Before and after the flood
When I woke up in the County Hotel, Chelmsford, on Friday after the Essex Book Festival event for Spartacus Road, the insect-like TV was showing news pictures, taken from the air, of a tidal wave rolling across fields towards a distant road of cars.
The last house I ever owned in Essex was beyond the flood defences; and, whenever I slept there, in the bird sanctuaries of St Osyth, I would often imagine the sea storming over our heads. So did others. It was not a popular house for visitors.
So somehow the first pictures from Japan seemed reasonable - even appropriate - for an Essex boy returning home.
It would be good to see them again. No scene of destruction can match a moving wave and a line of drivers with no sense that something bad is five fields away..
All images of a flood are in their essence 'befores and afters', a genre that we carry around in our heads. What was it like? What is it like now? The 'before and after' used to be a standard trope of journalism - but never can it have been deployed as inexorably as in these ABC pictures I've just picked up - late, I'm sure.
And how pleasant it must be for Colonel Gaddafi. Nothing he does to rebel towns looks much compared to the devastation of Japan. Imagine him sliding back between these befores and these afters and feeling both virtuous and human.