Full of Fire: Part 3

(Part 1Part 2)

She never regretted moving to this flat.  It was her bolt hole in this fast paced city, a place where she could flutter and eventually fly free of her parents, beloved though they were.  In fact, they were the reason why she had moved to the city.  She couldn’t quite face looking into their eyes once Robert had been to visit her at the parent’s house.  If they had known of all of the positions that they had made love in then her cheeks would be forever burnished, matching only those of rosy fresh apples.  No, much better that she had moved away to a swanky new flat with him instead, free to both explore their love and to allow their careers to take a foothold upon the employment ladder in their chosen fields.

The flat wasn’t really swanky in all honesty.  Sometimes, especially after a heated remark or two, it could feel like a shoe box and one that she yearned to escape.  It was at times like those that she felt she could happily return to her parent’s house, to become engulfed once again in their loving embrace.  But she realized that this would never happen again, she had flown the coop and would not return to live there in this lifetime.  She visited, from time to time, and had hosted her mother and father in her adopted city, but they would not meaningfully live side by side again.

Robert was her immediate family now, her lover and confidant, her romancer and family man.  Her father wrote often though, kept the familial bonds strong and she wrote back as often as she could, though writing was not her forte and clearly her path in life was not to follow her father.  She loved his letters though, decorated as they were with doodles on each page.  The notes on his latest writing project filled her with hope for her father and his health, as she often mistakenly equated the health of his imagination with the health of his ailing body.  Her mother sometimes added a page or two of notes as well, updated her on school crushes and old boyfriends.  It was these tidbits from her mother that she really enjoyed, kept her in the loop of small town life and let her feel guilt-free pangs of happiness.  In this raging city of 24/7 access, it was grounding to know that life continued as much as it ever had in other parts of the country, parts that the creeping suburbia of the city hadn’t yet reached.

The illness unhinged her for a while though, the images of her father spraying droplets of blood was not something that she wanted to think about, neither was the fact that her parents were indeed mortal and not immortal, as a childish version of her thought still.  Her foundation of independence had just become solidified yet it felt like even as she started to make her mark on the world, the world had started to shake the rock that she built her life upon.

In all honesty she tried not to think about the condition slowly taking over her father’s life.  To put death at a distance and to keep love close.  That was her motto, though she could never think of the words to articulate it, it was how she lived her live in the shadow of her parent’s slow, earthly demise.  Her father would probably be writing a poem at this very moment and she could just picture it, his pen gliding across the paper in what would seem to be a well-rehearsed manner.  The words would flow, the inconvertible truth that this man was born to give a voice to his generation would be undeniable.

In her darkest moments, sometimes the ones that followed the passionate lovemaking sessions with Robert where she lay in quiet repose resting, the thoughts would intrude into her mind like unbidden shards of shattered glass.  He would be remembered by the many, not by the few.

It would not be long now.

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Through The Window

The final flight to a familiar destination, my body sighs with relief.  You are my final stranger, the person who sits one empty chair away from me of who I do not know one bit.  I see your passport briefly, possibly from the Emirates judging from the silver cross of swords potent on the cover and the colourful shawl draped across your delicate face.

Your body is tiny in comparison to my towering torso and broad hulking shoulders. You curl up in your seat as soon as the plane starts to taxi, covering your head fully and aiming for a fitful fifty minute sleep.  I am envious of this talent, I can only stare straight ahead, dipping into a satirical magazine to ease my boredom.  This is the shortest flight that I have been on for some time now, but even here my eyes cannot rest.  I reacquaint myself with the politics and humour of this land, smiling to myself as the plane carries on heading to the north.

I look across from time to time, partly to see the green grass of home but also to check that you are still resting.  Your left hand is placed across your stomach, holding steady as your wrapped head lolls from time to time.  The silent movements in sleep stand in great contrast to the roar of the engines situated just a few metres from where we are.

We smile at one another as I let you pass me by to get into the aisle, we have arrived at our destination and I am glad.  I am finally home whilst you, I feel, may be very far from it but I hope you find a home here too and a loving family of friends.

Surrounded by the Seas

‘They had plenty of talent and some success, but this was England after all, where no one – least of all a good painter – was really rewarded or punished; in England, whatever your profession, you made your own life.’

 Paul Theroux in The Kingdom by the Sea (1983).

~

I’m currently reading one of Theroux’s travel books that I have not read before, a now rare occurrence.  I’m a big fan of travel literature, especially of Theroux’s (why yes, I have read his latest on the American South).  Partly I think because it means I can travel in my mind when my body cannot.  Reading does this to a person though, regardless of circumstance.  It lifts you above what you know and what you think you know, it forces you to don someone else’s view point to discover the world, and the people in it, anew.

I haven’t swam in the sea this year and I haven’t swam in fresh water either.  This saddens me as long term readers of this site may remember that I love swimming; I love the feel of the body gliding through the blue, the grey, the swirling torrents of frothing waves.  I miss the sun above my head, the all too often grey clouds amassing in the distance as my arms brush against seaweed, a mini chloroform power station floating in the middle of the brine.  I miss the shouts and the giggles as the bracing waves slap against puckered skin in early autumn, of two brave and lost souls powering through content in a cold embrace.

The sea, the sea, my soul cries for its limitless horizons and its unknowable depths.

Literature Updates

A quick note here to say that my book collection has recently grown to include John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and Wilfred Thesiger’s Arabian Sands, two defining books of the travel literature genre.  I’ve now finished Steinbeck’s book and I’m a good chunk of the way into Thesiger’s work.  It is interesting to note that the journeys of both, whilst vastly different in terms of transport, culture and geography, were roughly contemporaneous and each offer a personal slice of quickly changing worlds.  Steinbeck notes that he hoped to learn about the population of his country, yet ultimately he comes away perhaps knowing less than he’d like being partly disgusted by the actions of some in his native country (whilst nevertheless delighting in the natural landscape), Thesiger meanwhile seeks to escape the memories of his school life and instead become deeply entrenched during his 5 years of wandering the deserts of Arabia and Abyssinia.  I am very much enjoying learning about the The Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula and about the often harsh but distinct Bedu way of life, particularly as the current media focus in the Middle East is particularly negative and non-too encouraging.  I’ve also recently ordered The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig, as I’ve not previously read any of his work and I’d like to get an understanding of the author before delving into his body of work.

As I’ve said before on this blog I truly believe that literature (and storytelling) is one of humanity’s greatest gifts.  As such I am always happy for any recommendations as to what to read next if you care to leave any suggestions below.  Happy reading!

Beat Pastiche

I hadn’t seen him for nearly 8 years now and here he walked in brazen as daylight, cap in hand and a smile dancing across his face.  We talked like old times, like nothing had happened, like no group had ever existed.  One dead, three missing and the music well and truly broken.  De-tuned instruments smashed across the broken dream of our youth.  Sure we mourned, we laughed and we drank black coffee by the bucket load souped up and ready to roar, but we couldn’t really be the same again, this was just a sad inky impression left on a fading piece of paper in the sun.  It was both a dream and a nightmare wrapped in a false sense of hope.

Heedless we grabbed our instruments and made for the road, chasing the excitement the lust the wonder and the need to just be.  We left so fast the coffee was still cooling on the windowsill, steam rising up against the window where flashes of sun could be perceived against the grey dormant clouds.

He used to have long hair cascading past his eyes and ears, flowing against his neck, but not now, now it was a crew cut, a regimented cut of short stock.  His eyes, still dashingly and dazzlingly blue, were like lights of intensity, propelling out of his sunken face with mirth that belied his sullen demeanor.  Of course he couldn’t play a goddamn tune but he damn well tried, hammering the piece of wood until it damn well near caught fire in his blistering hands.  He gave it his all and when it didn’t respond he gave it some more.  God be damned if he was not a musician and you be would damned if you suggested so yourself.

I admired him, I really did.  We didn’t have a cent between us, neither in our sagging jean pockets or empty close-fisted hands,well money slipped like a wet fish between our fingers, money spent on beer or women who forever slided into the background never to be seen again.  But we didn’t care, how could we, we were about to start the journey out of this two bit town of festering ruins and the dispirited wraiths that populated it.  Of people who walked like they had had their backs broken at their first sight of hope, of a population so befouled of dreaming big that they were broken before they even knew that they could have escaped.

P.S. I have not read Kerouac or Burroughs for a while, I miss them so.

In the Shadow of the Dom

He walked along the cobbled pathway, working his way around the historic square in slow motion in the shadow of the Dom.  His feet had last graced these stones many years ago, and now, unlike then, it was raining a fine mist of droplets, covering every surface available but barely palpable on the skin itself.  His thoughts lingered to the dominating brick and stone built twin-towered Dom that had stood for many centuries overlooking the square, of the individual lives that they had silently watched over, of the city they had seen being built, burned, rebuilt and bombed time and time again.  Time herself is a very odd mistress, one that can command an excruciating hour to last a lifetime but wish away a long awaited holiday in the blink of an eye.  It was hard for his mind to let go of the thought that he had been waiting many years to be here once more, in the heartland of Europe, to think that he was meant to come back.  To once again see the familiar faces aged by the years but to notice the still vibrant smiles lingering on the faces of people that he loved.

The Dom itself had also been born anew in the time that it had taken for him to return.  No longer spouting a skeletal frame of metal and canvas around it’s gothic towers, the building gleamed a new vitality as if life itself leached from the very stone of its own integral anatomy.  The smell of the refreshed moist earth, of the surrounding shrubbery glinting with water droplets, made him feel glad to be rooted once again to the European continent.

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Photograph by author.

Roads To My Reading

Here I present some of my favorite books of 2012 (and a few from before).  You’ll notice they are mostly travel/history books in one form or another, often about places outside of my home country.  Reading for me often opens up the mind, and I tend to gravitate towards travel as this opens up the realms of history and prehistory for the writer, something I’m particularly keen in.  However I am keen on a good novel, so please let me know if you come across any, and I am always open to reading about travel writing, no matter where in the world.  I’d heavily recommend you take a look at the blurbs of the books as they are awfully interesting, and I’m happy for any suggestions to add to my pile.  I’ve put ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy on this list, but I’ve only just managed to hunt down a copy from my local library after having to hand back in my University copy unfinished.  Rest assured though that Oblonsky, Levin, Vronsky and Anna will live long in my imagination.  Click the links to learn more about each book.

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  • And Quiet Flows the Don‘ (1978, USSR 1920) as the first part of the Don Epic by the Russian Nobel Prize winning novelist Mikhail Sholokhov (I think the Melekhov family will be with me always).
  • The Don Flows Home to the Sea‘ (1978, USSR 1940) as the second part of the Don Epic by the Russian Nobel Prize winning novelist Mikhail Sholokhov.
  • Anna Karenina‘ (1995, serial installments 1873-77) by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (not pictured).
  • The Periodic Table‘ (2000) by the Italian chemist and writer Primo Levi (not pictured).
  • Timequake‘ (1997) by the American novelist Kurt Vonnegut (not pictured).
  • The Stranger‘ (also known as The Outsider, or L’Etranger in the original French version) (or.1942) by the French author and philosopher Albert Camus (not pictured).

Of course this is just a selection of some of my favourite recent books that I have come across.  Every time I enter a library I feel honoured to share the same space as so many great works of literature and art.  The beauty of the written word never ceases to amaze me, whether it is from a novel, a poem or a piece of travel writing.  It can open up new ways of thinking about every day events, or provide new views on events or people you thought you knew.  It can move you to the edge of tears, or terrify you to point of horror.  The sign of a truly great book is one that keeps you hooked, long after you should have been asleep after a busy day.

I shall forever have treasured and fond memories of volunteering in a Oxfam book and music store, and mulling over which book I should buy next when my shift ended.  One of the pure joys of books is passing them onto friends once you have finished it to lend it out or give it to someone else to enjoy.  I haven’t included any brief synopsis’ of the books here because I want you to take a minute or two to click the link and have an explore, and see what you think is interesting.