Lately I have had cause to think again about the dedication of public benches to dead people.
Time was those small metal plaques made me feel vaguely uncomfortable in a way I could never quite explain. Maybe it was that your accumulation of synaptic heat and salt water through the decades resulted in nothing more than a rectangle of text glued to a wooden surface next to a path in a forest. But now I’m thinking that a bench is untrammelled. It accommodates weariness unconditionally. The rectangle of text provides a little of what media theorists call anchorage, but not enough to deny your mind some moments that are non-corporeal. Without weight on your feet, you merge into the trees and the water, and your hurts begin to be neutralised. Having a literal, visual imagination, there are some thoughts about whether the deceased is actually lying under the bench, monitoring.
A recent film highlight was Volver, my first Pedro Almodovar, and my first experience of the admirably free and comfortable Halifax King Cross Library film club. It is a gynocentric film that opts to speak eloquently of relationships, death and how we use our lives while we’re here. I’m increasingly conscious that there isn’t enough life left for the shit that some would put you through in order to serve their own empathy-free agendas. Later in the month I returned to the same admirably free and comfortable context for Le Doulos, early sixties French film noir from Jean-Pierre Melville. Hard work from a narrative perspective, but an anti-sentimental take on loyalty without acknowledgement or reward. Or a relentlessly dour representation of selfish, seedy minds mired in a reduced physical reality and vying for psychological space in an amoral universe. You decide.
In recent months I’ve had some Shakespeare quotes in my head. They’re actually permanent residents there, thanks to the seventies expectation that English Literature students memorise large tracts of textual evidence, but of late they have been near the front of my mind. Two are from Macbeth – the one where he says that nothing is but what is not, and the one where he tells his wife that his mind is full of scorpions. The other is good old Lear going on about being bound on a wheel of fire, and something about molten lead.
I have felt the light in the West casting a more intense shadow. This is to ignite the lantern that will call the shadow-dwelling creatures to account.