I wrote, looked, ate, drank, talked and walked at Civitella: what more can you ask of a place than it surround you with good company, great views and peace? I’ve returned home now and the gift of six weeks in Italy seems, like a dream, to be unbearably fleeting, whilst also auguring something wonderful. That this something should, for someone who writes, be resolutely non-verbal is fitting: I can’t sum up the place, or my time there, and I can only wait, with that peculiar creative excitement, for the true meaning of the dream to manifest itself.
Excerpt From Talk of the Town
Town stinks. If I woke up on a street in Carlisle and didn’t know how I’d got there, what time it was or where, I’d tell yer by the smell what time it was at least. The affternoon if there was the smell of biscuits bakin, cus a shift comes on and the ovens fire up, two till six, at the bicky works. The mornin if there was a sooty smell, I wouldn’t know what from, but as if the dark had settled like smoke ovver town and I could still smell the last of it in the mornin, before it had all blown away.
There’d be chimney-smoke anyhow from the houses with real fires still, that get lit if it’s autumn, so I’d know if it was autumn in town, not by the smell of apples but smoke.
I could wake up out of a coma and know I was still in Carlisle by the smells that come from the wind’s four directions. Slurry-smells come driftin inter town when the farmers’re spreadin muck on the fields. Diesel-smells tumble from the trains trundlin ovver the viaduct. There’s a rotten-animal smell from the incinerator when the wind’s at its worst, and when it’s at its best, the smell of hot oil and hunger comes fryin from the chippies on Botchergate.
In town there are town dogs tied in yards and only walked on the Arches where the old railway used ter run, or in Hammonds Park where there’s a rowboat sunk in the pond. When yer walk down the cuts yer set the dogs off, one affter the other, then altogether, throwin emselves at the high back fences, pawin and scratchin, and bigger in yer head from their sound than most of em ever are.
There’re two or three nutters in town. Yer’ll see em at the weekend, in the city centre. One’s a shouter and a swearer and can’t stop himsel. Yer’ll hear him comin down the street, fuckin and cuntin, and the people with their shoppin bags cross the road ter get outta his way, and he shouts directly at people standin at the bus stop, right inter their faces, and they just turn away, cus maybe they know he can’t help it and there’s no arguin with someone who has no sense. Then there’s a mutterin smiley man, who walks with a dog on a string and a radio under his arm, always talkin ter himsel. Yer wouldn’t know there was much wrong but fer the look of him if yer catch his eye. He looks at yer like he’s about ter say summit, not the way a stranger might shoot yer a wee look just as yer passin each other, but like he’s about ter talk ter yer, as if he knows yer, so yer turn yer head, knowin yer don’t know him and yer don’t wanna be talked ter by him one bit.
I’ve bin wonderin what’d happen if they met up, the two of em. Would they know they were both not right, is what I wanna know, and if they didn’t then how d’yer stop em, the one of em shoutin fuck this and fuck that, and the other on the turn, cus he’d be smilin but part of what meks him a nutter is that his smile wouldn’t be fer owt – it’d just be there cus he’s a nutter and any minute it’d come off his face and summit worse’d tek its place. I wanna know if they’d cancel each other out. Whether if there was no one there ter watch em they’d recognise the nutter in each other and pass on by. Cus if they didn’t pass on by, the one liftin his holey old hat ter the other, then how would they get out from under each other, the one roarin cunt cock twat, and the other with his radio under his arm and his smile with its missin teeth? That would seem dynamite ter me, trouble yer wouldn’t wanna see, if they kem together, each with their own mad way with the world and neither able ter mek way in their mind fer the other.