Norman Foster comes to me: “I’m sorry,” he moans pitifully, shaking the cuffs of his shirt as if he was Marley’s ghost and they were silken chains. “Sorry…?” I gag on mucous sleep. “What the hell for?”
“Stansted,” the architect wails. “I never should’ve designed it that way. True, it looked good on the back of the envelope — and elegant once my team had put it on the Cad system, but I now realise that it’s a monstrous wedge of a building, a static plane crash of a structure, forever ramming a humungous divot out of the living, beating heart of old England! Aaaargh! Euurgh! Oh woe is little me!”
It matters where you are born. Not only the country or the city, the burg or the hamlet – but the precise location, its height above terra firma, its positioning in the welter of the world; for this is the still point at the exact centre of the ever expanding shock wave of your life.
[This essay appears in the British Library edition of Essays on Alasdair Gray, edited by Phil Moores. Reproduced by kind permission of the British Library. © The British Library 2002]
A letter arrives from Phil Moores whose address is listed as follows: British Library, Customer Services, Document Supply Centre, Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire. He encloses a selection of essays about the work of the Scottish novelist, artist, poet and politico-philosophic eminence grise, Alasdair Gray. You are holding this book in your hand so you know what those essays are, but picture to yourself (and let it be a Gray illustration, all firm, flowing pen-and-ink lines, precise adumbration, colour – if at all – in smooth, monochrome blocks), my own investigation of these enclosures.