A day when the sky was on the ground and when the air was filled with rain; a day when daylight never fully arrived and when one could not have guessed the time. Driving through rain and darkness, BBC Radio 4 Extra provided a companion; silly comedy programmes that demanded no engagement. From one programme I learned the name of a condition that seems to afflict me from time to time, nominal aphasia (yesterday, I was visiting a woman in hospital and discovered I could not remember her name). Descriptions of the condition say that people use circumlocutions to avoid the need to say the word they cannot remember; been there, done that, got the tee shirt, if I can talk for long enough I can often find my way to the missing name.
Trying to find inspiration in the bone-chilling dampness, I struggled to recall a piece that spoke of a wet afternoon being transfigured, of a sense of a presence in the mundaneness. The writer’s name was elusive, only after lengthy circumlocution and Internet searches did I recover the name of Monica Furlong and find the passage from her book Travelling In,
“During the two years just before and after I was twenty, I had two experiences which led to religious conversion. The first occurred when I was waiting at a bus stop on a wet afternoon. It was opposite the Odeon cinema, outside the station, and I was surrounded by people, shops, cars. A friend was with me. All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, everything looked different. Everything I could see shone, vibrated, throbbed with joy and with meaning. I knew that it had done this all along, and would go on doing it, but that usually I couldn’t see it. It was all over in a minute or two. I climbed on to the bus, saying nothing to my friend – it seemed impossible to explain – and sat stunned with astonishment and happiness.
The second experience occurred some months later. I left my office at lunch-time, stopped at a small Greek cafe in Fleet Street to buy some rolls and fruit, and walked up Chancery Lane. It was an August day, quite warm but cloudy, with the sun glaringly, painfully bright, behind the clouds. I had a strong sense that something was about to happen. I sat on a seat in the garden of Lincoln’s Inn waiting for whatever it was to occur. The sun behind the clouds grew brighter and brighter, the clouds assumed a shape which fascinated me, and between one moment and the next, although no word had been uttered, I felt myself spoken to. I was aware of being regarded by love, of being wholly accepted, accused, forgiven all at once. The joy of it was the greatest I had ever known in my life. I felt I had been born for this moment and had marked time till it occurred.
If such a presence can be sensed in the midst of the busyness of central London, might it not be found in the rural landscape of the Irish Midlands? And even if one does not have words, one knows it is there.