Whilst away I have been reading Nabokov's extraordinary autobiography "Speak, memory".
It opens like this: "The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth. He saw a world that was practically unchanged - the same house, the same people - and then he realised that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence. He caught a glimpse of his mother waving from an upstairs window, and that unfamiliar gesture disturbed him, as if it were some mysterious farewell. But what particularly frightened him was the sight of a brand-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events his very bones had disintegrated."
The day I flew to Cork from London, unbeknown to me, over one hundred and fifty people, many of them young children, perished in an air accident at Madrid airport. The plane was taking off and had reached the moment of no-return. For reasons as yet unknown the plane, hardly off the ground, plunged down again in waste land at the end of the runway becoming a ball of fire. Our existence which is so fragile, measured against the darkness around it becomes so strange...so full of beauty and dread.