The Ocean Spray Hotel, ‘American Style Bar’ Saltdean East Sussex. The hotel, like the men inside it, is a wrecked shell of its former self; the 426 bedrooms (which once boasted opulent Art Deco features) are now home to 300 veterans, exhibiting varying degrees of war trauma. Ivan Dâr has been living in the hotel for 3 months having been sent there as a result of his prolonged mutism. Dâr is chatting with Laurence Fishlock, the administrative principal of the rehabilitation centre, a straightforward and sociable optimist, Fishlock frequently takes drinks with the men at sun-down, before retiring to his apartment on the 5th floor.
Fishlock: This was once a place where a man might display a dazzling wife while imbibing fine wines amid the slap of sea on shingles.
Dâr: We’ve brought it into disrepute
Fishlock: Did you here a shout?
Dâr: It’s Sparrow arguing over the bath towels, he’s particularly aggressive about his ablutions.
Fishlock: If I may say so, you’ve undergone quite a transformation, when I look back at your paucity of speech, even 12 weeks ago. I remember thinking: ‘there’s a hopeless wreck of a man if ever I saw one’.
Dâr: Now I’ve gone the other way, my status has changed from mute to loquacious; I’m particularly drawn to abstract verbs.
Fishlock: You’ve returned to your originary Welsh roots, your lilting way with words is like the tide beside the Undercliff Walk, it resonates with direct Welsh endeavor.
Dâr: Marwnad Cynddylan Dyhedd deon diechyr … Rhiau a Rhirid a Rhioedd, A Rhygyfarch lary, lyw eiriasedd. Ef cwynif oni fwyf i’m derwin fedd O leas Cynddylan yn ei fawredd. It’s invariably described as ‘lilting’ but there’s no hint of a lilt with me. Look at that rust stain on the side of the old Lido wall; it’s an uncanny approximation of an outsized turd stain.
Fishlock: It’s the blemish of war.
Dâr: War is the filthy tinge of an outsized turd.
Fishlock: It’ll take generations to remove it.
Dâr: The curse of flat roofs. I’ve heard it said that Hitler has a hatred of flat roofs, he prefers the neo-classical or inflated neo- baroque style, they pander to his flair for pomp.
Fishlock: Twerps are always attracted to gigantic buildings.
Dâr: Why would anyone crave the gigantic? What could be less secure?
Fishlock: The buildings are didactic instruments; they put ordinary people in their place as it were, in relation to an all controlling state.
Dâr: He’s a twerp allright; Mussolini bit his weenie and now it doesn’t squirt.
Fishlock: The Undercliff walk at Saltdean was reputedly built by unemployed Welsh Miners between 1928 and 1933.
Lament for Cynddylan Invincible Lords’ distress ……..
Rhiau and Rhirid and Rhioedd,
And kind Rhygyfarch, fervent leader.
I shall mourn till I enter my oaken grave Cynddylan slain at his power’s height
Recreation and conversation session, September 1941:
Dregg: One thing I’ve found comforting is the idea that our injuries are a basis of knowledge, an epistemic axis as it were. The poet Rumi said ‘Keep looking at the bandaged place because that’s where the light enters you’, I’ve always found that consoling.
Ivan: Sometimes it feels like I‘ve never left Hell so I cannot see anything but bandaged places, it hasn’t enlightened me and I’m as benighted as the moment I was born. Going back to sleep is all I’ve wanted to do from the moment of birth onwards. I could have slept professionally, I considered it once, signing up full time to the National Sleep Institute, but when I looked into it the process was far more involved then just sleeping. They wanted to put me in centrifuges and fridges; I wasn’t having any of it.
Dregg: Nevertheless you have tried to look at your bandaged places, both of us have, we wouldn’t be here if he weren’t trying.
Ivan: Ignore everything I say, since finding my voice I just talk through my nether regions.
Dregg: Today like every other day We wake up empty and scared,
Ivan: So what is the cure, sitting in this place through the dreary English off season?
Dregg: Jalāl ad-Dīn Mu�ammad Rūmī said we should kiss the earth.
Dâr: I lawr y deor