January 11, 2018

Just before sleep last night, the bedside radio came on suddenly, and a voice spoke: ‘The Angel of the Lord’. Then, it promptly turned off again. I recalled, years ago, staging a performance of John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951), in the context of my Contemporary Art 2 module. On that occasion, 12 students operated 6 radios. The composition involved the orderly manipulation of the volume control and tuning dial of analogue radios, following a system of chance procedure. Whatever was played on the radio stations at the time constituted the music. The last words broadcast before the performance concluded were: ‘Is it art?’ Wonderful!

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Off to School, and into a crystal-glazed morning that was treacherous underfoot, to retrieve more marking:

9.30 pm: A telephone-based ‘pre-op’ consultation with a nurse at Bronglais Hospital. I’m now confirmed sufficiently fit and prepared to die (should that be the unanticipated outcome). I’ve a 0.01-0.016% chance of copping it on the surgeon’s slap. So says an article entitled, both alarmingly and reassuringly, ‘General Anesthesia is not Death’. However, it’s as close as one can get to the cessation of life and still be resuscitated. A ‘must try’, in other words. And I’ve got to go under three times this year.

10.00 am: Marking recommenced amid myriad other admin tasks that I’ve yet to catch up with. I need to be patient with myself … and so must others. Presently, I’m trailing behind by two days, by my calculation. The plumbers arrived late morning to ponder a radiator that really isn’t pulling its weight in the lounge. Heating systems are like the human body: all the parts need to be kept imbalance and regulated for the whole and the parts to function efficiently. Like the mind, too, it only takes a temporary deficit in one department for the entire system to falter. We have, to misappropriate a New Testament image, our ‘treasure in earthen vessels’:

I pressed on with marking. My backside, which had been pressed onto my seat all day, began to ache.

Through Autumn’s fall – a bed now shrivelled and made brittle by the hard frost – pushed the unfurling first fruits of the coming season: the harbinger of recovery following the crush and fury of these last months:

In mid-Winter, the consolations of Summer gone and Spring to come require a leap of the imagination to recollect and anticipate. ‘Things will be different soon’, I tell myself. People have told me that, this year, Winter has been particularly grim for them. And that not only in itself, but also because the season chimed with the circumstances of their lives.

After the Angel of the Lord had spoken to Hagar, she said: ‘You are a God of seeing … Truly here I have seen him who looks after me’ (Genesis 16.13).


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