Eelbrook Common, and evening coming on. Boys with a football in the blue-grey dusk in the empty paddling pond. Black ideographs on the dry grey concrete of the dry and winter paddling pond. A scrawl of boys, a scribble on the dry grey concrete, black against the blue-grey dusk. The dusk purpling a little behind the black trees. The trees on Eelbrook Common are not the same as loose trees, random trees. The trees on Eelbrook Common enclose, enfold, embrace the time, the light, the space, the airs of morning, winds of evening, cries of night on Eelbrook Common. Golden headlamps of the District Line approach with gleams of sliding gold along the curving rails from Parson’s Green. The flanged iron wheels rumble on the rails. Steel they may be, but iron is before steel, iron is elemental. There is the idea of iron in the train wheels, the rails of the District Line snaking round the curve speak themselves in iron. There is a rosy blur of westering light behind the darkening silhouettes, behind the blocks of dusk and buildings. Red lights, green lights, a cluster of white and yellowish lamps on the Parson’s Green station platform. Stains of yellowish light down corrugated iron, down various wooden slants and angles by the station. Stains of light like rust stains down the sides of iron freighters long at sea. The richness of the deep blue-grey above the westering pink, a blue-grey seen in old picture books, a blue-grey by Edmund Dulac. Wings of night and golden domes in that blue-grey; safe good nights and wooden stairs to bed. The white sparks flashing as the flanged wheels with their carriages recede towards Parson’s Green. The blue-grey deepens more and more towards night. The golden windows of the District Line rumble townwards, rumble homewards through the deepening dark. The buildings mass themselves against the night, stand up in solid black behind the black trees on the common. Behind those blacks the dusk commits itself with deepening blue to night as all at once the white lights of the football pitch come on. Overhead an airplane slants droning evenwards to Heathrow. And still the layers of the last blue daylight can be seen between the blocks of dark like mortar in the bricks of night. To those passing on foot or in the carriages of the District Line this window where I sit is one of evening’s golden windows. Here behind that golden window six-and-a-half-year-old Jake dances to the music of Ravi Shankar. From the gramophone the sitar, the tabla, the tanpura thump and drone and buzz and jangle. Jake laughs as he dances like a little Shiva. The music makes him dance, he says; he can’t help it.

I’ve just described the coming of evening to Eelbrook Common as seen from my window. I used language to do it. It seems to me, however, that what I was describing was itself language, all of it, from the blackness of the trees to my son’s dancing. I was using our little language of words to describe the big language of nightfall. To me it seems that everything that happens is language, everything that goes on is saying something.

Well, you might say, what difference does it make, really, if someone chooses to call everything language? It’s only a manner of speaking. It’s only words. Only words, you might say. Because although we recognize words as our only official language we don’t attach too much importance to them. Words are only words. In my description of nightfall on Eelbrook Common the events are familiar ones: our part of the earth is turning away from the sun; the trains of the District Line are taking people home; boys are playing football in the empty paddling pond and so on. It’s pretty much what happens every evening between five thirty and six. We all know pretty well where we are with it and we don’t really need to bother about what to call it. The words don’t matter all that much.

A Short History of Coronation Ale