Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Things of Wonder

Things of wonder


I wonder if people know the Kangaroo and Emu were chosen for the Arms because neither can take a step backwards.
I wonder about the practice of releasing on bail, mentally unstable individuals who have a string of offences. I wonder if that process needs review.
I wonder about the attitude of an individual’s rights being equally applied to all.
I wonder if asylum refugees should be provided opportunity to re-offend the laws and morality of the land and be allowed to remain in the country they chose to nurture them.
I am in wonder at the generosity of spirit, inclusiveness and the understanding of #ILLRIDEWITHYOU.
I am in wonder at the depth of openhearted support that flows from true Australians, from every walk of life. 
I wonder too, at the proven professionalism and effectiveness of the authorities we give power to.
I wonder at the bravery of a café manager and of a young barrister who attempt to protect others, at their own ultimate cost.


I am in awe from a distance. 
I am there in my sorrow and respect.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A day in the Pennines

The People You Meet...



Peel Tower, Ramsbottom, Lancashire U.K.
The road is more of a worn remnant track. The climb a steady haul up from the town centre where the steam trains drag tourists in from Manchester for a day in the foothills of the Pennines. It was our first visit to this place and we had been encouraged to take the challenge and walk to the tower. The brochure at the library said the tower was built to remember a local boy made good. If you call twice becoming a Victorian-age prime minister a good thing.  It helps to have come from the right family stock.  The day was typically overcast and the view limited but occasionally rewarded us with steam trails striping the valley as the trains whistled their entry into and puffed their way out of tunnels.
We passed him mid way way up, his rain soaked dog ignored as it faithfully carried a much chewed stick. The man’s drab face was down cast, absorbed in a depth of consciousness unfathomable to us.  I’d guess he was in his mid thirties, a physique reflecting past athleticism well wrapped against the November bleakness, clearly its owner had been aware of potential inclemency. He blankly passed by us ignoring my nodded greeting and her hellos. Our cheery enquiry to the dog as to its enjoyment of the stick was ignored by both man and beast as they stoically trudged on their way. We glanced at each other in mute affront. We were used to the open Yorkshire ways of walkers and this Lancastrian snub was unexpected. Why would you choose to walk these scenic paths and ignore the vista, not be involved in the stimulation of the climb or acknowledge the happy banter of the people you passed en route?
Our target was the landmark tower, and we proceeded on our way, unused to the exertion we unwittingly restricted our conversation and I began to wonder as to the man’s demeanour.  A glumness had surrounded his plodding gate, there seemed no expectation from his hound that the master would respond, the stick was carried in habit rather than anticipation. And that man’s numb slog from the tower, his head held down , a mind otherwise absorbed. I suspected a depression within. 
Peel Tower had fallen to decrepitude, three times in fact, since its prolific and feted construction. Its roof and stairway has rotted and been replaced twice by wealthy politicised patrons and once by 20th century community obligation.  Modern times sees it again a falling, neglected, future ruin sealed from access lest perchance people throw themselves from its mighty height. It now stands as a crumbling unintentional phallic reminder of its historic past.
The climb was arduous but we managed the crest and absorbed the vista around all compass points in a respectful silence, occasionally pointing to features as the clouds revealed further expanses. Again he walked by us. Again he ignored our politeness. Again the bedraggled mutt snubbed our entreaty for affection. Again his head down and oblivious, emotionally dumb and paying no attention to his surrounds. It was well, I thought, the tower was sealed. My heart felt for the loyalty of the hound, committed to endlessly trail a thankless leader.
The Shoulder of Mutton pub was so named from an ancient trial where a mighty greased pole was set up to be scaled, the victor obtaining a joint of meat skewered at its summit.  So said the menu sheet from which we selected our luncheon while sipping our well earned libations.   It was here we saw him again, his dog, sans stick, lay at his foot beneath his table. The man remained downcast, head dipped, involved in a secret depth. We avoided making comment, and lowered our cheery banter.  His mood pervaded our sense of accomplishment and I made to move from our choice of table. It was then she prodded me and directed me to look towards him.  He had lifted his gaze and was reaching down to his pet, tousling the beast’s ears and smiling into its face. A smart phone screen slowly faded to black on the table next to his other hand as the thump of a contented tail beat a tattoo on the old oak floor.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Moisturehenge

In our marital bedroom we have a clock. It is an alarm clock. It wakes us up when asked and displays the progress of the day should either of us enter the room or rouse in the night and wonder as to the hour. It is a useful device upon which I have held some reliance but no particular emotional attachment.
It is my casual reliance on discerning the early hours in which I am finding a frustrating obstruction. My darling partner, my first wife, the girl whom I chose so many years ago as the supreme companion, she has a sense of self awareness. This is displayed in part by her desire to retain the looks we all lose as the aggressions and joys of life are worn into our hide and become amplified by the gravity of our world.
A clock and wrinkles. I never thought a time in my life would come where these two things would stand so firmly in conflict.
One of the key aspects of placing a clock in place is so as to enable a casual observer to determine time at a swift glance. To facilitate this, it is appropriate for the face of the clock to remain largely unobstructed and displayed to a wide range of vantage points within the room.
A wrinkle is, I am told, an unsightly reminder of lost youth, a denizen of evils past and must be defeated, disguised or destroyed. While I am complacent about my body’s marks of experience it seems I am alone in this. The lady of the house has potions. She scours the world, or more correctly the world’s purveyors scour her resources, to experiment with creams, lotions, powders and oils of various origin all claiming efficacy in wrinkle removal, or reduction, or calming, or shrinking or some-such. I am no vain man but I do not think that my regime of occasional facial bathing has proven to be any less efficient at dealing with wrinkles than has the produce of global scientific research as applied or implied by her potions. In a phrase, we both look our age.
The problem is, if one considers there is any veracity in the claims of the wrinkle charlatans, then one is required to practice application, rubbing, soaking and massage at specific times of the day. Regrettably a clock is not required for this timing. One simply needs to understand the intent of directions that give application times as ‘on rising’ ‘as needed’ and ‘prior to retiring’. I know of no clock that can prescribe these periods.
I guess the conflict may well not be anchored in our differences in wrinkle treatment. It may be that I am a morning person who wakes, occasionally prematurely, with a desire to know the time, while she is an evening person who relies on the alarm to awaken her from slumber. She needs to rise at varying times for work, I awake early for my day as a routine. I like to see the clock, she likes to hear the alarm.
As her potions are required to be applied at times that mainly correspond with rising or retiring, the potion pots, tubes, tubs and cartons are assembled on her bedside table. The clock is electric with a lead extending to the power point and no farther. The clock is therefore on her bedside table. The moisturehenge obscures the clock. The moisturehenge is of considerable complexity, volume, and variety. One has to say an impenetrable henge of horologic obstruction.

So, I can’t see the clock. A solution is impossible while retaining a conjugal sleeping arrangement. I worry about it and it may be causing furrows in my brow. There is no solution to that. 
Of that I am certain. 
She has proved it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Filthy Green

A green and pleasant place. 

Brand-labelled umbrellas, some opened, others hung at angles, each blooming from the winter-worn and drink-stained tables scattered outside the pub. The locals sat either quietly reading alone, as pairs locked in conversation, or groups of friends boldly proclaiming opinions and bias.
Old stone walls and ancient windows stood dried and transformed by the warm day. Crisp packets of sunshine drifted a welcome glare across bare shoulders and new sunglasses before softening behind a breeze to glow, appreciated but unnoticed.

Off to one side, in a corner formed between the car park wall and the front of the pub, a pair of black dogs lay beneath a table over which two middle aged blokes leant, one distraught, one feeling inept at advice.  Two pints sat at hand, awkward on the warped planks, a sip or two depleted but destined to join their froth-ringed predecessors all placed to one side. A forehead was pressed on bent fingers and propped by an elbow. It supported a dejected face unwilling to rise to the ruddy concern being proffered by the owner of the dogs.
A youthful trio gathered around a smarter chrome and poly-cane table scattered with mixers, straws and drained glasses.   A long haired, tattooed primary school teacher wearing a rock band vest, store-frayed jeans and a vintage armband was attempting to enthral two young girls with tales of his adventures. The smitten blondes were lightly disputing his claims when a junior manager arrived, removing his tie before joining them with a high five and cheek touches. A laugh burst from the trio at his greeting and again as his bottle of white wine was shared out.
At a smaller wrought-iron setting, restlessly exploring the extent of its floral lead, a small white something-poo snuffled the stone flagging around a pair of waxed, stiletto-propped legs. Their owner wistfully surveyed the laneway.  Next to her Fendi handbag a wine cooler projected a corkless neck and in her hand microbubbles trailed elegantly up the long-stemmed glass.

The sounds of the town were muted in the background. From the hedgerow surrounding the pub and from the backyards of the neighbouring homes, blackbird, robin and chaffinch song penetrated the patrons' babble. A collared dove perched atop a nearby roof, cooing for its mate, then took brief flight to resettle on the For Sale sign at the front gate of the house opposite.
A dark van slid quietly to park up at the end of the laneway and a large BMW arrived shortly after, gliding to a rest alongside but without disturbing the dove. No one opened a door and both vehicles remained stationary. Their engines could be heard to idle, the air-con clicking on and off sporadically.

Four sets of nervous eyes surveyed the mechanical stakeout. Conversations hung, dogs got held to shorter leashes or were gathered to lap. The van’s side door slid open and with military precision eight helmeted, Kevlar-clad, weapon carrying solid bodies sprinted in a flank towards the drinkers.
The two dogs were pulled even closer as their owner reached over to his companion. “Keep it together Keith, don’t lose it now” . The faces of the teacher and junior manager drained to ash and the fingers of the waxen-legged beauty began to frantically delete contact lists from her smartphone.

The armed group crashed through the beer garden, yelling at everyone to stay put as the BMW doors swung open and four even more heavily padded warriors burst out. Two ran to the rear of the For Sale property and the remaining two, the largest hefting an impact ram, smashed through the front door screaming "NO ONE MOVE!". Rapid shots were exchanged with flashes lighting up the feature windows of the 1940’s semi. Half of the soldiers controlling the beer garden instantly broke formation and sprinted towards the house, the four remaining yelled at the patrons to keep low.

The fracas abated quickly, a large, covered truck sped up the lane and reversed into the front yard of the house. Three people, two bleeding from head wounds were bundled roughly out through the front door of the house and into the truck. The sound of steel doors being slammed inside the truck echoed around the beer garden. A lifeless form, smashed and spilling gore was dragged onto the front lawn, covered and lifted unceremoniously into the back of the truck. The rear door slammed and the truck moved off.

The four soldiers left on guard in the beer garden ensured the patrons remained low. From behind the wheel of the van slid an authoritative figure. She calmly approached the house, spoke to the guards at the door, glanced at the departing truck and made her way to the beer garden. Addressing the patrons she apologised for the trauma caused, explained the matter had been planned and the outcome was expected.  With a fake smile she proffered that every caution had been taken to ensure their safety. Directing the soldiers in the distribution of cards she asked the patrons to contact the numbers listed for a de-brief the next day. With the identical precision of their arrival, all but two armed bodies returned to the vehicles and departed the scene. The two remaining soldiers stood brutish and helmeted outside the For Sale house.

Normality did not return easily to the beer garden. The paedophile and the corporate fraudster tried vainly to recover the earlier bonhomie with the frightened girls. The murderer downed his beer in a swallow, his distraught expression compounded now by confused relief. The Russian S&M madam lowered her fluffy dog to the ground and calmly dialled the elected member to defer their liaison.

Such a filthy little town in a green and deceptively pleasant land.   

Sunday, February 2, 2014

TIME KEY

                                                                      
It was the last day of his trip, a mix of tours and treks which had sped by in an amazing five weeks.   Mark had made it to Teotihuacan, half a day before his bus was to leave for Mexico City.  He was spending a relaxed morning joking with the merchants as they set up to sell their wares in the quiet, tree lined square. 
One native bloke who had just arrived was probably a thief Mark decided.  In a questionable attempt at legitimacy the guy had thrown a tattered blanket over couple of planks at the edge of the market.   From behind a mask of sweaty black hair he nervously darted glances around.  Each item he placed as if hoping no one would recognise it.  Mark was attracted by the quality of the pieces but concerned by their questionable provenance.  As each treasure was released from the filthy back pack to be displayed on the blanket, the sunlight would glint off their metal and sparkle from the faceted stones.  Mark got the even clearer impression the ne’er-do-well was laying out stolen goods.  He decided to walk on by but the villain reached out with the lightening speed of a pickpocket and touched his arm.
“Ah special Mister”   he croaked in an almost theatrical aside, “I have a treasure especially for you. ”  He turned his hand and displayed a small Inca calendar disk firmly held between his black rimmed fingernails.
Mark had to consciously stop his jaw from dropping.  Ever since he was a kid he had been studying the Aztec’s predictions, their amazing calendars and celestial maps.  Here was a beautiful disc, better than any he had researched.  Without thinking he saw his hand extend and the golden treasure fall from the dirty claws into his palm.  The detail was exquisite, the clarity of the carving unbelievably crisp and clear. It rested on his skin, its weighty authenticity vibrating to the pulse of Mark’s being.  Mark could read many of the symbols and letters and knew it was an excellent representation of the ancient artifacts that he had devoted so much study to. 
“Mister, this is real one, Yes?” enquired the thief.  Mark tore his eyes off the disc to stare into the dark face of the man.  Stained teeth smiled under a broad nose separating two of the deepest, blackest eyes Mark had ever stared into. 
“It is a very good copy” Mark demurred, transferring the disc to his left hand to see its other side.  The relief was even more intricate and Mark was desperate to translate the message.
“Ah, no, Special Mister” the villain crooned.  “This is real one from the ancients.  It is for you, this real one is for you” “The ancients, they tell me give it to you this day.  You take now,  You must take now” 
Mark glanced again at the small golden plate as his brain interpreted part of a date.  It was sometime in this year.  Obviously a fake copy then, but looking again, the disk had the look, the weight of gold, so it may be worth the price of a souvenir.    Still captivated by the design Mark asked  “So how much to the ancients tell you they want for it?” He turned the piece over and bought it closer to study more of the detail. Fake or copy, it would still reveal some sort of story once he had time to translate it.  And it would give him something to do on the plane.
The villain did not reply.
Mark looked up to re-phrase his question, but, the villain was nowhere to be seen.  The tatty rug was piled in a dusty lump, the two planks kicked in dirt and the trinkets, in fact all evidence of the thief had disappeared.  Mark asked the stall holder behind him where the thief had gone and the stall holder said he’d left hours ago.  The disc was still in Mark’s palm, it felt wonderful, it felt real. But time had warped, Reality had shifted. Mark was standing in a busy marketplace.  People were dodging around him.  His bus was parked up and the driver was loading bags into its belly.  Mark regained his composure and rushed over to join his fellow passengers to the airport.
 Helen was relieved.  When you travel alone out of Mexico you never know who you will end up sharing the next nine hours of your life with.  He had introduced himself as Mark, he seemed nice, smelled well traveled, you now, bathed but not able to clean your clothes that well.  Not unpleasant, sort of musky masculine.  And he was interesting too.  Been trekking and had found an artifact, was researching it on the way home.  It looked gorgeous.  Gold.  Lots of little circles and shapes like birds and forks.  Anyway he was quiet and absorbed so she could read books and watch a movie without more than the occasional interruption.
“Jesus!  It’s today’s bloody date” was one such outburst which he followed with an apology and explanation of how the hieroglyphs translated into a wormhole or some such tosh.
“Fuck me!  We’ll be flying right over this place!”  was the final vocal interruption Mark made into to her reading.
As he sat there cross-referencing the coin and his book, occasionally peering over her to see out the window, he began to toss the coin thing between his hands .  It looked like it was getting hot. He sat back and put the coin on his book.  It began to fume and burn the cover.  Helen stared at the coin. it rose in the air. The man sitting behind Helen kicked her seat  “ Hey !  No smoking on the plane fuckwit!”  Helen spun around “Piss off, something really weird’s happening! “ As she turned back her nice smelling companion grabbed the coin and vanished. 

Helen screamed.  She has not traveled since.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It takes Two

Tour de Wetherby 



I know, I know, its good for us. Even if there are days when not everything goes to plan.
I am sure the guys who ride in the Tour de France have bad days too.
What I don’t know is if I can hold the enthusiasm for it that Kevin can. We are going out every morning, even on weekends, it has changed the daily routine. Made my days longer by at least an hour and if I am to be honest, I object to having to try and follow his improving pace. But I have to admit I am feeling the benefit.

This morning is no different, I am roused from my sleep by a cheery, ‘Come on lazy lumps’ and the smell of freshly brewed coffee. I shake the sleep from my head and get myself a drink of water to clear the night’s paste from my mouth. The work day is hours from starting as I sit and listen to his plan for the route.

‘We’ll head off down the hill to the roundabout then right to the car park, then head through to the Harland way. It’s a good rise all the way to Spofforth, from there we’ll cut up to North Deighton and belt our way home. That’s about an hour's worth I’d reckon’
I smile and give my encouragement as I see how happy this plan makes him. At least it’s not too wet outside, the rain that pelted the windows last night has stopped and the wind is now a breeze which will not give too much resistance to our progress. Some mornings the chill is keen and I am very grateful for the team colours we wear. We do look the part and hopefully don’t qualify for the ‘all the gear but no idea’ brigade of weekend wobblers we have to dodge around on our longer excursions.

There is a process to the set-off which has become a bit of a habit. I quite enjoy it as it is another aspect of our growing relationship and you just never really know everything about a person do you? The pattern goes, Kevin fastens his shoes and pulls on his headgear, gives me a kiss and lovingly adjusts my outfit. He turns on his flashing lights and mine, holds my face gently and says ‘do try to keep up with me lass’. Grinning cheekily he gives me another kiss and we set off.

He is stronger and his legs are longer than mine so he always gets a quicker start but I have my own advantage. I am lighter and I think, weight for weight, I have more leg strength and greater stamina. At least, I would never let him see if I tired before him. I can always have a bit of rest after he goes off to work if I need to.
We turn left out of the driveway and travel along the pavement until our legs warm up and we fall into a stride. I love the early mornings as the countryside is waking up, birds are starting to make their first noises and occasionally I get to see small furry animals scurry as we approach. It is amazing how much distance I lose to Kevin if I get too distracted so I do my best to focus on the job at hand, trying to keep up.

It happened as we were climbing West Lane into North Deighton. Kevin checked his watch and I heard him mutter something about time and late. He clicked a gear and pushed harder up the hill at the same time looking behind to check how close I was. As it happened I was just coming up beside him in response to his voice and he swerved a little. The big white car was not doing anything wrong but Kevin wasn’t looking so got a shock when he turned back to see it so close.

It wasn’t a bad fall, Kevin has had worse, but his cleat didn’t release and I heard the bone crack. I am useless in a crisis and despite my comforting and attentions it was the driver of the car who saved the day for us. At the clinic Kevin emerged with a large plastic boot and a sheepish look.

That was a week ago and today we are standing outside Harewood House and the peloton is coming up the hill. I hear the cheers and smell the riders before I can see them. The anticipation and excitement overcomes me. I can’t help yapping and my tail is wagging out of control. Kevin picks me up and from my new vantage point we both cheer on the boys as they dash by.


GJW.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The VOID - Space is just space.

The dark night wind cuts like glass through their winter coats and a scent of expectation exudes as the stalled throng shuffles in its place. They seem anxious to push forward on mass to fill the Void.
As we approach the swaying lines we hear the repeated relief of “At least it’s not raining”.
We are jostled to a place in one of many queues, each wavering line crawling slowly into the covered marshalling area. The huddled crowd is swathed by a glow leaking from creases in the carapace of the Void. The radiance pulses enticingly green, blue, pink and silver. The clean colours a contrast to the jaundiced street lights which hang over the broken paths and alleyways, channeling the crowds towards the Void.
As we inch forward openings come into sight, keepers of the Void are seen standing guard at the portals. They laser-scan the crowd and detect those with evil intent. Any person not properly authorised, those sad souls, are handed to henchmen who take them for hidden interrogations. The Void is not for all who make it here. One man and his partner stumble out into our midst after being neutralised by the authorities. She has stains streaming from her eyes and his face is ashen, they trudge leadenly back into the gloom of the city. The efficiency of the portal keepers is well matched to the fervour of those around us who are desperate to enter.
The cutting wind drives us forward and we find ourselves processed through a portal into the stark marshalling space.  Severely cut signs give directives of how to enter the Void.  Around us many of our co-journeyers are consuming substances to heighten or lessen the experiences they expect once within. Some are delaying their entry, but we are keen to progress, not however without our own stimulants, which we easily secure from a child dealing openly in the marshalling area.
We determine our access to the Void, it is slightly off to the left and, on going through its massive doors, we find ourselves not in the Void but within a high walled space. A corridor expanding up and out, encouraging us towards its end. The walls and floor are roughly cast in a powder grey blandness motivating us to leave its confines.
At the corridor’s end a vastness hits us with a shuddering vista.
We have entered the Void at its centre edge and we are drawn forward to peer down over a perfunctory barrier.  Ledges cascade away beneath us and some of our fellow travellers have already perched upon them. To ease our vertigo we hold each other and turn our backs to the drop. Looking up we see an equally endless rise of ledges and some hardy souls are perched around the very top of the Void. The surfaces here too are bereft of any feature or distraction from the palette of mute stone grey. Way above the ledges, the Void arcs ever higher where vision is lost amongst entangled black technologies.
We smile unsurely at each other, take a tight grip our youth-bought stimulants and begin the climb along to our vantage point. 
The vista before us is cavernous, immensely impressive and beyond our mundane comprehension of scale. We drink deeply from our chosen vials and our senses melt, relaxed and enhanced.
As the time draws closer for the event, organic flows take shape in the mass of bodies coursing onto the ledges. The crowds form an amorphous globulation, a life blood, streaming and pumping along the wider pathways before splitting, capillary-like into tracks between ledges where they pulse and fidget into place.
Eventually every tiny gap fronting the massive Void is occupied by a faceless homogenous wall of organisms exposing themselves as one to the inevitable.
There have been rumours as to what this Void can do, many have left it struck mute and unable to express, some made unable to process, but all carry defining experiences back into life. 
Some don’t survive. At least one has been already transported away as we gazed down from our eyrie.
Suddenly all  light drains away. The vast blackness assumes a fertile imagined eternity.  Surprised, the multitude gasps as one.  There is no echo. A faint glow seeps into the platform below and an impossible hush falls over our assembled riot.
Harbingers of sensation file into the Void under a muted sheen.  Some of the troop assemble behind strategically placed implements but most of this dark-suited infantry carry their own specific armaments, each crafted to shake anatomy and pierce all resonance. Closely following them, a regiment of black robed warriors move in to flank the backs of the infantry and form a double assault line through which retreat or penetration is impossible.
A piercing beam transports a black suited commander to an alter at the centre of the platform. Ignoring the multitude he commences to flail and to beat order into to the forces gathered before him.
On a flamboyant cue the Void is flooded with a guttural aural explosion.
There are cries from the crowd as if a pain has been inflicted among some.
The fidelity is achingly applied and the masses are subjugated. There is an entrancement being perpetrated here, a deception of reality driven past our minds. It is not possible that this vast space can provide such an individual attention.
Every soul is torn from a memory of what has gone before, a replacement of expectation, a corruption of past experience.
With masterful timing the commander averts a sensory crescendo and rests his troops in order to leave his alter.  The Void fills with appreciative sounds from the occupants of the ledges as if droplets are falling on glass. The commander heads to the platform edge and leads a sightless drone back to proudly display to the assembly.
Screams rise from sensitive females encircling the Void and the sound of a million pebbles crashing on parchment sweeps down from all the ledges. Interjections and whistles smatter the applause. The blind warrior smiles strangely and embarks manfully on his mission, immediately familiar but unrecognised. Clawing at memory and wrenching through emotions he delivers a devastating and unassailable assault. The Void is consumed in its entirety, engorged with an opulence that none could have anticipated. The unctuous fulfilment endures through the grandiose and reprieve until, satiated, exhausted and enthused, all expectations are exceeded. An ultimate salvo is unleashed with undeniable finality and the last farewells are made.
The platform is vacant, the multitudes drain away, and the Void, the cold, grey stone Void remains. The Void holds no memory, no pride, no remorse or regret. The Void is a void.

Food

It is a strangeness. People have such different attitudes to the importance of food. Some forget that food is required, others plan their entire day around meals and rituals of food. There are some who have convinced themselves they do not eat meat and equally there exist folk who cannot abide the presence of green in their diet. An Australian tribe of food evangelists promote eating every second day and fasting every other day. There are people who limit their food by quantifying the energy quotient of every morsel and deride the people who consume ever increasing portions or intensities of food. For every normalcy there is an aberration and for every reasoned action there is an irrational belief. We can be certain there is no common attitude to food, no universal consumption and no norm of appetite.
There are communities where people do not have choices around food. Places where today’s meal is the same as it was yesterday, and places where yesterday’s meal and today’s meal were non-existent. Environments are endured where a mouthful of food is come by only after a massive effort. Where a meal must be caught, scavenged or found. And there are those bountiful landscapes where appetites are satiated from the abundance all around.
Food, its sourcing preparation and consumption are at our core and our relationship to food is fundamental to our environment, it reflects our standing in society. An abundance of food drives an obsession for food and an absence of food drives an equal obsession. 
That the fixation we have on food is survival based is undeniable, but the fixation is rarely survival dependent. The human frame will function for over eight weeks without food but it seizes and malfunctions in hours without fluid. There are those of the humanities who live off barren ground and who wander content, to the observer they seem uncommonly happy. For those of us dependant on a copious volume and ready availability of sustenance this is incomprehensible. For them who thrive on so little I wonder if we seem debauched, ungrateful and grotesque in our sumptuously fat-fleshed bodies.
In modern western life food idolatry has been raised to levels of presentation and nuance beyond the ability of the senses to absorb, flavour profiles are presented in ways so complex only the most genetically gifted could determine the subtlety of the dish. I wonder at the fixation we have developed for food. I wonder why celebrity is won from artistically searing a slaughtered protein or craftily chilling mammary excretions. There is the growing danger that the devoted will deify some proclaimed cook and the world will fight wars over taste sensations, textural preferences and methods of preparation.
Or perhaps that is what has already happened.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Once in Tokyo

A challenge was set to write 800 words on the topic ' lightbulb moment ' by ReadWave, If you care, this is EXACTLY 800 words. 



Sometimes you have to sweat the small stuff.
Six weeks of living in a foreign land. Six weeks of relying on secretaries and colleagues to help, direct and aid in the necessities of life outside the office.  Simple necessities like how to get to the office from the rented apartment, to differentiate between tooth polish and denture fixative, deodorant and tinea spray, and what is food.  Gai-jin is the Japanese word for foreigner. It means not of this world.  Max had never felt more welcomed and befriended anywhere in the world as he had been made to feel in Tokyo.  That is the way of Japan, for every expectation there is a direct contradiction.  A place unique in the world inhabited by a homogeneous and obedient population known as 'we Japanese'.
A delight to experience but for a man like Max it presented a challenge within which to assimilate.  He knew he could never be Nihon-jin but as he was to be here for three years he wanted to learn the language, the cultures, how to get around, do the simple things. Try and fit in, a bit.
His apartment was nice, with the correct height toilet, a full oven and stove, proper bath and shower, even a washer and dryer big enough for a family of ten.  There were Japanese design elements like the small tatami room with shoji panels.  There's a tokonoma in the hallway, a lighted alcove or sacred place for the display of seasonal or family tributes, shodo and ikebana.  It was this tokonoma that gave Max his challenge, one he had been putting off since he moved in. 
Illuminating the alcove was a long fluorescent tube secreted behind a pelmet at the front of the opening so it lit the space without glare or shadow.  It was the only light for the hallway from the office, tatami room and bedrooms.   Trouble was it flickered,   annoyingly.  Max had decided that he was going to take on the solo and landmark challenge of buying a replacement from a local store. He had seen on his way to and from work a small business run by a weathered man dressed in traditional tradesman attire of apron, balloon trousers and getta shoes but displaying a vast array of ultra modern lights and electrical accoutrement .  There was no chance the man would have any English language skills and that was the point.  Max's plan was to remove the tube, take it to this Japanese electrics man who smiled querulously at him as he passed by each morning and evening.  With a series of gestures and very limited language Max would explain he required an identical unit which did not flicker.   It wasn't much of an exercise in cultural bridge building but Max had decided it would be his start towards living independently.  He diligently practiced the key words and phrases he had been coached in by his secretary who thought the whole thing most amusing but could not understand why he would not just ask her to get it fixed.  
He would do it this weekend.  The little electrics man was open every day and as far as Max could determine he lived in the shop, or above it. 
Saturday morning.  The planned time for the expedition.  Max woke with the familiar hangover from a Friday night out with the colleagues and employees. Tokyo is nothing if not a Friday night town.  Brewed coffee and torn croissant consumed, Max showered, dressed and confronted the tokonoma.  Feeling behind the fascia Max determined the fluorescent tube was not only concealed at height but recessed and required an awkward approach, which may have been why the agent did not replace the tube on handover of the apartment.  It was of little moment to Max who was tall enough to reach and rotate the tube. 
It gave easily to a twist and released from the slotted ends of the mount allowing Max to lift it from the recess and rejoice at his minor but critical achievement.  The tube was very long, over a meter and a half and Max noticed it was a local manufacture with local identifying marks which he could not understand.  This was of little moment as Max had decided to take the tube to the store to ensure like for like.  That was key to the plan after all. 
Taking the tube to the foyer Max propped it against the entry alcove to reach for his coat.  The action nudged ever so gently the tube which followed the course of inevitable gravitational action punctuating the donning of Max's coat with a pop of released pressure as the glass tube disintegrated into a thousand tiny shards and a cloud of powered phosphorescence. 
Max collected the two metal terminal ends from the detritus, stared blankly and forlornly, and called his secretary.

What happens in Vegas ...

Phil sat in the shade of manicured imported palm trees and watched the damp irrigation stain leeching towards the crisp edge of the artificial turf.  He is reviving in a place where value is relative, where worth is conceptual and where merit and morality have dollar equivalency. The streets and pavements are spotless, polished by the tyres and shoes of those entranced, entrenched and enticed. There is a cleanliness that impresses, an order, a photogenic neatness that pervades all images. A beauty of façade, a glimpsed obsolescence, a romantic nod to history but no regard for preservation. There is spectacle, encouragement and entreaty at every intersection along The Strip. 
And of course there are the people, the genuine, the pleasant, the scammers, the criminal, the kind, the helpful, the cruel, the nice and the deceptive. Vegas is a desert oasis fought over by cowboys and Indians, miners and traders, a community built by enterprise and motivated by envy.
 Phil's chair was positioned away from the castellated wall to ensure it would not pierce the resin-covered styrofoam faux stonework . His mood was being slowly fuzzed by the iced yard of cocktail he'd half consumed.   The be-jewelled, be-feathered and near naked girls working the passing crowd for photo tips had started counting their money, removing their headgear and slipping on more comfortable flat shoes as they prepared to relinquish their spot to the Grand Canyon trip hawkers, pimps and ticket scammers.
The girls, Phil had decided after watching their smiles and nubile bodies, were sweet college kids who had sourced last season's showgirl costumes in order to display and pay their way in this place where money talks and more money talks more.  Phil felt in his pocket for the shrunken fold of dollars. Mostly singles for tips, a couple of twenties, one fifty and a fiver or two. He didn't have much to say in this place now.  After a year of saving and a bit of borrowing he landed into McCarren LVA  pumped, primed and eloquent. That was five lost days ago, four nights of high limit craps and blackjack, limo trips, sexed up nightclub visits and fancy restaurant meals for fun friends he didn't know. This morning he'd walked from the free tram, ignoring the $8 temptation of the air conditioned Deuce to bring him here where he could use a discount coupon to buy this watery cocktail.  He had three more days. He would be hungry by Thursday.
Vegas is a desert valley.  A dessert valley with ten trillion gallons of stored water. Vegas is happiness and fun. It is fake and there is nothing more real. Vegas is bright light and despair,  oblivion and world renown entertainment, fine food and homeless hunger. Vegas is dark and joyful. Vegas is underlying threat, unending optimism and omnipresent opportunity.

You need to be there for things to stay there.