Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Great Britannic Adventure, Day Eleven

Monday, 27 March, 1989
Iona to Helensburgh
Day Eleven, Easter Monday

My attempts to get to sleep last night looked for awhile to be quite in vain, as Therese* contracted a bad case of diarrhea of the mouth. She started rambling inanely on and on about her adventures in prep school till I had a terrible case of the giggles and Marie* nearly came over and killed her. Still, in a perverse way it was nice, because predominantly it seemed hilariously funny and not a cause for rancor at all.

Dragged myself out at 4:15 nonetheless and got everything packed up in the nick of time. Marie*, bless her, got up and dressed just to see me off, though I nearly had a heart attack at the jetty when my backpack, which she had carried out for me, was momentarily nowhere to be found. I’m afraid I didn’t impress anyone with my maturity for a minute or two . . . All the suppressed stress threatened to come out at this least opportune of moments. Thankfully, it was found and all was well with the luggage.

Raining again, of course, and pitch black, except for the lights, so no photos of the Sound of Iona again.

Not a hell of a lot to say about the trip to Oban, besides that I’m glad to have a reasonable set of sea legs. Makes boat trips much more enjoyable. As for my hope of talking to Lukas* on the Mull bus, forget it. He was still thoroughly occupied with one of the girls from the abbey program. If I did fancy him I could’ve felt jealous, but as it was I was merely disgusted at his incredibly rude behavior at not even greeting me this morning, especially after what happened in Communion yesterday. I don’t know what he did on the ferry to Oban; he retired to the boat’s cafeteria for some breakfast and I ascended to the observation deck.

There I was kept amused by the Tzubekis’* little girl Tumelo* and her friend, the little son of another African family that had been on Iona, and was able to be useful in taking a picture of the two families out on the boat’s deck.

A short time later we docked in Oban and I lugged my stuff to the Astra, which thankfully was still there in the BritRail parking lot, undisturbed. As I was stowing my things in the trunk I thought about Lukas* and wondered what Jesus would do in this situation.

My inclination was to bitterly say to hell with Mr. Renzberger* and drive off. The positive and mannerly thing would be to go back to the train station and wish him a good trip. Who knows what Lukas* would’ve preferred, but as far as I could tell, Jesus would do the positive thing.

So back I went, to wish him well and to inquire civilly after his further plans. Well, said he formally and distantly, he’d be up in Inverness for awhile and then after that, who knows; he didn’t have to be back at Coverdale* when the regular students did and he might not return till after the 20th. Charming, considering he’d said before the end of Hilary Term that he’d definitely be back the week of April 9th and had accepted my invitation to dinner . . .

Hell, what would Jesus do in a situation like that? Jesus has the advantage of knowing that it isn’t any sin He’s committed that’s making another give him the brush-off. But I can’t help but wonder what the hell is it I’ve done to offend Lukas*, that he should treat me so badly.

My tiredness and lack of sleep and the stress of driving on wet, narrow, twisty, rock wall lined roads added no good to my state and the only thing that prevented me from breaking down crying right there at the wheel was the knowledge that if I was blinded by tears a serious accident could ensue.

But as soon as I reached Inverary I stopped and bought a pastry and a bit of bread and cheese to eat. And I got a postcard and wrote and sent it to Friedhelm* [a German theology student who'd spent only Michaelmas Term at Coverdale*] . Friedhelm*, to my recollection, though at times reserved, never acted like a jerk. I miss Friedhelm* a great deal.

After that I made it down to Helensburgh without having an accident, despite more rock walls and being stuck for a long time behind a trailer being drawn by one of those ridiculous three-wheeled mini-cars.

When I got into town I parked the car at the lot by the big Clyde estuary and went and got a cup of tea and another cake (just what I needed, more sugar). Back to the tourist office then and found out the way to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s
Hill House.

Still thinking about this thing with Lukas*, though. The only thing I can conceive that I could’ve done to offend him is to be myself, who I am. But you can’t go to another human being and say, "Forgive me for living"-- because that’s not your fault, it’s God’s. They should take it up with Him. Still, I don’t know what’ll be worse-- if we get along terribly once we’re back at Coverdale* or if he’s sweet and nice again and I suppress all my anger at him because I’m afraid this weekend was all my fault or because I don’t want to rock the boat.

The Hill House was swathed in scaffolding and translucent plastic, to repair the exterior surfacing. But it was still open inside. It was thoroughly a matter of "O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!" as in its perfection of proportion and decoration and detailing it is excruciatingly beautiful. Especially when I came into the drawing room, with that white bay window flooded with light, I just wanted to sit down and weep for the sheer loveliness of it.

But you can’t-- all the chairs say "Do not sit!" on them. And the place was flooded with other people, all talking in whispers as if they were in church . . . funny, when you consider all the children the Blackies had, and how they must’ve gone running and shouting up and down those gracefully-ornamented stairs.

Seeing all the custom designed furnishings and fittings, I had to think of Eric* [the architect I'd worked for for over seven years] and the work he does, that I used to do with him . . . And to wonder if the design I did for the Griffons* just before I left Myron’s* [the architect I'd been working for up to the time I left for Oxford] has been built, and if so, how properly.

Because although it costs more now and the craftsmen are hard to find, this sort of thing can still be done. Maybe not the amazing curves in the furnishings, but the inlays and repoussés, yes.

It’s good to have all the rooms I’ve seen in photographs now totally assembled and arranged in proper order in my head. It’s now a house, and not an artifact.

It’s hard to know what to say about it all; let the photographs I took speak for me. But it makes me what to get back to designing myself, and if my work should have a bit of Mackintosh influence in it, so be it. Originality cannot come to life fully blown, it must pass through many stages and influences first. (Or so I tell myself in resolved self-correction, for my lack of productivity as an artist is largely due to my feeling that if what I’m about to do isn’t going to come out a masterpiece it oughtn’t to be done at all.)

It is so wonderful to see how everything flows together to make a total design, and good to know that the clients do exist who are willing to help make it happen.

I wandered round the garden afterwards. The rose bushes were just coming into leaf. Stylized roses within, real roses without. But these were also stylized in their way, being trained to the lines that Mackintosh drew, as individual trees or as intertwined arches. I wondered about the suitability of this, but may not a cultivated rose, which is not strictly a "natural" object after all, rejoice to find itself accorded a part in a great artist’s vision?

Perhaps someday I’ll see it all in bloom. Then I’ll be better able to tell if he was right.

Thereafter drove back down to the city center and waterfront and got the lady at the Tourist Bureau to book me a room at a Helensburgh B&B. No way I was going to make it to Glasgow tonight. Too damn tired.

Before going over I found a place to sell me more 400 Ektachrome. Yes, I’m out again. Six rolls, another minor fortune on the Visa.

Had a dickens of a time finding the place I’d been sent to, and when I arrived the lady apologised but they’d just been painting the walls and her husband had vetoed the idea of taking in any guests till the paint was thoroughly dry. They’d already fixed me up at another place, though, and I set out in search of it.

More fun with that; had to stop at a gas station where one of the clerks called the place and got more specific directions.

So I finally landed around 6:30. Lovely house, lovely hostess, tea and biscuits on a tray-- but God, that room was cold. I suppose I was hungry but I was too exhausted to move. I just put on another sweater and sat huddled in a chair, trying to make sense of this weekend but unable to maintain a continuous string of coherent thought.

Gave up around 9:00 and got into bed but stress kept me awake quite awhile longer. The noise from the TV down the foyer made lightnings go off in my head, just like Daddy used to have after his head injury . . . I wonder if he knew a lot of that was probably stress.

I wonder if I was the cause of a lot of it . . .

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