I realised, as a very young child, perhaps no more than five year’s old, or perhaps even younger, that human life was finite and that a time would come when my own life would end. How I knew this I can’t exactly say, but these were the thoughts that passed through my infant mind back then, in those dusty, dreamy, supposedly innocent days of the early 1950s.
Maybe I couldn’t quite appreciate the magnitude of those thoughts at that time, though I knew they didn’t bode well, not just for me but for those that surrounded me. The fragility of life, it’s brevity and unpredictability, was something I was instinctively aware of, even at that very early stage of my life.
I’ve never been able to set aside those thoughts and now they seem more pertinent than ever. Life stretches on infinitely when we’re young, the terminus seems so remote, our ultimate destination millions of timeless miles away in the tick tock distance. But how quickly that distance is traversed and the years accumulate and recede in our rear view mirror, more behind us now than ahead.
And here, in this wintery English lockdown existence, the world closed off, closed down, socially unavailable, time seems to be passing, paradoxically, both slower and faster.
With no familiar routines to follow, (a Friday evening visit to the village pub for dinner, a Sunday trip to the coast, an afternoon spent walking the streets of the town in search of bookshops and galleries,) one day becomes difficult to distinguish from another.
I’m awoken by Django, (our cat,) at 6:30 am, demanding food and to be let out into the garden. I attempt to ignore him but he is persistent and I give in, donning slippers and, descending to the chilly kitchen, eyes blurred with sleep dust, open a pouch of Whiskas before unlocking the door for Django to exit the house.
Returning to bed I can’t get back to sleep, mortal thoughts crowding my mind. But suddenly it’s 10:30 and I realise that, despite a couple of hours of restlessnes, I must have finally dozed off. The remnants of a dream spin away in my head, a strange dream, as they inevitably are these days. Strange dreams for strange times.
Then it’s blood test and insulin injection time, allowing 20 minutes for it to ‘take’ before my usual breakfast of two pieces of toast and a small bowl of strawberries and blueberries. The strawberries not good at this time of year, being hard and tasteless and usually from Egypt.
I watch the news on tv, BBC and CNN, as Covid-19 cases soar around the world and Donald Trump perpetuates yet another self-serving lie while Boris Johnson stutters and splutters and tries to bluff his way out of the debacle that is ‘Brexit.’ It seems that Covid is not the only cruel virus that plagues us.
Then a hot bath in an attempt to wash off the remains of the dream and the nightmare of the news. Then what? Perhaps an hour spent creating images for album packages on my computer, answering emails, responding to posts on my website, or, today, writing another journal entry about nothing in particular and everything in particular.
Soon it’s dusk, then it’s dark. Lights illuminate my studio and I switch on the recording equipment. Dials flicker, dynamos hum and I pick up from where I left off last night, another track for another world.
Before dinner, another blood test and one more insulin injection. We eat in front of the television, watching more of Trump’s horrorshow, a storming of the Capitol building by an insane mob of far right thugs intent on murder and mayhem. Out of order and out of their minds.
After dinner it’s back to the studio to work on a mix or to start a new track. 10:30 pm rolls around and I go downstairs and, like a moth to the flame, watch tv again. Then, before retiring to bed, I return to the studio one more time to check out the evening’s work. Inevitably I hear something I need to change or to add to and before I know it two hours have passed and it’s almost 2 am.
Bed and a book to stop the music whirling like a tonal tornado in my head, though reading has become nearly impossible due to my increasingly failing eyesight. It’s a real struggle but I manage to read, with spectacles and a magnifying glass, a few pages of W.G. Sebald’s ‘The Rings Of Saturn’ before my eyes tire. I turn off the bedside light and surrender to the next strange dream.
And so it goes...
Repeat, ad infinitum.
BILL NELSON AND HAROLD BUDD IN THE GROUNDS OF MONK FRYSTON HALL, YORKSHIRE IN THE EARLY 1990s.
PORTRAIT OF HAROLD BUDD TAKEN BY BILL NELSON IN LISBON, PORTUGAL, EARLY 1990s.