Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Whatever it was

At about the point on the tarmac when the plane we were in was beginning to lift, I noticed a largish pond within the airport grounds that was entirely covered in black netting. A pelican was circling above, no doubt drawn there by whatever it was that the staff at the airport were careful to keep to themselves.

In case of an emergency

Just before the plane began to taxi out to the runway, I heard one of the flight attendants telling the people near the exit doors that they would be the ones responsible for evacuating the plane in case of an emergency. At the signal, ‘evacuate, evacuate, evacuate’, these people near the exits should be prepared to open the doors as she’d instructed them. Of course, she added, they would have to use their discretion as to whether it would be safer inside or out.

Had I not heard the later, more standard announcement, with the attendants miming the seatbelt, lifejacket and crash position procedures that a digital voice was putting through the speakers, I would have begun to believe that an emergency was more likely to happen during this flight than any other that I had ever been on, and that I would have to rely on the discretion of the several people now seated at the doors, whose ordinary shirts and hair had, for no rational reason, failed to inspire my confidence.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Difficult to explain

It was difficult to explain, my friend told me, why she was so affected by seeing the famous Dutch conductor on one of the main streets of the city the next morning.

All he was doing, she said, was walking up to a rubbish bin to put out his cigarette and then, turning, heading to the newspaper stall on the corner, near the station, his hand already in his pocket ready to buy something.

It was these simple actions in the street that affected her, she said – she hadn’t felt the same when she saw him with his friends in the artists’ bar not long before the concert. In the artists’ bar, even though she knew who he was the moment she saw him, he had seemed just to be one of the many artists and friends of artists that are always sitting around in that place during the festival.

It was only in the street the next day that she could sense what it might mean to be interested only in music, to talk only of music, as someone had once told her when describing the conductor. She said that it had almost broken her heart to see him in the street the next morning, but she was still at a loss to explain why that was.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The signal

Last week, on the site of the old Kent Brewery on Broadway, of which nothing more than the scraped shadows of walls and the skeleton of a building were still standing – and from behind a fence that might have been made of giant Manila folders placed side by side – a large metal claw raised a single wooden window frame and then lowered it again.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Out of sight of the men

The pilgrims had come, she since discovered, from the Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands, and when the women were housed in a completely different part of the city from the men, the organisers of the religious festival found it impossible to get them to come to a single special event.

All the rest of their lives they had to look after the men folk, the women explained, and so now they were out of sight of the men, pope or no pope, they would far prefer a holiday on their own.

Her working life

My parents told me that the woman sitting down the front, not far from the stage, had been a real estate agent for the last seventeen years of her working life, and it was from her that they learnt of a Japanese businessman’s plan to lease the Northern Territory from the Australian government – a plan which, evidently, has never come to fruition, but not for want of trying, or so they had heard.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The last thing

In death she was smaller, the niece told me afterwards. She had lost all resistance – or rather become the crystalline resistance itself. She was a leavings. The last thing. The word ‘remnant’ came to her. Clearly her aunt had gone, leaving this last thing on the bed.