15.01.07 – Housekeeping

Nothing now can dampen my spirits. Such is the power of our growing anticipation. At 4am I filmed our fast progress into the cloudless sunrise, knowing there is likely only to be one more sleep before our arthritic anchor chain rattles over the bow.

I feel strong today. With favourable breeze and only 190 fast miles to go, how could I not? Noble in reason, infinite in faculty, for once I’m strong enough not to freeze, or even nip-blacken around the edges, despite all the corruscating dispiritude which went before.

Now the breeze has freshened. The pressure is dropping, with scudding cloud, spray and waves thumping against the hull. At 10 o’clock I tied in a reef. We were instantly much more comfortable, without loss of speed. Funny how often that happens. The lesson, as always, is that we should have reefed hours ago.

I tumbled into the bunk to finish Marilyn Robinson’s book “Housekeeping”. Immediately I wanted to talk with Chris about it. Such simple and finely etched prose. Her effortless, concise expression is more modest (less purple, perhaps) than Banville’s, and the more lucid for that. Like Banville, she explores her ideas tirelessly, teasing issues with gentle persistence. While Banville’s explorations don’t always work – to me they seem on occasion a bit forced, tedious, pretentious even – hers are faultless.

The patience with which she explores human idiosyncrasy unearths such surprises. I found the book every bit as seductive as “Gilead” – the whistling wind through that lonely house; the completeness of the isolation; the sad, futile gestures towards normality; the comfort found only solitude. Her description of the children spending their lives watching and listening (with constant sharp attention, bewilderingly lost in a dark landscape that with any light at all, would be wholly familiar), must have had major resonance for Chris.

I wonder about friendship, and the smugness enjoyed by anyone with one solid human bond. Is it the smugness itself, as much as the comfort and safety, which lonely people covet and admire?

I earmarked also the stuff Robinson wrote about survival:

“….there is no living creature, though the whims of eons had put its eyes on boggling stalks and clamped it in a carapace, diminished it to a pinpoint and given it a taste for mud and stuck it down a well or hid it under a stone, but that creature will live if it can.”

In an email to Chris I have assured her that our Chilean adventure is going to be OK, although she shouldn’t expect us to to zip up the entire continent in 6 weeks. I have charted us a safe, warm, comfortable, interesting, varied course down through the Patagonian channels and back. For me at least, that would and should give the trip an overall maritime structure, onto which she can graft all manner of cultural bibelots and furbelows.

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