross to catch another train and read for another three hours, all the way home. Good day, that. Tired now.


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© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.