The pier

K., who works with S., comes up from Norwich and drives us to Southwold on the Suffolk coast. We eat dinner in a pub and walk down the damp pier. The yellow beam from the lighthouse sweeps through the fog, over the black water, the houses along the road, the mural of George Orwell (who lived and wrote here), giving things an eerie greenish hue. It’s like the last scene of a film, says K., where a spy gets picked up, a couple have to part or someone drowns tragically. We amuse ourselves by making up increasingly absurd scenarios for movie endings, probably to relieve the oppressive atmosphere of the place. Except it’s not oppressive is it, I think to myself as we walk back to the car, or a set for anything – tragic or comic. It’s nothing but itself: a cold dark coast, neither benign nor hostile.

   Only one real thought, however kitschy it sounds: how to live in the face of the impersonal. Not to cover it over with your own stories but to accept it and yourself with it. Consider the nightmare of a world covered up by a single story: where every thing, act and thought must conform to a certain end; where no chink is left open in the armour of the everyday for the impersonal to show us, if only for a moment, the smallness of our stories and the horizon of our true possibilities.

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