LIFE IMITATES FICTION


ESTRAGON: I’m going.
VLADIMIR:   Help me up first, then we’ll go together.
ESTRAGON: You promise?
VLADIMIR:   I swear it!
ESTRAGON: And we’ll never come back?
VLADIMIR:   Never!
ESTRAGON: We’ll go to the Pyrenees.
VLADIMIR:   Wherever you like.
ESTRAGON: I’ve always wanted to wander in the Pyrenees.

picnicbluesky

When I was  asked,  “Where are you off to this summer?”  out of the blue the exchange from Waiting For Godot crossed my mind so I said “I’ve always wanted to wander in the Pyrenees” and having made this destination public felt bound to live up to it.
So.
I got the overnight bus to London, the train to Dover, the ferry to Calais then by taxi, train, bus, train, bus  and hitchhike to Caldes de  Boi then uphill by foot after foot to the  Estany Negre with wild horses in the foreground and the distant blue peaks of Els Encantats (?) towering in the background.
Here I was at last, in the Park of  Swirling Waters,  Aiguestortes,  in the Pyrenees,  where I’d always wanted to wander.
Thanks be to Samuel Beckett.

( On the way back, at Santander, taking photographs behind the cafe at the ferry terminal – the PELIGRO  sign obscured by a parked van –  I was savaged by a couple of Alsatians. One on each ankle.  Impressive inartistic scars and a few photographs to show for it all .
But that’s life for you. )

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The Edinburgh Festival: August 10, 2013


THEFESTIVALISEVERYWHEREYOUCANTES
CAPEITTHECITYISFULLOFSPECTATORSINS
EARCHOFASPECTACLEORASPECTACLEINS
EARCHOFSPECTATORSEVERYWHEREYOUL
OOKTHEFESTIVALIS


festtt

The Edinburgh Festival is something else….it’s great to take part  as a performer or writer or whatever but great fun even as a humble spectator –  hundreds of shows to choose from………the Festival is everywhere , the good, the bad and the hard-to-classify….out on the streets, in bars, cellars, churches…everywhere..

I first went to a Fringe Festival play in 2007. It was called ‘The Smile Off Your Face’ , by a Belgian Company with the unlikely name of Ontroerend Goed. I happened to be passing  down Chamber Street where  it was showing and I went in on the off chance I might come across something unusual.

I got my ticket and was told to wait in the bar   –   sort of unusual all right, a bit mysterious – no barman, just me … where was the audience? What –
A  door opened, a woman smiled and beckoned and  led me from the bar/waiting room down stairs to a wheel chair. I was seated in the wheelchair then quietly told I was going to be blindfolded and have my wrists loosely tied to the arms of my wheelchair was that okay? ( Normally NO NO NO but in this context it was okay. Sort of..(once started, no going back).

Then I was being pushed off, through a bead curtain, stopped, someone was whispering in my ear, then I was moved on, interviewed by someone else, soft music,  someone was stroking my hair, and asking me if I wanted to stroke hers (I assumed it was ‘hers’)  which I did and I did. And so on.
“Can I ask you a question?”  another  voice whispered and I must have nodded or said ‘Yes’  because the voice went on  ” Are you happy? Not right at this moment but in general. Take your time to think about it. Are you happy? ” and I  found myself giving a detailed account of my version of how happy/unhappy I was to a stranger I couldn’t even see and getting  back  wise and empathetic comments in exchange……
“When did you last cry?” the voice asked and as I was trying to remember, the blindfold was removed and I was staring up into an actor’s face and watching tears well up in his eyes and roll down his cheeks.
Then the blindfold was replaced and I was pushed elsewhere to meet other voices out of the darkness and asked other questions and finally one voice began telling me a story about a young man travelling through a strange land where everyone seemed to know him and expected his help, asked for his advice, apologised for taking up his time…
When my blindfold was removed again, I found the sweet voice I had been listening to belonged to a woman dressed as the Pope but with a long white beard like Santa Claus. “Do you mind if I take your photograph?”  she  asked and  of course I said ‘Yes’ then the blindfold was replaced. And  the journey continued.

Smell this. What does it remind you of? What do you think it is? Taste that. Is it sweet or sour? What does this feel like? Rough? Soft? Can you feel it move under your hand?

Finally I was untied and unblindfolded in front of a wall that was lined with photographs of ‘the audience’, mine included, sort of proof that the whole experience was real, had actually taken place, hadn’t been some crazy dream, then I was ushered to the exit and released into the real Embra afternoon air with of course someone playing the bagpipes in the distance.
What was that all about? Had it really been only 20 minutes? Did I really say all that? Did…..?  What….? Why……. How……. Where…..?

 

festw


ISTHEGOLDENLADYGO
INGTOSITDOWNORISS
HEGOINGTOSTANDUP?

festnnbb           

byenteringthezoneofthispictureofthefestival
crowdsandreadingthistextsofaryouarere
vealingthataswellasbeingextremelybe
autifulontheoutsideyouarealsoape
rsontobereckonedwith

festybj

This is how cave paintings began

festv

If you can’t join them, photograph them. Everyone has a camera these days

festhjk

Edinburgh becomes cosmopolitan at Festival time, friendly, makes people smile.
This is Margo from Marvao and an astronaut with
cheap trainers posing for Sven, her Swedish boyfriend.

festyet

The woman whose white wedding dress you can just see had posed against the railings
with her handsome husband and his best man, – I was too late to get their photograph – got
instead this aftermath. This terrace is a busy Festival eating place above Victoria Road
with its quaint shops (it even has a brush shop!) which takes you down to the Grassmarket.
The day I went to the Festival was also the day chosen for a protest march 
organized by
Canadian comedian Shawn Hitchins to demonstrate against “gingerism,” or
 prejudice
against people with red hair. More than a hundred redheads  marched from the Balmoral
Hotel on
 Princes Street, across North Bridge to the city’s Royal Mile. The redhead below,
however, 
was simply a member of the University of Southampton’s Theatre group who
were putting on their play ‘Hanging Bruce Howard’  (admission:£5).

Pretty woman 
Good whisky shop.

festt

Great place, Edinburgh.

Let’s Do It


DSCN0812

 

 

 

 

For years nothing much had happened in our unadventurous lives but we were quite content with our little lot. At least I was. There was a regular pattern to our days that we found reassuring. At least I did. Then one day we found this strange plant in the garden with yellow flowers, purple florets, red berries and heart-shaped leaves.

Let’s dry the leaves, Dorothy said. Out of the blue.

Try the leaves?

Dry the leaves Cloth-ears!

What’s the point of that? I asked and immediately regretted my question as Dorothy went straight into her Primary School Headmistress mode. Like a TV presenter reading from the auto-cue:

Drying, she said,  is a method of food preservation in which food is dehydrated. This inhibits the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and mould through the removal of water.  Dehydration has been used widely for this purpose since ancient times. The earliest known practice is 12,000 B.C. by inhabitants of the modern Middle East and Asia regions. Water is traditionally removed through air drying, sun drying, smoking or wind drying, although today electric food dehydrators can be used to speed the drying process and ensure more consistent results. So What do you think? We have a dehydrator up in the attic somewhere. Let’s do it.

Okay, I said. Without any great degree of enthusiasm or expectation. For all that she watches so many cooking programmes on television, Dorothy isn’t the world’s greatest cook. Her timing. Things are either under- or over-cooked.
Okay. Let’s do it.It’s not as if it can do us any harm.

Six hours later, the leaves were so brittle that they turned to powder at a touch.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, I said, not sarcastically, a feeble sort of joke which I regretted as soon as I’d made it..

Good thinking, Batman, Dorothy said. Let’s do it.

So I went out to the tobacconist and bought a Meerschaum which the tobacconist said would ensure a pleasingly cool smoke.

You first, Dorothy said.

No, after you, I said.

I lit a match for Dorothy and held it over the bowl of the pipe. Dorothy took a puff then passed the pipe to me.

I took a puff and waited. Nothing much happened. A  cinamonny flavour left in the mouth. A slight smell in the air like after you’ve peeled an orange. Not unpleasant. But all in all a bit of an anti-climax.

The effect won’t be immediate, Dorothy said. It takes time for it to get round all your …whatyamacallits and reach the brain. We’ve hardly started yet.

We took a few more puffs.

Can you feel anything yet? Dorothy asked.

I shook my head then I began to panic a little.

How do we know what effect it – whatever it is – will have on our brains?

That’s the beauty of it, Dorothy said with one of her little smiles. We don’t.

Tomorrow we’re going to do something with the berries once we get back the use of our limbs

Let’s go


 

ESTRAGON: I’m going.
VLADIMIR:   Help me up first, then we’ll go together.
ESTRAGON: You promise?
VLADIMIR:   I swear it!
ESTRAGON: And we’ll never come back?
VLADIMIR:   Never!
ESTRAGON: We’ll go to the Pyrenees.
VLADIMIR:   Wherever you like.
ESTRAGON: I’ve always wanted to wander in the Pyrenees.

picnicbluesky

According to Oscar Wilde, ‘  Life imitates Art ‘.
Sometimes.
For instance when I was  asked,  “Where are you off to this summer?”  the above exchange from Waiting For Godot crossed my mind so I said “I’ve always wanted to wander in the Pyrenees” and having made this destination public felt bound to live up to it.
So.
I got the overnight bus to London, the train to Dover, the ferry to Calais then by taxi, train, bus, train, bus  and hitchhike to Caldes de  Boi then uphill by foot after foot to the  Estany Negre with wild horses in the foreground and the distant blue peaks of Els Encantats (?) towering in the background.
Here I was at last, in the Park of  Swirling Waters,  Aiguestortes,  in the Pyrenees,  where I’d always wanted to wander.
Thanks be to Samuel Beckett.

( On the way back, at Santander, taking photographs behind the cafe at the ferry terminal – the PELIGRO  sign obscured by a parked van –  I was savaged by a couple of Alsatians. One on each ankle.  Impressive inartistic scars and a few photographs to show for it all . But that’s life for you. )

Wild Horses


   

The Pyrenees, the wonderful Pyrenees….

shout
and listen to your echo
                                                     your echo
                                                                             your echo
while wild horses graze
Els Encantats soaring in the background
blue
sheer
and
in-between out-of-sight
the still cold blue waters of  Lago Negre
hold
upside down
the wooden refugio perched on its edge
where
just as wonderful
you can get
a bottle of  wine
a stick of bread
a chunk of Manchego

sit on a flat rock
for table and chair

munch
sip
close your eyes

breathe the clean cool early-morning air

feel the early-morning sun
warm on your face
and listen to those strange horses
chomp
fart
snicker

while the out-of-sight out-of-mind world below
tamely pursues its weary wicked way.

TO THE RIVER


day 15

This chomping noise woke us up.
I pulled back the tent flap and saw first of all the wild horses then behind them, blue and massive, rising dramatically from the other side of the lake, the blue, jagged peaks of  Els Encantats, the Enchanted Ones.
I breathed in the early morning air,  so  cool and clean and pure.

day 16

On the way down we had to pass through the strangely silent and lifeless  Vall dels  Ocells, the Valley of Birds. The air was humid and brackish. Most of the trees were either dying or dead.  Trapped between the valley’s steep walls was the whiff of something  vaguely unpleasant,  perhaps wood that was old and  wet and decomposing. 
In spite of the valley’s name, the only bird we saw was a sinister and solitary crow.

day 20

We reached the arid plateau above the river just before noon. It was stiflingly hot. We tried to buy some provisions  from the trading folk but I was unable to make myself understood in any of their three languages. They showed not the slightest inclination to trade or communicate with us.
It was a relief to move on. Those flies!

day22

At last – the green trees, the river and the long plain that goes on to the sea. This view sent my childhood rushing back; it at least hasn’t changed, thank the good lord.
We are to be heard of at the Eel Pie House, Twickenham, where we shall dine at half past five or thereabouts and where we will take care of you if you come. E-mail us if you can’t. 

J’EXISTE


J’EXISTE

Naebdy hitches thae days. When I wir  a lad (that’s me ower der) I hitched a ower – Europe, America – an I met hunners o interestin fowk in the  process.

Later on, when I wiz in Africa, I met an American quine wha hid been drivin her VW caravanettee wi a freen fae Nairobi doon tae Cape Town an the van hid broken doon in the Congo so whit did she an her freen dae? They hitchhiked. In Africa. In the Congo. A the wye back tae Nairobi. Wi niver a bit o trouble.  Well no exactly – ther wis an encounter wi a rhinoceros an the freen got tick fever but apart fae that they hid the time o ther lives. Hoo’s that fir smeddum  (or recklessness)? Or jist bein young?

Nae doot some fowk saw it as a wye o life – get sumbdy else ti dae a the work an   pay a the siller and gie you a piggieback intae the bargin.

But na, it wisnae. It wiz a wye  o seein the world an the fowk in it that otherwise ye widnae hae hid access tae. Yid get a lift tae Terranova an on the wye yid tell the driver yir life story an he/she wid tell ye his/hers syne he/she wid drap ye aff an yid niver see yin anither  again.

Nooadays der’s sae much cheap travel fir young fowk that it’s daft or mean tae hitchhike. An if ye did,  ye wid run the risk o bein mugged, murdered or worse.

A different world nooadays. A different world.

Na it isnae!