Note To Self

Entry by: writerSVTMLJBMPU

7th February 2017
I can't remember the date. It seems like the passing years have forged some kind of alliance to keep me from being specific, but I suppose it doesn't really matter. Suffice it to say that it was yet another overcast morning with the fog smoking from the Severn and our squad was marching to the station turnstiles like the condemned men we were. I had read about the forecasted solar event, and the radio confidently predicted that it was going to be spectacular, but as I looked around me I knew that it was going to be considerably less than overwhelming down here. In a white plastic bag I had a litre C&C bottle of Poitin : a gift that I'd brought back from home for an old Welsh lad called Ken. As soon as I was through, I made for the respirator room to borrow old Merv's binoculars. He was a Bristol man, through and through he said, but more importantly he was a fine fellow and for the last few weeks we had been surreptitiously spying on the Peregrine who was assiduously repairing her nest, high on a ledge of one of the cooling towers. The Manning's men didn't start for another couple of hours, so I stashed the contraband in my locker and donned my harness. This was my first day working above ground for two years, and I was relishing the taste of the air and the smell of wet steel and Summer on the move. For the previous twenty-four months I had been jack-hammering the living shite out of the tunnels and ponds and pump-houses far below the decks. It was always of a sudden that I'd be reminded of the differences between the Irish and the English, and this day was an example of one such jolt. As I peered up at the hunched form of the falcon far above, I thought us kindred; she on her ledge and I on mine, both of us surviving in the same place at the same time. Few Englishmen, it seemed, could ever remember my name. Peter was too hard to remember, but Paddy was a firm sticker. An Irishman would remember. An Irishman would be able to recall a forename, I know I could, but I'd already made up my mind to call anybody else that called me Paddy - George. What else would I call him? Surely George had to be as generic as Paddy? That was the name of their patron saint after all. As if on cue - a rumbling voice said,
" Well Paddy, twitchin' again are we?"
I merely nodded and continued with my ledge scanning. There she was, balled up and spiky like a Victorian hat. I knew she could sense the coming darkness. It was probably as palpable to her as my gurgling stomach was to me. We had about twenty minutes to go, I thought, until the beginning of the affair and already the fogged air had taken on an otherworldly hue.
" What time is the showdown George?"
"You what Paddy?"
"Do you know what time the solar eclipse is due to begin?"
Stan blustered and rubbed his jowly face with a hand as big as a bunch of bananas.
"Did you just call me George?"
"Did you just call me Paddy?"
"Well, that's your name isn't it?"
"No." I replied.
"But I always call you Paddy."
"It was never my name."
"But I always call you Paddy."
"Do you know what time the eclipse is due to begin?"
Stan hopped from one leg to another and rubbed his face again.
" I dunno, nine I think they said. So what is your name then?"
"Paddy." I said.
As Stan moved up the ladder mumbling about not understanding the Irish sense of humour, the birdsong all around abruptly weakened - like the hand of God had tweaked the volume. And so it began. The fine mist had coated my face with a glistening sheen of brackish moisture, it felt cold and good: a new Baptism to wash the years of dust out of my head. As I climbed to the roof, the wind whipped at my eyes like the buzz-past of a Cranefly in the dark. This insipid breeze would never be enough to rend the laden air and dissipate the murk. As I had thought, it would shortly be a less than spectacular celestial event down here. Still, I would have a bit of a laugh soon with old Ken. Ken had been 'down the mines' since he was thirteen. He could neither read nor write. He had asked me to procure the poitin for him, as he had never tried it before. I laughed to myself as I thought about the' better be careful what you wish for' adage. I glanced down at a non-existent watch. I never wore a wristwatch. You couldn't in this line of work, you'd get it caught and lose your hand or maybe your whole arm, but I still hadn't learnt to remember that it wasn't there.
It didn't matter today anyway, a different kind of engineering was at play, an astronomical mechanics that the animals sensed like a metronome in their souls. We had lost this ability to feel instinct as a liquid dynamic and a precursor to ancient compulsions. We were able, however, to create a monstrosity such as this shuttered bastion of 'technological achievement', and call it progress. The time wore slowly on and the colours of the fog deepened and pulsed. At its zenith the sun had a smurred violence - a slash the colour of the wattles on an enraged Rooster. All the while the mist was drowning our eyes and ears until a silence like the aftermath of a car-bomb ensued. Small pockets of shapelessness resolved themselves