One evening-it must have been around January 1990-I could not endure attending my usual occupation(if one can so designate operating the cloakroom of a nightclub); so, as I cycled into Manchester/Bleston, I decided I would ring in as unwell and that I would stop, instead, before going home,at McDonald’s, set amidst a semi-derelict suburb of this God-forsaken city(or so it seemed to me at that time); McDonalds, which shone out garishly, like some immense fake neon monstrosity,amidst a wilderness.
I do not now remember whether I drank tea or coffee; I remember I had nothing to eat and that it was probably about 9.00 pm(as my shift began at 9.30). I sat sipping tea(I think it WAS tea, memory gradually and unwillingly dredges bits of itself into the now); tea which, in its cheap(?polystyrene) cup was so insipid it was like faintly flavoured hot water(or have I made that bit up for bathetic poetic embellishment?). It was a summation or, rather, a reverse epiphany, of my 18 months in Bleston/Manchester, encapsulating in one moment, FEELINGS,( because emotions are often better recalled than the factual minutiae of the events they gave rise to),of repeated wanderings around this unfriendly city, where I lived, with four students-three of whom were wholly disinterested in me and one of whom was friendliness incarnate.
Many of the details are, in fact, TOO painful to remember; but that moment, cosy inside the gawdy glow of McDonalds, amidst a winter’s evening , and with its respite from the soul- destroying company with which(again with one friendly exception) I was compelled to surround myself with at my workplace, is a crucible into which all the rootless, aimless peregrinations-and the concomitant physical and psychological malaise- around this city were poured(and ARE poured, via memory).
So, in reading Butor “Passing Time”(1957), NOW,on an eerily cold and semi-deserted Bank Holiday, representing the detritus of a specious lengthy celebration, and , looking back on THAT time(January 1990), twenty-two years ago, I add (in the act of reading Butor’s book, itself polyphonically layered)an additional voice to the fugue of time and maze of memory, bringing those events both dangerously close and yet distancing them through the removes of variaton, as the theme is transmuted to a half-recognised condition through the filtering of time, memory , reading and writing.