‘Error doesn’t lead us straight back, but on to a crucial deviation’ he thought. Hot sunshine on the glass of the greenhouse eclipsed the ornament of daylight, turning it into a fevered irrigation of miraculous, liquefied hope. Perhaps that was a smile that crept across his face which looked like a slightly shuttered version of the old British film star Kenneth Moore’s grin.
As a young boy the family flew to France. Their car flew with them like a Trojan-horse trap. Private daylight and muscular grief were undoubtedly part of the various scenarios. He brought back small Brittany dolls in plastic. Young Jonny would say later of this : ‘ If we can strip all this away we are left with a Mobius seamlessness existing in a peculiar lacuna between life criticism and abstract longing.’ This was all before his internal glance which left him paralyzed with horror. Nothing could be clearer. These were days of affirmation. His surfaces, even then, didn’t seem to come inside.
His mother would say of him – years later – ‘we don’t seem to be able to find a way in.’
What of her gifts for intuitive sang-froid and muscular competition? She mobilised her pram in the hallway like a blade. Either she would exist or she wouldn’t was her approach to all this flawing paraphernalia. Time was an impermeable clarity. It would be neither neglected nor resisted. In the late evening, over lawns spreading out to fields that in turn rolled down to the largest coking plant in all Europe, her face turned to black slate, white marble, Swedish green, Serravazza, alabaster, Roman, teak, elm, walnut, guarea. His pipe smoke held unforgiven transgressions that snaked in the opposite of cynicism.
Thick snow one Christmas led them past goose and garden fence into a promise fleetingly revealed in waiting nature. This was where he saw what would constitute a miss in his time. A hammer blow. A sanity clause. He never believed in that! Colour is a matter of being clumsy.
‘One day we were walking before lunch through thick snow in fields at the back of the house and I got the sense of something falling through to the other side. It was not just a matter of changing direction. It was more profound. It was a kind of smooth interior and was terribly exciting, such enormous breadth and depth. I had the thought that maybe when I am finished I would be able to go right through, get right inside. I tried to do it at the rate of breathing, quite relaxed, simply go through. It’s not hard, not at all, just entry and re-entry, moving through and over, defined by contours and concavities, touching, and sincere. So true it made me cry but in monochrome, without perfume.’
He would pause then add, slyly: ‘If I were a man you’d resent that.’