It was foggy on Wednesday night as I drove home from my book club meeting; living by the sea we often have mist and fog drifting in off the water, trapped between to the two hills on either side of our town, Bleadon Hill and Worlebury Hill. Yesterday morning the fog was still with us and stayed with us until early afternoon when a lovely sun burned it off. last night I noticed there was a bit of fuzz, a halo round the street lights as the fog returned. This morning it is so thick I cannot see the end of the road, and the primary school which I can see from this window is invisible.
I’m of an age when I can remember really bad fogs; I remember walking to and from school as a child through milky whiteness which has a particular smell. Maybe the fogs of my childhood were yellowy with the smoke from every house’s coal fire… but I don’t remember that. I can remember when I first moved to Manchester and the fogs, or maybe smogs, were so thick I had to walk the four miles into the city as the buses didn’t seem to be running, and I walked with one hand on the wall as I couldn’t see clearly where the edge of the path and the road was.
In my novel “The Double Act” one of the characters quotes from the Bible, the famous passage about not seeing things clearly, ‘through a glass darkly’ and that is a theme of the book, that things are hidden and not clear. At the end of part One, the town of Easthope is shrouded in fog, and that is when a two characters first ‘see’ each other clearly and see into the other’s heart, and a horrific occurrence leaves a small cottage covered in blood and a severed digit is left on the floor. Fog or mist is a useful device, either a metaphorical fog, or a literal one.
Genet stood on the back doorstep smelling the early morning and the salty milky air. She had a peculiar urge to walk out into the wetness and she gave into it and stepped barefoot onto the terrace and onto the lawn. The fog was so dense she couldn’t see the top floor of the hotel.
Her feet were cold but it was perversely pleasant and she had an urge to lie down on the wet grass. Her skin was cold and droplets had formed on strands of auburn hair hanging down her forehead. She remembered standing by the sea wall with Dr Herrick, shivering and pressing herself against him.
Footsteps crunched down the drive; he was going to the sea. She hurried back to the house ran in and dressed. She automatically pulled on jeans and then had to change them because they wouldn’t do up. She ran out of the hotel and had to follow the hedge and the neighbour’s garden walls, the fog so dense. She walked along the wire fence of the little park and playground and came to the white walls of the coastguard cottages. She crossed over to the sea wall but could see nothing but the grassy banks leading down to the beach. She followed the wall round to the east until she came to the slope down to the little harbour and the fisherman’s huts.
Through the dense fog came voices and Genet followed the sound.
“Hello,” she called nervously. The bait shop was open and a couple of men sat on the step.
“It’s Genet, isn’t it?” It was Heath’s father, his boat somewhere out in the mist.
“Hello, have you seen someone come down here to swim?” she asked breathlessly.
The two men were wearing waterproofs, two old geezers smoking their pipes and talking fish.
“Yes, he comes every morning. He’s over on the other side, he swims off the end of the point and across the bay to Green Rock. Does it every day. Swims like a fish though I told him not to go out today, too dangerous in this fog,” Heath’s father lit his pipe.
“I don’t think he cared, he looked suicidal today. If he doesn’t come back I won’t be surprised,” said the other man gloomily. “One of those moody types if you ask me. What is it, manic-depressive is it?” the man said. “First time he came down he hardly said a word, nodded and that was it. Then we’ve had a sunny couple of months, him whistling as he walked down and chatty as anything. Now the last few weeks his face has been as black as sin.”
“Anyway, he leaves his things on the beach over there,” and Heath’s father pointed over his shoulder with his pipe.