But when, at Chatham, I even have to relocate for a fourth time, I accomplish that petulantly. The little metal tray table in front of me bleats tinnily as I jab it back into place. I hasten from the scene muttering failed epigrams. Once I plonk myself down again, two carriages along, I realize I even have misplaced my glasses, without which I cannot read a word, and I feel too embarrassed to return and search for them. It is a fugue of my favorite thing.
Most discussions of whether it is best to travel or to reach fail to take into consideration a 3rd option, which is that perhaps it will have been higher to remain at home. In common with many individuals, I even have found it harder to return to the world than I had thought I’d within the doldrums of 2021. Was every thing at all times this tiring? One other epigram bubbles up: “What’s the purpose of going out? We’re just going to wind up back here anyway.” Thanks, Homer Simpson.
I could not have the ability to read my book, but I can still gaze out of the window. Rochester Castle, with its Twelfth-century keep, glides past, and already there are kids playing on the grounds. We cross Rainham Marshes and I spot scattered groups of bird-watchers who’ve been at it since dawn. Coronavirus stays rife; the economy is lurching uncontrolled; the planet is on fire; there may be war in Europe. As more travelers join the London service, some sure for the football, others to buy groceries at Westfield Stratford, it occurs to me that nobody on this train is ever going to return to normal, because normality isn’t where we left it. But who would blame us for trying?
As if to verify this unexpected epiphany of fellow feeling, a faucet comes on my shoulder. I look up. Holding out my glasses to me is a person in an Arsenal shirt.
Later, protected at midnight of the Crouch End Picturehouse, there will probably be a screening of “Quatermass and the Pit” (1967), the film adaptation of Kneale’s 1958 teleplay. The unique version concludes with words from Professor Bernard Quatermass delivered amid the smoking ruins of the capital city: “Every war crisis, witch hunt, race riot and purge is a reminder and a warning. We’re the Martians. If we cannot control the inheritance inside us, this will probably be their second dead planet.”
I’ve seen this film before. I am going to the pub as a substitute.
Andy Miller is the writer of “The Yr of Reading Dangerously” and the co-host of the podcast “Backlisted.”