Sometimes anger can be helpful. “Raging against the dying of the light”, as Dylan Thomas put it, conjures a scenario of determinedly avoiding fatigue in the midst of a long fight, or vehemently opposing a loss of hope, optimism or literal light by which to see. At this time of year, the latter is a bit of a struggle for me, I must admit. I was able to escape at around this time last year (give or take a week) and run off to New York, where the winter was still grey-ish at times, but was largely more light-filled than British winters. Nonetheless, the struggle through sludge-y snow and intermittent exceptionally cold days still made things feel … heavy.
The opposite of feeling heavy is not just feeling light, as such, but feeling free. It’s interesting that this year I’m living with a partner who is learning to fly a helicopter. What a freedom-filled activity that is! It’s heart-warming to think that there are jobs out there that entail such joys as simply taking to the skies, even if you do have to monitor things carefully as a novice pilot takes the controls. I’m also reading the book by Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger, the pilot who brought the plane into land on the Hudson. I always feel inspired reading biographies because it opens up a whole new world on how life can be lived differently. And his perspective is a fascinating one.
I write this as the skies are still pitch black outside but I hope the sun will attempt to make an appearance in half an hour or so. It feels rather desolate to be looking out into a sea of car brake lights and headlights manoeuvring like blood cells across the dual carriageway up to the roundabout outside my window. It’s a new landscape for me to adjust to: provincial England, after Lower Manhattan is somewhat of a culture shock. But I’m bringing my best version of England to bear with me. Radio 4 and the Today programme or silly comedy programmes, Stephen Fry and his book, “The Ode Less Travelled” and plenty of tea. Black tea, white tea, chai tea, wild berry Clipper tea, Earl grey tea and even Lapsang Souchong tea (for when I’m in the mood for a campfire kind of taste) – it’s all here. This apartment is practically a teahouse.
The other great thing about this new flat (notice how I can’t help but use ‘flat’ and ‘apartment’ interchangeably these days, – it’s not just the US influence, the French say appartement, after all) is the fact that even though it faces onto a busy dual carriageway (which I don’t mind at all – busy is good) there is a nice quiet spot in the hallway which is big enough and comfortable enough to do a spot of recording in. So I’m making the most of that while I can. I have been recording new poems, new song-collaborations and the next stop is new songs – preferably about aviation. Or women in space (ok, I already did that…) or other freedom and flying-related themes.
Have you ever had a flying lesson? I’ve been lucky enough to not only have had flying lessons in a “fixed wing” as the helicopter pilots call it, but also a brief jaunt up in a helicopter. But I’d love to hear your flying stories, if you have any. (Feel free to post in the comments.)
In the meantime, here’s a new rage-filled poem I wrote recently, which captures my rage about the rising inequality between the super-rich and the everyday person on the street. It was started while I was still living in New York but I just finished editing it yesterday. I’ve also taken to using the Hanx Typewriter app to type up poems because it feels and looks so much more heartfelt somehow. I’ll be sending some of these to you in my fortnightly emails over the coming months, so you can see for yourself!