Sunday, January 28, 2007

The night brought counsel

The virus is still hanging on by the tips of its microscopic fingers. I can feel its nails digging in somewhere behind my epiglotis. Mustn't grumble though. Better things are happening in Lyon than sore throats and cold weather. Perhaps some better things are happening even because of the sore throats and bad weather.

Take last night for example. I awoke about 3am in my chilly bedroom. Being on the north face of our building, my chambre receives the full blast of the icy, continental winds, and so is bound to be cold. That, at least, is how my landlord explains the near-deep freeze temperatures in there. Personally, I prefer to think that if he left the heating on at night, my room might have a fighting chance of being a little warmer.

Come 4am, I decided I had had enough of being frozen to death, and made up my mind to make a rush for the warmth of the kitchen and begin breakfast. Turning to the moth-eaten teddy on the fireplace, left there by a previous occupant of the room - probably carried out with frostbite for all I know - , I said soulfully, 'I'm just going out. I may be gone for some time.'

But that early breakfast brought about something of a miracle. I kid you not. Now in the final weeks of my PhD (or should that be dying embers?) I have been struggling to revise my first chapter, a difficult and knotty excursion into the sociology of religion and the problems of secularization. Two of the brainiest people I know have read it and been defeated by it. The signs were not good. But how was I to change it? It seemed like a well-knitted jumper; start pulling out one thread and the rest could come out too. Or perhaps, just a pack of cards!

And then, over my 4am bowl of coffee and bread, it came to me all in a flash how I could revise the entire chapter: what could be cut, what could be rearranged, what could be reshaped. I spent the rest of the morning putting my inspiration into effect. I'll spare you the details. Read the thesis when it's published (if ever!).

On reflexion, I'm not quite sure what it all shows. Such moments are rare in these big projects. I have been trying to work this out for quite some time but to no avail.

Perhaps it only goes to show the virtues of not putting the heating on at night.

1 comment:

Fra Domenico said...

I had no idea you were doing a blog. It has been duly entered under my "favourites" or rather "friends and subjects of Her Imperial Majesty Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, Queen..."
I greatly approve of your prose style!