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Paris to ...
A couple of train rides, art over content — and raising the starting gate.
I’m on a train, watching the sun rise.
Actually, I’m just watching the sky whiten around the edges of navy cloud. Only in the very early morning, this reversal of sky and cloud. In an hour, each will have reassumed their accustomed colours.
I want to write this quickly so I can look out the window and sip my coffee. It’s getting light so fast.
The train is plush and empty; one of those European inter-city ones with an upstairs, wide seats and little lamps in quietly-lit carriages.
I almost didn’t get coffee. This train usually runs from a different station and no one in Gare du Nord seemed prepared to admit that, yes, there will be a train to Stuttgart. Mounting panic, coffee forgotten, I attached myself to the one person who seemed abreast of the situation: a German guy who understood the unintelligible loudspeaker and assured me, yes, there would be a train.
He was right: I’m on the train now and, yes, there is coffee. The fields to either side of the train are engulfed in fog as we head east.
I’m uneasy in this flat land; give me mountains, wrinkles and folds in the landscape. I can’t abide a yawning horizon.
On the train last week in London, a guy sat down opposite me in a four seater, dropping a bottle of Puglia Rossa on to the table. When I looked up at it, he threw down two bags of Percy Pigs.
“No, those aren’t for me.” He said it only half to himself, half because he knew I was watching.
Then: a bag of liquorice all-sorts.
“Those are for me.”
Well, this trip is for me.
That’s not true. It’s for what — and who — I want to write about.
It’s for a story that feels urgent to tell.
In this world of instant gratification, I hope you’ll bear with me. The kind of writing I want to focus on now takes time.
Luckily, this week, I have time.
This brief update is just to say I’m — probably — going to be quiet for the next ten days or so. Instead of talking and running my mouth as you know I love to do, I’m going to be listening. Specifically: I’m kickstarting research for that book I want to write.wrote recently about how it’s time for more long-form work; time to choose art over content. To this, I say: yes.
Instead of banging on in tedious self-exculpation about how much I want to write and don’t have time, I’m just going to… take some time and get on with it. No, I won’t tell you what it’s about or where I’m going. You’ll find out in due course.
That was basically all I wanted to say. Yet here I am sneaking in extra words, for the first time in the history of lawyers.
It’s time for a pause, for some research and thought. It’s time to drink my coffee and watch a frost-feathered landscape unfold before my window.
By next week, I will have reassumed my accustomed colours.
But, for now, there is a library on the other side of Europe that is calling — and I must answer.
Wish me luck.