By Paul Comrie | June 30, 2018
I think it was in the library of House 17, two or three weeks ago. I can’t remember when, my mind is foggy this morning. But we decided we were both dispirited with the status quo, the daily grind, life on life’s terms as they say.
The idea we had going forwards was that we would go on a road trip. From Luxembourg we would drive north, north through what I call the ‘junctions country’ where the little ravine roads cut through the high hills of the Ardennes. It’s a strange land, heavily wooded, and the roads run from bad to worse the further out you are from Luxembourg and Brussels both – a kind of no man’s land where the tarmac tells you just how far you are from the centre of the empire.
This morning what I will focus on is the preparations I am undertaking for writing – the preparations for the craft, the rhythm and the truth of the rhythm combined. What I have with me are the impressions of that journey.
Nic is a man of identities and masks, and with masks go costumes. He arrived in his big black car – a restored Merc – at the flat in Belair to pick me up, his clothes hanging like skins from his backseat hook. Suit coats, ties, new shirts, old shirts; in the trunk (the boot, Nic says) there were his bags. Not confined, not like that. What was there were the elements of a former life and the bags were like bodybags, big thick black duffels stuffed with god knows what. Everything meticulous and arranged, but I did not know that Nic was bringing his old wardrobe with us on the road to his family home in Chelsea.
What did I truly know of Nic? I’ll tell you: nothing.
What was there were the elements of a former life and the bags were like bodybags, big thick black duffels stuffed with god knows what.”
When you travel you are not yourself. That’s why I respond to it. You can go from town to town, stop some place, eat, drink. Who cares? Who knows? Nobody, not even yourself. I remember we sat at on the grassy knoll of a petrol station – sat outside in the temporary sunshine. I could see the big old German luxury car — so big it took up two spaces — and we sat in the sun and smoked. I was hungry but was not eating because being hungry kept me sharp. And I knew I needed my senses to get at what was going on.
We could see the motorway from the knoll where we sat. Nic was dressed in simple clothes, summer but there was a chill in the air. The wind hit us but he had his hair very short again, like a fighter. His face is at times lined, other times not so. He changes – his skin tone, his eyes, his hair. It’s not stable, Nic Knight is not a stable element. Why should he be? The man I was sitting next to wasn’t a man after all.
He pulled a fresh package of Marlboro cigarettes and lit one and then said to me but looking out at the motorway, ‘have you seen the black wall son?’
I had never heard of such a thing — was this some kind of test?
I decided on the kind of answer I give best.
‘Would it matter if I did? Let’s go.’
Then we were driving once more and before we turned up the music to drown out even our own thoughts, I knew where we were going: back to Britain, where we would go back into the past and be confronted by the future that failed. Good enough start to a trip.