You can tell a lot about a writer just by looking at their desk. That was the idea behind a recent special photo supplement in The Guardian.
Every desk was different – tidy or cluttered, modern or ancient, with different flavours of pen and paper, typewriter or computer.
So I thought I’d better take a look at mine. Pity I didn’t tidy it first.
This was once the dining room of the house, but the previous owners used it as an office, and it’s stayed that way today. The desk is just a cheap and simple slab of chipboard, but I like its simplicity and it’s got space for my longer legs. As well as a few pairs of running shoes, obviously.
‘… So often I had felt irritated with people who arrived here, lived in “little Europe” or “little America” (in luxury hotels), and departed, bragging later that they had been to Africa, a place in reality they had never seen.’
Ryszard Kapuscinski – The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life.
* * * * *
The sun is low in an African sky and my subcutaneous fat and I are running down the road.
The Indian Ocean lies behind me now, and with it the easy lifestyle of the North. The beach hotel. Comfort. Contentment. Ignorance.
And in front of me ? Adventure, uncertainty. Guilt. A touch of fear.
‘Sure as hell that didn’t work, but I finished the sucker eventually,’ mumbled downbeat, unshavenly scruffy lawyer Joel F Bradstock, to no one in particular.
His nicotine-stained fingers trembled slightly now as he rolled another cigarette and pulled hard on the half-drained bottle of Bushmills beside him.
A minute went by as he let the long-awaited dawn rise up over the city. He could hear high heels in the stairwell now, so he hurriedly fumbled the friendly bottle amongst the chaotic slew of box files, safely out of Rita’s sight.
He’d have to conquer the single malt habit eventually, but Monday never was a good day to start that struggle.
The BBC reported yesterday that Jane Tomlinson had finally lost her fight against breast cancer.
I don’t agree.
It was an unequal battle, certainly.
But the cancer never stood a chance.
The night air presses hot and thick outside the windows. The ancient bus groans and heaves itself another mile along the road. It’s four a.m.
A slim throw of light weaves ahead, as we slalom around endless potholes, the creaking chassis of the bus vibrating stiffly with every bounce of broken shocks.
And beyond our beam, it’s only darkness. As black as pitch – there is no distant orange streetlight glow here; no twinkling, reassuring glimmer of a distant homestead to break the gloom.
The rain is falling softly now, sluicing insistently down the windscreen. There are no wipers on the bus. But after a while, the drops somehow reassemble a filmy view of the road in front, and it doesn’t matter any more.
This is the main East African coastal highway – but don’t imagine any shiny roadsigns to announce that fact. No white lines, nor other traffic, either. Just deeply pitted, decaying tarmac. Puddles and blackness stretching far ahead.
I want so much to open your eyes
Cos I need you to look into mine
– Snow Patrol 2006
Roads of Stone is a year old this month. And a landmark is almost always a signpost on the way.
Some of the writing here goes back further, of course, but it’s been a fascinating experiment to build an independent site. Roads of Stone is hosted on a multi-user platform, WordPress.com, so that most of the difficult stuff is taken care of. But there’s been a lot to learn.
If life evolves steadily from one species to another, then why do homo sapiens and chimpanzees still co-exist ? That’s a classic question, and one which goes right to the heart of evolution.
It’s important to our understanding of how all life forms develop, and to reconstructing the the evolution of early man (thanks to Ella for the link).
The point is that whilst evolution is a slow process, the mechanism which allows change to happen is not a gradual one at all. We might see Darwin’s drawings of Galapagos finches as a continuous spectrum of evolutionary development, but perhaps that sketch gives quite a false impression of how evolution really works.
When evolutionary change takes place, it does so rapidly and abruptly.