Posted on: 29.01.2024

That inter-regnum period

It’s that inter-regnum period when the festivities which mark the turning of the year are over but Spring has not yet come – except that with the rain and spells of mild weather we’ve had the ground is already sending up hopeful shoots…only to face the freeze a few days later…

I feel like those buds and bulbs – neither fully hibernated for winter (long sleeps, long books, long meals) nor able to confidently expand into the light of Spring. In between, limbo-esque, blurry and sort of suspended. The days when London is muffled in blanket-grey it’s hard to muster energy to engage; I find myself dwelling on the state of the world, or avoiding it all, seeing the day as a series of unappetising tasks. Easy to complain about the January-February trough…

And then a chance something breaks through the drizzle. Like this, glimpsed through an open window of a house being gutted in a village in southern France.

Someone has carefully placed two formal 18th century Limoges covered serving dishes on a cheap plastic table in a room filled with stacked tiles, wooden batons, iron pipes and, out of shot, a toilet. 

They look ridiculously out of place, perilous and absurd with their fanciful curls and pink lustre amidst the rubble – enough to make anyone smile. But their fragile prettiness and the care with which someone – one of the builders? – has put them to one side, and yet left them in what is a total building site, charmed me.  Caught by a shaft of weak winter sun, they provided an unlikely minor epiphany. 

The moment has stayed with me. This is the gift of the interregnum. Had I been busy I’d have hurried by and missed the scene; had I been absorbed in a work issue, I would not have appreciated the sensitive hand and heart that put the dishes aside; had I been buzzing with the bullish creative energy of Spring I would not have been touched by the extreme vulnerability the context lends these dishes, and the question mark over their survival. 

As it is my dawdling day induced in me Keats’ famous ‘Negative Capability’ – when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.’ Wilfred Bion later called this ‘reverie’ and urged us to bring this state to our work with clients. So I was open to the unexpected illumination and delight of chance beauty in the dust, without knowing where these objects of exquisite craftsmanship came from and where they will end up, or even whether they will survive the destruction.

It would be tempting at this point to extend into metaphor and offer wise interpretations and even socio-political associations – but I will avoid the clichés (thank you Jo Ann Beard) and just remember that serendipity blesses the idling mind and the quietened body and allow myself to enjoy an inter-regnum of more dawdling, pottering and dreaming…laying down compost for the year to come.