Mark Robinson

December 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Second-hand

After Exec Board I take the tube back with Michael and Laura,
talking about how colleagues can mean one thing when we mean
three others. We laugh, but in that way that suggests resignation.
They stay on to Euston but I have time to kill and no desire
for drink. Houseman’s is still there, despite fresh frontages
and development, so I walk along Pentonville Road,
remembering Scala all nighters and dark 80s afternoons.
There are still dozens of black, white and red all over newspapers
at the back of the shop, but the basement’s a mess,
a damp-smelling likeness of the revolution. I spot a Canongate-
reissue though, of Jack’s Book, and am innocent again,
taking that box of voices out of the village library every 6 months,
the small room to the side, for biographies and non-fiction.
(I picture Donald Wood’s Biko in the same breath.)
That was the start of something, could have
turned a world upside down. In fiction they had The Trial,
America and The Town and the City and Vanity of Dulouz
and that was just the Ks. There were only two poetry books I liked:
Selected Poems by Dylan Thomas and Leonard Cohen.
Later they got Adrian Mitchell’s For Beauty Douglas.
I remember reading a book about Hegel, but sweet nothing
about Hegel himself, though I could sketch you the cover.
Today I am wearing a suit, but so are Jack and Neal
in some of the photos. I pay three pounds for my young self’s sake,
wondering whether my thirst for ideas is slaked or not.
The bloke behind the counter upstairs is the wrong man
but takes the money anyway. He asks me where I’m from,
and then congratulates me on not living in London. He is Scottish,
he says, but doesn’t sound it. I imagine he lives in London because
it is theepicenter of the turmoil to come. He ought to move
to NewtonAycliffe, I think. I feel dirty-nostalgic leafing through
the book as I wait for the platform to come up for the 16.00
to Aberdeen. There are lots of men in kilts and Scotland shirts,
frayed hung-over looks to them, returning from a miracle in Paris.
I spend most of the journey home working on the laptop,
looking just like someone who knows about spreadsheets,
then finish all the soduko I can find in The Independent.

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