Saturday, October 30, 2010

Three more beautiful things

 Emerging from our brick tenement just after the sun has risen, I turn the corner in time to see the last pink clouds fading above the dense woodland called Putney Heath, and wish I’d been about just a few moments sooner to see the show ... but then, for the first time in my six years in London, a little bat flutters from the woods and zig-zags over my head, veering around the flats and disappearing high up beyond a big oak tree.  Sadly, my eyes are no longer keen enough to see whether his fangs are still dripping with the blood of a B-movie starlet.

The 170 bus to Victoria via Clapham Junction fills up with quiet people, some of whom are up far too early, but many, having worked a long night in the big neurological hospital, far too late.  In Wandsworth we are joined by a glamorous Jamaican woman, dressed with such urban sophistication as you might hope to see in Paris, who immediately begins to preach to us of Jesus’ love, laying special emphasis on the need to live well in the here and now, and to make others feel loved because, she says, “We won’t be coming Back !”  I’ve seen her a couple of times before on these local buses, always smart, always lovely, her energy flooding the space, even to the place where i cower in the back row.  Over the years, her phrasing and body language have become more “theatrically professional” and I wish there was a way to politely encourage her, whilst respectfully preserving my own timid scepticism.

I collect the dog from the old brick terrace.  We meander along amongst the parked cars, she stopping constantly to sniff every gate and lamp post, and searching the gutters for last night's chicken bones, and when we eventually turn the corner at the far end of the street on our way to the Common, we look west where a vast white rain cloud is rising quickly amidst trailing streaks of vapour and rain, supported on one side by half a rainbow, the whole spectacle imposing itself in fluent contrast to the dumb jagged dark rows of indigo slate roofs and burnt orange chimbley pots, like a beautiful preacher intimidating a crowd.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

three beautiful things ... well, one and a half, actually

a frosty dawn of unusual clarity … the sky a kind of abstract expressionist playground for incandescent candy floss brush strokes and dabs, smears and wisps, and even a few curlicues … all across a flawless velvety infinity of hyper-intense ultramarine, toning down into turquoise towards the horizon … a few minutes later, driving quickly on a smooth winding road switchbacking through a deep wood where you still need headlights even whilst the first rays of the newly risen sun are lancing horizontally through the high canopies of beech and oak … then emerging to find all that was pink in the sky has turned to gold

Wandsworth bloody council have cut down the tree next to the bus stop on lavender hill … but have left the stump level and smooth and just wide enough and high enough for a certain posterior to sit whilst it's owner soaks up some afternoon sun after emerging from their excellent public library and settling down with Angus Trumble’s “A Brief History Of The Smile” … laughter and sunshine are excellent therapists

a Jehovah’s Witness stops to talk to me outside the post office whilst I am checking a hand-written letter for punctuation and coherence before posting it to a dear friend with whom i have corresponded some twenty five years … he talks briefly about communicating with God ( who has never communicated directly with me so far ) but I don’t let on that I was only just some moments ago writing about the strong possibility that when I get the job of giving Heaven a make-over then I’d probably want to replace the old straight and narrow turnstile with some drive-thru pearly gates

Friday, October 15, 2010

a small counter epiphany in the norfolk room

















waiting somewhat vacantly for a recital by the fabulous guitarist Laura Snowden, i was admiring the elaborate gilded carvings and thinking how marvellous it was when the craftsmen of the good old days managed to position the mirrors exactly halfway between the objects and their reflections

Sunday, October 10, 2010

a cast-iron phoenix in crowhurst churchyard

Three beautiful things … 10th October 2010

A long train ride to visit a friend I’ve neglected in the cancer ward in a south coast hospital.  And a long wait until visiting time.  The patient is sleeping, or is she already gone ?  No, the wind is whistling through the valve in her throat and they’ve removed the stomach tube and they've attached the help-yourself-morphine drip.  In mournful silence, I turn to search for a chair and then the old familiar smiling voice whispers from the pillow, “Hello, stranger!”  “Stranger than fiction!”, I reply before we embark on a three hour conversation.

Darkness advances as the train pulls out on the return journey and we pass the beach at low tide.  Three men with spades, for all the world like grave diggers, are silhouetted against the twilight waters.

Falling asleep in the loved one’s embrace, and waking there some time later, refreshed and healed.