whose tiny space is /Mightier than the room of the stars, being secret and filled with dreams
For several weeks now I have been very caught up in my own bliss. Sharp reminders scratch the surface unexpectedly. Jonny and I plan a trip to Cambridge to see Alice very soon. She is, as ever, remarkably poised, even in the face of adversity, and more full of grace than I ever managed when I stood in similar shoes a long time ago.
We stay up late watching DVDs and go to see Les Miserables at the cinema, and do late-evening grocery shopping at Sainsbury's for stir-fry ingredients and things to make proper hot chocolate. The next day we take a walk around the botanical gardens and stop in at the cafe for soup, and use up the last of Jonny's little origami paper.
Before Jonny and I go home we meet friends in a pub for lunch. Half a pint of beer gets toppled all over my camera. I dry her off as best I can under the hand-drier in the toilets and hope she's escaped unscathed. We visit Tom's new rooms in the old old part of St John's college, which are wide and stony and cold and beautiful. I sit in his little windowseat that looks out over the Cam, and we shout down at the punters on the river when the tour guides get their facts wrong. My dad used to go to John's. He had a set of rooms at the top of one of these old old buildings, and likes to tell the stories about hosting roof parties. I ponder whether I can find out which rooms they were and pay them a visit with Tom before he graduates.
Before very long it's time for Jonny and I to leave. We are snippy on the way back to London, but once we arrive at King's Cross I see the trains leaving for Scotland and Heathrow, and we play the where we could go game all the way to Paddington. We run for the train (not because we're late, just because I want to) and find seats and we are happy with each other and with us. I doze, off and on, as we travel back to Camelot, listening to the gentle two-tone rhythm in his chest.
St. Valentine's Day, February 2012
I have made something small, but when I am browsing in W.H. Smiths a book falls on my head. It is a collection of love poems. We have almost run out of reading material for our late-night phone calls. I take it as fate.
All too soon it is essay week. I have new tutors for both my modules. Kathy is young and wears her hair in dreadlocks, so I take a gamble and write about why William Carlos Williams' poems are like photographs. My walls are covered with poems and criticism, colour-coded and cross-referenced and annotated all over. For five days I tumble ideas down the phone to Jonny: there is no one else to ask. I can't find any papers on poetry and photography, in the library or on the internet. I feel very adrift. I love what I'm doing. I think about whether, maybe, there's a Master's degree somewhere in all of this.
All those treasures that lie in the little bolted box whose tiny space is
Mightier than the room of the stars, being secret and filled with dreams
(from 'Slow Movement'. Cameras and minds. Hearts, too, maybe.)
Our marks come in, three weeks later. I know it is silly, but I have convinced myself that doing well on this will validate my place the little academic niche I've discovered. I get 85; a high First. I am over the moon.
I leave for New York City. (film diary starts here.) The return is hectic and stressful. I visit Uxbridge as soon as I can, and plan to stay the whole week. Jonny and I have planned a trip into London to visit coffeeshops and art galleries. I am so looking forward to it. The night I arrive I get conjunctivitis. We spend Tuesday at the campus medical centre instead. There are clear blue skies and the first real signs of spring, and I feel dreadful.
Stoic, we find other ways to have a lovely time. (Mostly this involves breaking me into the campus library and choosing many films to watch on laptops, back on the boat, and copious cups of tea.) I am introduced to long-term ship-life, which involves sneaking into Brunel's gym for warm showers and learning to light Camelot's gas stove with a long match. There isn't time to go to London once I'm better - lectures get in the way - but when I can see properly again we take Camelot up the river on the first gloriously sunny day of the year. It's warm enough that we take down her covers, and she looks a little more like she did when I first met her a year ago. My camera has been gammy since Cambridge and the half-pint, but I take photographs as we cruise because it feels so good to have my sight back.
Later Jonny works the tiller while I sit on the roof and read Plath. (She's prep for my next seminar and feels fantastically out of place today.) I know how to do locks now. It feels good to be useful and to have a place and to be equal. Our little trip up the river gives me a glimpse of what summer might be like, if we have to take Camelot north before Jonny starts his placement year.
The next day it pours with rain. Jonny rides his bike through the mud to campus, and I head into town to meet Alice, who has come to visit for a few hours. She's just been to an interview in London to try and secure funding for her PhD. It went well. We'll see. We have coffee in H+h and talk about how things have been since we went to stay in Cambridge. She says things are falling into place. When you cut a plant back you do more good than harm; pruning makes them grow again, stronger and more beautiful.
Alice has never been on Camelot, so we take her on a wet journey down river. The covers are all back up and it is damp and chilly, but Jonny makes tea to make us feel more snug while I take the tiller. There are far worse places to be, on a drizzly afternoon, than a quiet cruise on a still river, on the back of a narrow boat.
Home again. My housemates joke they've forgotten what I look like. It is early March, and time to stay in one place for a little while. I spend a few weeks working hard and looking forward to turning twenty-one. The night before my birthday I want to mark the moment with a photograph. I flaw the first shot, reaching to move something on my bed. Then, on the second, my shutter stutters. My little bolted box springs open. I capture the moment my camera breaks instead.