During my time away I have not had access to Blogger. I have missed reading and writing, and hope to catch up soon.
I am travelling from darkness into darkness, turning away from the light, turning eastwards all the time. I begin, as I so often begin, at this little ginger-bread station, its paintwork as thick and heavy as syrup. The place vibrates with the noise of this very early morning train, the birds are silenced. Pools of light fall on old stone, bars of light bounce off the black windows.
Opposite me, in the dark glass I see a white haired woman, writing briskly in a Moleskine notebook. It is me, seen from without, being processed.
There is something paradoxically liberating about being processed. Today I put my life into the hands of people totally unknown to me, and I trust them implicitly to carry me vast distances - across bits of England, over the North Sea, Belgium, Germany, and Poland. Over Russia and into the vast emptiness of the Central Asian Plain.
This sort of trust is illogical, but the process has started.
"Have a nice day", says the train driver.
I seem to be his only passenger.
I will, I trust.
An hour later and light grows over the Oxfordshire countryside, black trees against a pale sky. Colour has not yet returned to the world. I trust it will.
Another hour and I transfer to the RailAir Link bus to Heathrow. I wait in a small queue of people with very serious luggage.
The man next to me is in a puffy padded jacket (it's now a mild morning in England) and has a huge bag bristling with words like 'Extreme' and 'Intrepid'. A pigeon, one of the manky, crippled variety who hang out at stations' Costa outlets, veers in badly controlled flight and barely misses colliding with the intrepid traveller's face. He throws up a padded arm in horror. We laugh about it, and I ask him where he's going.
"Everest Base Camp", he says.
Eventually, a grey take-off, and then through murk into glorious sunshine. I forget that it's always up there, somewhere. The ground is hidden so I pass over a world that changes from battle-ship grey, through blue white and silver, through shades of peach and apricot as we fly on and on into the dusk. There are occasional billows and boilings of cumulus; fatly innocent powder puffs seen from above, but bringing winds and storms to the earth below.
By late afternoon in England it is evening over Russia, and suddenly the dense carpet of cloud rolls back to reveal the spangled web of Moscow, twinkling wide and far. Far, far below; Moscow, threads of light stitched on to black velvet. A magical glimpse, and then the carpet rolls back and there is only moonshine on the great dark wing beside me.
Almost everyone else in the droning, gently rocking vehicle is lulled to sleep, wrapped in airline blankets and stretched over three or four seats of the sparsely populated cabin. Only I sit looking into the darkness of the Ural Mountains and the vast emptiness of the steppe beyond it.