27 November 2007

Lost, Smuggling and Consuming

Somehow I have not managed managed to sleep again. I mismanaged my packing, fixing the shower at 2am, forgot my french phone cards, euros, but nothing too serious. Arriving in gatwick there was a branch in the corridor, everyone else went down the left branch, but reading the sign I realised I had to take the other corridor, international connections... can I really be the only one? Various passageways merged and passed by in the airport maze, I chased the very yellow signs, one by one, alone, passing them again and again. My heavy steps thud softly on the carpet, audible in their solitude. Some people pass me, going the other way, at least there is some other humanity in this airport - unless they are robots... they do not act human, walking step step step, in hurry, like they are scared and alone. Poor lonely robots.

Then I'm there, before a security checkpoint, waiting in line, pulling my coat off rather inelegantly. The generic unhappy security man gets the people in front to take off their shoes, carefully telling them everything. Pre-empting him, I ask “shoes off?” and “Yes” he says, and proceeds with the laptop drudgery. I nod acknowledgement, placing my bags and coat in the tray, I suddenly think to ask about my belt, which he says is fine as is. I pass through, get searched carefully, pick up my stuff, fight my coat back. But suddenly I realise I have my shoes on! A huge joy spills through me, a smile embellished my face. I won! This small victory against the tyranny of paranoid terror-maniacs! Never has smuggling made me feel better! Me and my shoes, we beat the fear-mongers, the madmen, robots of insanity bear witness to my triviality!

Sober, reflecting on the nature of the - I have to admit it - completely accidental victory, I realise it was the acknowledgement followed by belt-flashing distraction that won. It broke his story, his plan, and he didn't realise it, but his brief moment of controlling me lapsed and failed to catch the silent shoes. The security who searched me so carefully simply weren't expected shoes and so they did not see them. We humans, I ponder, prime ourselves for the expected cases and find it hard to even see the unusual.

Sometime later, in Gatwick shopping-land I grumble at Costa's inability to provide a glass of water with their coffee, I shrug them off, exercising my consumer power. The consequent search leads me to a better place - at the opposite end of this, the north terminal, is a french cafe, an oasis of freedom! Free tap water in Gatwick! another success! A good birthday so far, I buy myself some shoes and wonder how to pass the time between flights, trying not to sleep too heavily.

20 September 2007

Memories of Spain in Paris

Paris again, a small cafe somewhere, this table is too small for my latop and the coffee. Two girls discuss something serious in deep arabic tones. A little break from work, waiting for the library to open and use the free state-provided internet. The corner tables in this cafe are the prime places, I have the inside corner by the window, my neighbour just left; she was a young women dressed in fitted black, intently hunched, reading a book and on occasion drawing smoke from her cigarette. Now a young couple come to take that empty corner table, softly complaining about something.

I found this note of from Granada in Spain, probably sometime in late May...

There is Arabic pop playing in this narrow tetoria at the foot of the Alhambra. Outside the sun is dry and hot. Inside, three young Spanish girls share a shisha at the far corner, while in front of me an old and ornate rifle hangs on the wall beside a pink sign indicating 490 EUROS. All of the decorations in here are for sale.

I have escaped the wonderings I use to fill my otherwise missing hours. When the agenda of everyday life is thrown out, it leaves a void of action.

I had forgotten that to be asked for fire, for a light at least, was once a common event in Britain. It still is here. But I have no fire, and only now do I realise that for the last several moments that the girls in the corner have been trying to get my attention. I shrug to the girl apologetically, and say I have no none. Slightly amused now by the giggles that preceded their attempt to get my attention, in good humour, I return my bitter tea and over salted falafel. I came here to write, nothing on my mind, devoid of philosophy, sadly projectless and outside the world of communication; I'm an uncontactable anomaly! Now it is Arabic ninja-techno on the TV, and a beautiful woman starts singing while ninja's jaunt around the background. So, still empty of philosophy I'll finish my tea. But that's it! The creature of my empty heart, a hesitation, lost indirection, slight tension – the curious creature I travel to find. A heart of uncertainty – the very stress in the unkown about what to do next!

15 May 2007

Retirement to The Samarkand Teashop

The Samarkand Salon de The, a carpet covered cafe on a small backstreet in the centre Paris. I sip a bowl of widely spiced tea and listen to a mournful sounding ode from Usbekistan. I'm here, having escaped from a week of 9am to 7pm technical talks and too much work that left me hectic and tired. Now in bustling Paris, staying at family and friends, feeling time slow down in the absence of schedules, I enjoy the days events and spring surprises: a little tango, a lot of wandering and walking, some dinners and a few discussions later. Soon I will take the train to the village where my mum lives.

29 April 2007

Stormy Paris

Dressed all in white, an elderly woman holds herself upright on two metal crutches and stares strait into the sky, watching it throw down a storm. Her dog faithfully but coweringly, with tail and head hung down, waits for her to fill her eyes so they might move on. I sit under a canopy watching the busy street of Sunday-closed-shops and listen to the thunder. Opposite me is the Boulanger Patisssier Denis, an orange enclave of cakes, sweets and sandwiches. A man with a parrot on his shoulder and a brown leather bag buys a sandwich while I drink my coffee and listen to the rain.

A little later I've found the delightful creaky wooden-floored flat where I will sleep tonight. The warm glow from yesterday's sun still lingers on forehead, especially when I lift my eyebrows. I have a day to linger here and prepare my talk. This flat is the ancient Asian home of my great aunt, currently lived in by a cousin, and it has recently acquired hot water. To my surprise there is a distinct non-existence of a toilet. Sometimes in small Parisian flats they are in shared by several flats and have a separate door from the stairwell – but after a little adventuring I find it is not the case here. A phone call to my mum, who once lived in this Asian treasure trove of china and dark wood, reveals the curious geography of this flat: there is a secret door to a neighbours flat who has a toilet. When I get back from the phone box, I bang the ornate gong and nod to the Buddha.