oh, well, whatever . . .

over the fence to hugo’s world

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Before we went to work this morning I asked Margaret if she’d noticed Hugo’s clock.

‘Oh, that thing,’ she said. ‘It’s an imitation. They’re as cheap as chips on the internet.’

Oddly enough I hadn’t taken it for an antique. And in a sense the whole idea of Hugo’s world is imitation. Or maybe not, but at least imitation would be as valid there as anything genuine. I wonder if the operating principle of Hugo’s world works is the hopeful pursuit of serendipity.  He doesn’t know what sense any of this might make, but he picks up anything the wind blows his way and drops it into the pot, as if some magic might one day throw up a combination that finally makes sense. A junkyard epiphany. One of the thus far unresolved contradictions in the Haphazardist metaphysics behind this approach is the legitimacy of the intervention of will.  Purists argue that things must remain where they fall – like dice thrown in a game – and that any tampering with them will produce only spurious meanings. The Pragmatic school of Haphazardists on the other hand argue that this position is not only deeply impractical, but also based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of human intentions, which are in themselves profoundly random and subject to the same laws of improbability as objects falling out of the sky. Thus the glimpse that shapes Hugo’s intervention in his world – be it the thought of a trawlerman dumping the contents of his net on the deck, the memory of a prehistoric landscape, the flashback to an old film he saw on Sky Digital one night, a dream, Disneyland, White Fang, or any one of a hundred other scenes – is in itself as accidental as any other event and will not result in any more or any less meaning than would otherwise arise. The laws of serendipity say that if it’s going to happen it will anyway. The more I thought about it, the more I was coming to see Hugo as the model of post-modern man. But it was late, and I had to go to work.

In the car I heard John Prescott on Radio 4, talking about his bulimia secret. ‘Here we go again,’ I thought, ‘ Another weird coincidence. Prescott is about the same build as Hugo and he is also a seafarer. What’s the chance of that?’ And then I remembered my conversation with Gordon and how I’d wanted to tell him the only jigsaw was the jigsaw in his head. I flicked over to the CD player, not knowing what was in there. It was Rum, Sodomy and the Lash by the Pogues! Okay, I said to myself, okay – but let’s not get carried away here. 

After tea I decided to look again at Hugo’s work. I went out into the back garden and loitered on the lawn in the evening sun, pretending I wasn’t looking. Over the fence was Hugo’s World, and for some reason it now felt as if I should be paying to look, as if overnight it had become a theme park rather than simply a neighbour’s garden.  Hugo’s World was now a different kind of space, a place apart, a heterotopia.  The outsider can only look in and imagine what life in such a place might be like. Hugo’s garden had become like Bede’s World or the Beamish Museum or the Crannogs on Loch Tay. We can look in, but we can never know what it must be like to look out from such a place, how life looks in Hugo’s World. We can never know the phenomenology of being a junkyard frontiersman, a rag and bone man in a throw away culture. 

I looked at the station platform and the clock, the henge and the shelters.  And I looked at the big rubber pond encased in wood and aerated by a little pump driven waterfall that glittered cheerfully in the golden evening sun. A silver plastic heron gazes unflinchingly into the dark water where plump orange and white carp slide silently by.  A little further along the parapet two plastic mallards sit, beady black eyes never blinking in their emerald green heads. I saw the bird table I hadn’t noticed yesterday, tucked away in a corner near one of the huts, and the pair of wrought iron gates behind it. On the rust red preservative of the lattice fence a couple of gaudy plastic butterflies on wire wands have settled. There’s a blue Hula Hoop against the fence too, and all around the garden solar lights on skinny silver stems wait for the light to fail. It was like looking at the Queen’s gilded carriage from behind a red silk rope, or at the mysteriously protected furniture at Alnwick Castle or Cragside, at things so rare you can’t even photograph them because to do so might bring about their decay. I was holding my breath as if I was an an intruder. This is how Jack must have felt when he first climbed up the beanstalk and entered the Giant’s loft.

I went out for a walk through the streets. It’s a little warmer tonight and the wind has dropped. The trees are full of the chatter and chirp of garden birds and the buds are beginning to burst. It almost feels like summer is finally coming. When I got back it was almost dusk. Margaret was on the phone.

‘Brenda says hi,’ she said.

‘Hi Brenda,’ I replied.  De Kooning ran past me to the back door. He wanted to be out.

‘Okay,’ I said. ‘ Okay. But don’t go out of the garden, do you hear?’


Written by yammering

April 21, 2008 at 9:03 pm

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