Notes for a Young Gentleman

The opening of the new novel:



and the opening of the new novel:


Until you have read this through, do not write in it. If you choose to do so thereafter, that is your own mistake.

It was spooked England, all laid out below and invisibly rushing up towards one—thirty-two feet per second per second—and how intimately I knew it and how passionately I loved it; as I fell, as I fell; once again.

. . the foxes refurbishing the entrance to their den—laying decoy trails for the hounds who will come again soon; . . .

. . the buck with its purposeful halt and the mortal challenge of its red gaze; . . .

. . the stoats performing their deeds because, as stoats, they are more than capable of deeds; . . .

. . the coddled husband-cat stepping out for further screwing whilst yesterday’s farm-kittens lie crisping in hessian; . . .

. . the tea-cosy dormouse so adorably a-snuggle beneath the floorboards of the abandoned cottage; . . .

. . the hisp of the bat, too high-pitched for lettering, halfway between the eave and the oak-branch, doubling back on its doublings-back; . . .

. . the increased air-pressure beneath the barn owl’s wings, oppressing the field-mouse, forcing it down the stalk and into the purple-thick of the wheat; . . .

. . the starlings spread out like stars, covered in stars, beneath the invisible stars; . . .

. . sparrows who take their own wings as the best blankets, dipping their heads into the blacked out warm-shadows; sparrows, disbelieving of how slowly their hearts are beating, even though ready for immediate flight; . . .

. . moles who are there but who do not deign to emerge, unless for dangerous gossip; . . .

. . the dead badger, rotting like Sodom and Gomorrah beneath the ivy whence in its last exercise of good judgement it had betaken itself to die; . . .

. . the ivy as emblem of its own tenacity, a shelter for the spider’s young.

Lovely England—long johns and empty breadbins; servants’ quarters and two of gold-top, please; conkers in murky vinegar and sprained ankle at the village fete; green grass and don’t strike too sudden if you want to catch the tench; Also.

Of all the unnatural, nonsensical things a human being can do, jumping from an aeroplane at ten thousand feet is probably the most exhilarating; spin.

This gorgeous night was far too succulently dark to do something as stupid as parachuting, and yet somehow one found oneself parachuting.

A sealed-dove: Jumping out of the plane itself was like finally speaking one’s love to the object of one’s obsession; terror.

With one’s love, though, there is always the possibility one will be lifted to higher heights; with a parachute jump, the only exhilaration is the acceleration of one’s failure.

It is awfully hard not to feel—classic—that to fall is to fail; even if one is doing it pretty well.

The first of my astonishments was the acceleration, then the simple fact that I was moving towards the earth in a way that would kill me if I did nothing about it.

By the time one has realized what one is actually doing, one realizes one no longer has time in which to do anything but survive.

Upside-down-world: My previous runs had been dry, and now the uprushing air felt like the plunging waters of a waterfall.

The new moon was no moon, sickle-hidden from the earth behind chinkless clouds—clouds out of which one had just tumbled.

Although one knew there must be a difference in quality between the blackness of the woods and the blackness of the cornfields, one could not for the life of one make it out. Not from this height.

And my confusion wasn’t helped by the hushing-howling air-rush in my ears, or the shivers which had started to convulse my body.

One feels abysmally safe—the whole sensation-of-fall being so classically dreamlike that one knows death will only mean awaking with a cosy bang back in bed.

The iron sea was all behind one now; one might—if one were unlucky—land in water, in the ornamental lake, but would have a chance to outswim drowning; as long as the canopy didn’t fall directly on top of one.

How could I have lived in this world so long and yet never before have seen it?

Seen from directly above, the pylons look like spider webs—when and if said webs are exposed by moonlight.

The rivers northwards glossed over themselves, still stilling, comparable to nothing but cold molten mirrors.

This world abstractly is too full of worlds beautifully for one person comprehensively to dwell in it desperately.

I was almost too overcome by thoughts of my homeland to remember that I would die if I didn’t remember to open my parachute. The instrument to achieve this was still grasped in my fist. Of course, at the first glimpse of tree-shaped darknesses beneath, I had stopped counting. Any idea of time-keeping was in the realms of the bizarre. Probably I had been in sight of the dark-that-wasn’t-clouds for ten or fifteen or twenty. Time to slow myself down—and when I realised that the way to prolong this imaginary view was to pull the cord, I did so immediately.

The black silk puckers above me, threatening to fold, and then with a colossal whump it goes resplendent into full black-swan mode.

Whump—a surprise even despite having practised the whole routine once a night for an entire week.

The canopy open above my head is, now I have done what I should and checked it, fine—the black of it has been turned almost indigo by the occluded moonlight.

I am not a soldier, and I do not intend to express myself like one. I believe I am a gentleman. Even at moments of pain and peril, and of them there are to be plenty, there is beauty here to be noted and later turned into phrases.

Winston Churchill, obviously—there could be no other target; Glider, not plane.


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