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Description for a Passive Morning

Tuesday, 12th June, 2001

I don't like five o'clock in the morning. It doesn't matter how early I go to sleep, five o'clock is still too early to wake up. Strangely enough, if I wake up at random at one or three, I'll head off to the bathroom and back far more awake than when my alarm wipes out my dream at five.

My alarm clock is my Psion organiser. It sits on my bedside table inside a leather travel case to protect it from damage if I should drop it; the point being that I have to undo the case and open the Psion in order to switch it off. I don't think I can quite manage that without waking up. No surreptitiously slipping back into slumber for me.

Today started like most, to a very recognisable soundtrack. Once the alarm is gone, two sounds filter into my waking consciousness. In the foreground is the slow crunch of my kitten chewing the velcro strap on my laptop's power cable. She will have been curled up with me for the night, but she wakes up far quicker. The little terror has a fetish for this little strap, which does not want to be eaten, as well as for the shelf of soft toys that she sees as a fairground game. Knock one off the shelf and win a prize, she believes.

Behind this noise in the background is the ever-present Yorkshire sound of rain. My bedroom is on the top floor, complete with sloping roof and large skylight, which acts as a subtle drum for the varied rhythms of rain. Today the tempo was slow but persistent, which sums up my mindset at this early hour.

I must have switched off the light last night, which I haven't done for a while. There are two bulbs in this room, and with the nearest one to my bed blown, the light becomes subdued enough to be ambient. I won't replace the bulb but will often leave the light on for days at a time. It cons my stubborn inner self a little more that it's daytime and thus reason to stay awake.

I feel a little different this morning. I think I've been actively awake for a few days; but today feels a little more passive. I've forced my designs on the day for the last few; today I think I'll let the day move me like a marionette. I don't want to think, merely observe. I'll think again tomorrow.

And so to description. Every novel has to introduce a character and supply the reader with a description. Most seem artificial and blase; only occasionally does a writer deliver enough mind-grabbing detail to make the description worthwhile. This reminds me early on in the day that one of the diarists at the Open Diary, where I am spending an increasing amount of my life, has removed her diary. It's half past five in the morning and I feel sad already: she was the one writer who always found the right details. She was a true joy to read, and now she's gone, leaving her readers an acute sense of loss.

Sitting mostly upright in bed against three stacked pillows, mildly illuminated by my laptop's screen and what dim early morning light filters through the rainclouds, I look around and wonder how to attempt a description. If my life was a novel and the writer was setting the scene, how would it be described?

The bedside table holds two phones, neither of them ringing. The natural state of a phone isn't to be talked into, but to ring. I may get the landline disconnected, as now I have cable internet, there seems little point in keeping paying line rental for an unused line. Then I would join the ranks of those who are not believed when they say that they only have a mobile phone. I already manufacture disbelief when I admit to not owning a television, by choice no less. Nobody believes me, but it doesn't make it less true.

The phones share their table with a few books and an empty tin of cashews. 2/5$ it shrieks, yet another reminder that everything in the States is half price. I'm still stunned at the Walgreens offer of three bottles of Dr Pepper (two litre bottles) for two bucks. Here in mother England I pay the equivalent of two bucks for one. Talking of which, time for another drink.

Above the table is the shelf of soft toys, now expanded to include the top of the electric fire that is never used. If it were, it would heat up twenty cubic inches of air and ignore the rest of the room, at a cost that would rival some small countries' national budget. As a shelf it proves an able home for the line-up of three rose-carrying hedgehogs and a large frog.

The true shelf above holds a Wile E Coyote, with his ever bright eyes; a sedate white tiger almost entirely hiding a little Intel spaceman; a teddy bear cunningly disguised in a black kitten suit. At the end of the row is my grandma's teddy bear, in wonderful condition except for a missing ear and a missing eye, its other eye covered by a Beanie Baby chimp sitting mischievously on its head, leaning forward with a conspiratorial grin. There are fourteen all told, plus the dog that sleeps by my pillows. Before I visited my girlfriend this month there were two.

The floor is visible, a first for a house of mine. At last I have enough room, he says, hoping to move. There's still a pile of clothes to be cleared up and washed, and a pile of magazines to be read, but mostly it's tidy. Nowadays, the floor belongs to the kitten, though naturally she's staking her claim on the furniture too.

Along one wall stretches box after box of videos, waiting for shelves or cabinets to house them; along the other, behind me, quickly fabricated wall units containing old computers and LPs, obsolete both. I find obsolete to be a useless term: I can enjoy playing with my BBC Model B as much now as I did back in 1981, and I have plenty of music on LP that will probably remain unavailable on CD for years to come. On the far wall is my Guy N Smith collection, or most of it, crammed into two bookcases but obviously wanting to expand out. In and amongst, is the furniture, once more something new to me. I've never had room for furniture before - books always come first.

Back to the bed and two of my most prized possessions. Above me hangs a dreamcatcher, midway in size between the small ones that serve as necklaces and the huge ones that sell to tourists. This one was made for me in Canada and sent to me by a friend. The feathers were collected from the lake by which she lives, and an intrinsic piece of bone was carved into a wolf's head. It's beautiful and it's very special to me.

Just as beautiful and just as special is my mad vampire kitten, who has been a scatty little thing for the past hour but who has now curled up purring on my lap. She's no possession of mine, as no cat ever can be. When it comes to cats, it works the other way: I'm a possession of hers. Only people who love cats can understand why people love cats. They're not pets, more like companions, but companions on their own terms. A house is a place to store things; it can't become a home until it has a cat.

My home is in Phoenix, AZ, even if I live here. With that observation, I find a smile and realise that it's time to get on with my day.


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