Paul Smith claims you can find inspiration in everything. So unflinching is his belief in this adage, that he wrote a book about it. I know, I used to have to flog it at Christmas time in my years as a sales assistant with Paul Smith Ltd. The silvery dust cover still haunts me.
I would like to contest his claim, however. In fact, I would suggest that there are periods in a person’s life when inspiration cannot be found in anything. So much so that the absence of inspiration becomes almost oppressive. Things that perhaps should be a source of inspiration, become instead triggers for insecurity or paranoid neuroses. Or worse yet, there are days where the absence of inspiration is almost palpable – a physical presence in and of itself. An anti-inspiration as it were. Like cheap veneer or mdf, giving the impression of something when really there is nothing of substance.
Today has been one of those days. In fact, the last two weeks have been comprised of those sorts of days. The drudgery of it obvious on my face as the corners of my mouth hang downward, my cheeks sag like jowls, my skin ashen and my eyes deeply sunk into great be-purpled caverns. You need to smile more, the Doctor tells me, your face looks haggard when you don’t smile. I seethe inwardly (and outwardly), and envisage a cat hissing at children who come to close to it as it hides under the bed, pissed off at the unwanted assault on its environment. I want to crawl back into bed as soon as I get out of it and never get up again.
In an attempt to stave off the encroaching black dog, nipping occasionally at my heels as he is wont to do, I planned to go to Spitalfields Antique Market this morning. The motivation was largely to remove myself from the confines of my bedroom/office and West Norwood generally, possibly take some pictures, make some observations and potentially even sample a piece of bric-a-brac to enliven the dull interiors of my home (another source of anti-inspiration). But then I began to drag my heels. It was wet, I was tired, I had work to do, I had no money to spend. Then 10am became 11am and I abandoned the prospect all together. Next Thursday, I promised myself.
I then sat down to do some admininstrative chores. Basic tasks achieved, albeit at a snail’s pace. The really boring stuff I would leave for tomorrow. When I would no doubt have more energy (I assured myself).
Then, I decided, it was time to try and wring something out of the day and sit down to write. But there is nothing for me to write about currently. No experiences to draw upon, no questions to ask. The well is utterly dry, the vigour gone, the imagination absent. The mind is nothing but a pile of wet rich tea biscuits, deteriorating into sludge.
Abandoning any attempt to write, I decided to immerse myself in the joy of my latest purchase, Chris Ware’s Building Stories. But this failed to shake me free from the inertia of anti-inspiration. It’s content compounded my own lugubrious state of mind, as the characters knock around in their own unfulfilled existences. And the book itself, a thing of beauty and enviable poetry, caused me to cringe with its brilliant capturing of the “sickening earnestness of maturity.”
Getting the sense that the walls were beginning to close in on me, I decided it was time to leave the house. Not only that, but I have developed an inhuman capacity to detect odours. Our flat, through the effects of cold weather and the necessity for closed windows as well as having an open-plan kitchen, is shrouded in an impenetrable cloud of stagnate air, stale cooking oil and onions. A smell that has permeated every facet of our lives from our clothes, to our hair, to the bed linen, to the very air we breathe, getting up my nostrils and enraging me to such a state that I am constantly showering. My nostrils had reached such a point of irritation that I had to escape, desiring nothing but lungfuls of cold, damp, dirty London air.
I went to my local deli, sat down and ordered a sandwich. I overheard two women speaking and shamelessly barged into their conversation after hearing the words “pop-up supper.” It transpires that the workers of South London Botanical Institute, have an offshoot club called Flower Brigade (endearingly run by a bunch of mature botanical enthusiasts) who put on a supper club every few months. It was for this event that the women were buying ingredients from the deli – a nettle-themed dinner.
I duly tapped the details into my iphone.
I left the deli slightly less hunched over than I had appeared on arrival. Perhaps inspiration could be found in everything, even something as basic contact with other human beings of a friendly disposition. However, I noted that my clothes stank of the toxic blend of coffee grounds, grilled cheese and cured meat. I immediately ran home to shower.