On a Sunday

I haven't been great about blogging lately (I haven't been great about writing lately), but I think my life has actually gone mad, or else merged with someone else's. I keep having the sensation that I'm swimming through my days. The water is viscous but beautiful; it's a slow going and dreamlike route through the week. Sunday, for instance. Which started with a church and ended with Blondie - from Mary to "Maria" in just a few hours.

We spent the morning in Christ Church Cathedral for a christening. I'd never been to a christening before. We were running late as always and my shoes had rubbed the side of my foot raw. Irrationally I fretted over the right way to behave. I worried the blood from the blister marked me out as an impostor amongst the Christian lambs. Churches always make me feel this way. I am awed by the architecture, the dark alcoves, the stained glass and the weight of history, but the rigidity of the ceremony - more than that, the implication of a shared knowledge - gives me the same anxieties that being at a party full of people I don't know does. I don't know what to do or not do, where to go or not go, and the insecure part of me is like a child who wants to be part of a club she doesn't belong to. Everyone else is doing it so why can't I?

We sang hymns. I can read music and I can read words but I can't do both at the same time. I sing quietly because I still don't know the rhythms of all these songs, can't anticipate the collective extra breath that everyone will take at the start of a new line.

In front of me sat a little girl with long blond hair, a pink dress, and pink shoes. While the rest of us rose and sat like a bunch of finely-dressed, mad meercats, sticking our heads up to try to see the choir, then bending them in prayer, she pored over a book. Her hair spilled into her face and she pushed it back impatiently and got through several chapters of something by Enid Blyton. That's a club I could belong to; but the funny thing is that for all the freedoms adulthood grants you, it also prohibits so much.

And then there was a sudden moment, like a breath between lines of a hymn, full of joy. Behind us were babies laughing and crying and toddlers squirming. Up ahead, as the deacon poured water into the bowl, our friends' ten-month old son grinned before the entire congregation. He put his fingers into the water, miming the symbolic action. People laughed. Yes, okay, I thought. So we're in a church but we can laugh. This is good. He was welcomed. He is welcome. (Later he sat on his mother's lap, eating his mushy lunch, smiling broadly. I remember him as a 5-pound newborn, too fragile to hold up his own head, wearing a generic expression of sleepiness and hunger.)

We refused communion. "Oh, I'm hungry, but not that hungry," we joked, the Man and I, quietly to ourselves - still reverent even in irreverence. Outside we stood overlooking the quad. That's the fountain they kept putting Anthony Blanche into, I said. I walked up to the fountain, peered past its lily-pads, into the blackness. Dark fish, mouths gaping, came to the surface, disappeared again. A few bright orange ones flicked their bodies. No, I wouldn't like to be dropped in there, not amongst the scaly bodies. So that's fine; look up, at Tom Tower gleaming handsomely, coloured like a honeycomb.


Then we were backstage at a Blondie gig in Gloucestershire. Things I never knew: security guards smile at you when you have a special wristband. They look relieved that they are not going to have to tell you off for anything. One of them even gave me earplugs so I could sit nestled up at the base of the stage without losing my hearing.

Debbie Harry wore a black kilt and put the microphone up and 6,000 people sang the chorus to "Maria" with her. I remember the year that song came out and I remember buying No Exit and listening to it over and over again in my CD player. I particularly remember that I wore a blue jumper with a white stripe across it often then.

We drove back with Little Fish in their tour van. I had a cider and then, half-asleep, I sort of sat there just thinking: the more you look at your own history the more interesting it becomes - not in a self-obsessed, navel-gazing way, but in that suddenly you become detached from it. You can see it from an outsider/insider space, an overlap of perspectives. It's both harder and easier to write about. Am I penning fictions every time I remember something on paper? Yes, of course, in a way.

We got back to Oxford after midnight; it was a hushed, special Sunday darkness. No one around, not even the drunks. We stopped for chicken kebabs. Hunger seemed inconvenient at such an hour but I had reached a point in the night where it was impossible not to eat. As if everything might be erased by sleep, unless sustenance was first obtained.

Nothing was erased by sleep and we woke up tired and smiling.