Receiving no visitors is like living deep in the mountains

June 27, 2004

About twenty copies of my 1991 limited-edition Herculaneum Press publication Epoch had a red Chinese seal printed on the cover (left) that reads: ‘Receiving no visitors is like living deep in the mountains.’ I’ve been thinking about this sentence for the past couple of weeks, about how true it is. I very rarely get any visitors, and I’ve lived in the mountains, they are alike.

Something builds up deep inside, it has its own momentum, and takes a while to get going but when it does get going it rumbles along with a great weight of momentum behind it, like a steam-roller getting into a roll.

Long summer days with supplies in the house to last without need of going out for a week or more, and a garden, the kitchen door always open, things to do, to potter around with, and a head of steam gets up. You go to bed when you feel tired, you eat when you’re hungry.

Sometimes, after a day or two, I turn on the radio in the kitchen, but turn it off again almost immediately. Like an electronic screech interrupting a peaceful well of quiet natural sounds, the birds, the rustling leaves, boiling bubbling water. Soon even the water gurgling down pipes starts to sound like babbling brooks.

No agenda, save a few things I’d like to get round to in the coming few weeks, scribbled on bits of paper and stuck on the fridge door held by magnets. A sample from my current fridge door: ‘Look into dog divination at Dunhuang’; ‘Try cashew and broad bean recipe’; ‘Paint fenghuang bird A3 watercol.’; ‘repot bay’; ‘Search for Ssu Ming Master of Fates’; ‘edit out fuck etc’. There’s also a sketch-map on a scrap of paper showing where I’ve planted lupin seeds in the garden because I’m bound to forget.

About the only person who ever does visit me is a girl who travels all across London and then phones me when she’s five minutes away and asks whether I’m doing anything today. I can hear her footsteps striking the pavement. ‘Go the long way,’ I say. I’ve noticed she likes to read my bits of paper on the fridge. So suddenly I’m plunged back into the world and end up going to see Kill Bill 2 and walking around Leicester Square with sloppy pizza slices. Having visitors is not like living deep in the mountains, but that can be okay too.