21st November 2007.
It's a dark, grey, sulking day, and I'm in one of First Great Western's new train carriages. They are lit like operating theatres, the words 'emergency procedure' repeated on the back of every plastic seat. The sky is promising rain. I like the view from the window, even though I've travelled this way hundreds of times. I'm a commuter. And I like this time of year; November, melancholy days that never completely wake up, the trees scratching the sky with bony knuckles, the rivers in spate, the fields sated, a bilious green more like fungus than grass. Pylon weather.
I'm very tired. Four hours of fractured dozing last night. I'm convinced that my eyes look weird in the reflection of the window, but it's hard to be sure. I can't stop seeing the landscape outside as it might be in the future; overgrown, smouldering, ruined, broken. Not Brave New World. Not even Airstrip One, more a shattered sprawl of wrecked retail parks, desolated industrial estates, a sky even more threatening than it is today.
I used to see a more traditional post-nuclear-apocalypse future, all snapped trees, rubble and silence. Now my future is more ambiguous... flood, desert, a polluted sameness. The future: like the present. Just the same. The future: an evicted squat.
Anyway. That's not what I wanted to write about. It's just hard to stop the mind from wandering when you're on the train. I'm going to be at London Paddington soon, and from there I'm going to walk to Fleet Street in as straight a line as I can easily manage, a line that goes due east. Here I go; London Street, Sussex Gardens, Radnor Place, Southwark Place, Hyde Park Crescent, Titchbourne Row, Connaught Street, Upper Berkeley Street, Portman Square, Fitzhardinge Street, Manchester Square, Hinde Street, Marylebone Lane, Oxford Street, Wardour Street, Saint Anne's Court, Dean Street, Bateman Street, Greek Street, Old Compton Street, Cambridge Circus, Earlham Street, Short's Gardens, Endell Street, Bow Street, Wellington Street, Aldych, Strand, and Fleet Street.
It is an incantation silently mumbled by my slouching feet.
But there's no deluge; the sky has broken its earlier promise. Heathrow jets sparkle over the suburbs. A bright day in the canyons of London, an interrogative light cut into geometric fragments by the tall buildings. It's taken me an hour and a half to walk to Soho, with a stop in a Marylebone café on the way. I spend too much time with my thoughts. Too much time looking for spectres, phantasms, harbingers. I must get to Fleet Street before dark, otherwise I'll get nowhere.