Smiling in Slow Motion - Diaries and Derek Jarman


This house was buzzing in the night. I was up at 2am, scanning my mountains book in my head, reviewing its whole structure. James then tells me over our morning tea that he was up in the night too, pen to hand, flashing out a new opening for his ongoing novel. The calendar marches on through a new year and we're both losing sense of time.

I'm working on two resolutions. One is to meditate each day, a practice that fell miserably by the wayside in recent months. The other is to maintain a daily diary, other than this one. I've found it quite sweet, working through chapters of this mountains book, rediscovering stories that would surely have been lost had I not written them down.

I'm reading Derek Jarman's diaries before sleeping, the final volume, SMILING IN SLOW MOTION. It was bracing to follow him around his exhibition at Glasgow's Third Eye centre one day. A couple of naked young men lay in bed together as the central exhibit, columns were pasted with homophobic headlines from the tabloid press, and Derek Jarman roamed between them giving an interview to a student TV crew. It was exciting to hear him speak, and thereby realize how bland and censored our TV actually is. Here was a man of perception and intelligence with the wit to say what I had otherwise never heard said.

James and I visited his garden one day, on the bare coast of Dungeness. He had died, but the man known as HB in the diaries answered the door. I remember him, perhaps foolishly, as having dark hair blue eyes and a luminous presence. It seems Derek Jarman got to live with an angel even before he died. He smiled and said of course we were welcome to sit in the garden.

Plants grew up through a ground of tawny pebbles, arranged around sculpture of driftwood and stone. A verse of John Donne was painted on the side of the dark wooden house. We sat and thought yes, Derek Jarman's life was worth dying for if it was lived as lovingly as this.

Maybe I'm keeping a diary so I can learn to live a life that will truly fill it.

Previous entry