For many years I had this recurring nightmare: I’m on a beach and suddenly a vast tsunami engulfs me. It reached a point where I would just be on this beach, or cliff, or in a city by the sea, get this sinking feeling in my gut and know this is it: here comes the big wave (hello Mr Freud, how’s things? How’s your mum? Good, good...)
Oddly, after the Boxing Day disaster of 2004 the dream stopped; I’ve never had it since. But large waves remain a source of fascination to me, and so I watched footage of that evil black treacle creeping across Japan yesterday with both horror and guilty curiosity. (The strange bubbling liquid reminds me of another nightmare, not just for me: grey goo.)
Back in my safe world, the kids had to go to school dressed as animals; Lynda made our two Dalmatian suits complete with tails and as I walked them to school they elicited many a smile.Since the library reading last week a few more parents have discovered my guilty secret, my job; one parent even jokingly said “Fire Horses” is “semi-porn” - which sounds a bit flaccid, oxymoronic even, if you get my drift.
About once a month, I try and leave everything behind and take a long walk somewhere new. For many years these were mostly in London but in the last few years, more frequently I’ve gone out of town. So after kissing the kids goodbye I took an almost empty train out to Bayford on the Hertford line and walked cross-country, first through a golf course (looking for Komodo dragons), through ancient woodland, and through modern housing estates, enjoying the freedom, the fact nobody knows where I am, emptying my mind of thoughts of my novel, and journalism, and parenting and tsunamis.
Still waiting to hear what happens next with emptiness; arrived home last night to hear my agent still loves it but no word yet on rewrites or approaches. Still no Gibraltar feature in the Mail; a couple other features bubbling under. A frustrating time to be a journalist, particularly when the front page of today’s Mirror screams “80,000 dead!” and you realise that a lot of hacks and editors have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
Then I turned on the news and saw that burning tar-river, and the smoking nuclear plant, and realised things could be far worse. One small mercy: Tokyo, one of my favourite cities, seems to have escaped the worst of it.