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The Great Trumpeter

slim

I must have known about the knighthood for Lynton Crosby but it took a screenshot in the Khan victory story in the Guardian to make it a tipping point. Lynton honoured by the Realm but Son of Millions loses to Son of Bus Driver demonstrating that world city London, complicated, shadowy, super-energetic can stand up to ugly English chauvinism, the bluff geniality, the expensive broadcloth, the cobwebby mind – arise Sir Lynton. Who would not willingly manhandle “king” Charles to his doom? But Kingship projects beyond the person. Divestment would be more effective, the regal sway would become muddied, unmagicked, the body live on in a nothing.

The bounds of us and them are widening for some, fatally narrowing for others. Look westwards over the sea, beyond the Dook’s Cornwall. The Americans seem to be having their own monarchy moment. The pioneers left the monarchical idea behind, and greeted the huddled masses escaping the pogroms and famine, future kings all. The Great Trumpeter has formed a king shaped hole in the United States of America where the people can shelter like birds in a tree, even in his armpits and even knowing that if they look at the King’s face they’ll come over all digital.

The drama of America – who would be without it? Owing less and less to European origins like mine it becomes enchantingly unintelligible. I imagine the poor whites wanting their leader to be as greedy for comfort, as narrow, as ugly as they are but endowed with magic powers. The Barons of the algorithm, the machine politicians with their tailored numbspeak have blocked the view – the mob can’t see the majesty. Make America great again. When was it not? What can he mean?

Only this it seems: to lead them into the desert and suffer with them. The meme of the few rickety carts in a circle against the Indians. Trump is leading the unwanted poor of America into a terrible ambush. He is drawing off the last muscular opposition to the machine. Win or lose, crowned by his golden hair, cloaked in Las Vegas purple, riding a great white horse mobbed and petted by a thousand animal-faced maidens, guarded by disemployed but armed-to-the-teeth janitors the Trumpers will march through every city of America, across every mountain range, through every wheat prairie sowing dislocation agony and death until at the head of some dead end valley, some hill top encampment, some muddy lake King Trump decides the moment has come and passes out the S pills. And finds in sacrifice the punishment he’s always asked for. Hit me Daddy hit me.

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Capitalism = limitless creativity

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It’s like the parachute joke come to life. If it doesn’t work come back and we’ll hand over your money. In the strips of gift shops, bars and clothes boutiques round Izmir  and other Turkish ports, vendors are supplying fake life-jackets to people fleeing the war zones of the Permanent Battleground.
I like it, it gives me a chance to feel self-righteous. But that feeling neither satisfies or lasts so I get lost in speculation: why is it that I can’t place myself in one of those back streets, re-tailoring back-packs to look like life vests? Why can’t I see myself chortling as customers hesitate between the ones for thirty euros and the ones I’m selling at ten? Someone asks me in English – is good? Very good – I say and point at the fake label. Won’t see them again, not in my street, not in my family – people of no account.
I search for the phrase: the blind hand of the market? No that can’t be right, the dumb hand of the market? Perhaps the unfeeling hand of the market, pretending to be invisible. There is a demand for life jackets. Never mind that there are mountains of them piling up on Greek beaches, the demand is on the Turkish coastline. At first the demand is satisfied along regular lines, just the price shoots up a bit. Then maybe there is a hiccup in the regular supply, the boss is standing there looking into the container load of backpacks just offloaded on the docks. He has his capitalist moment: backpacks are down, life jackets are up – get sewing. It might even have been an idealist who first saw a way of bridging the gap and actually used sturdy buckles and proper floatable wadding.
Then someone made the analysis – what is a life-jacket in terms of the market place? A brightly colored arrangement of cloth, padding and straps. They stripped out all the mattress workshops they could find. They made the skimpy polyester look padded. There was a shortage of those clever plastic clips so they rationed them – two instead of four. There was a premium on the Hi-Vis orange or red but they get away with green and even blue. You could see the women hesitating between the colors just like normal shopping. All counterfeiters rely on things being much stronger in the head of the consumer than their forensic ability to fossick out the truth. The consumer buys the concept (if I knew Greek better I’d like to say the ideational form) that the salesman sells them. When you buy a fake life jacket you are one hundred per cent satisfied as a consumer because you now own something which materializes the idea LIFEJACKET. It will go on faithfully doing that until you jump in the water on a dark night and get that uh-uh feeling square in the gut, a fraction before the water goes up your nose.
Somebody says we should rejoice. Look at the business activity, the side-shows this generates. Pass one hundred thousand people thru these sleepy seaside places in six months and see the villas that spring up, the car concessions, see the jobs the poor get polishing the marble. The long view, the one you can only get from the top floor of a skyscraper looking down like Orson Welles did from the Ferris wheel in The Third Man (tk reference) and seeing people as replaceable ants, or worms.
At what point one wonders does the long view morph into God’s care for all his creatures? Doesn’t feel anytime soon for me here seventeen hundred kilometers west of the trouble – I still own plenty of time to strip down to one suitcase of necessities, to learn to fire a gun. And yes, to buy the mother of all life-jackets.

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So you like books, eh?

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Library? The books I’ve ended up with are the books I’ve ended up with. I can’t say I’m sorry. Unexpected arrivals flocked in when I ran a market bookstall for two years. I took everything. Airport novels I promised to burn in the winter but didn’t. Girlie books about horse riding – all those books you can’t be bothered to turn the right way round to read the spine.
“Many of the people who came to us were of the kind who would be a nuisance anywhere but have special opportunities in a bookshop” wrote George Orwell (Bookshop Memories Fortnightly November 1936) I didn’t mind them so much, it was a great way to learn French. A policeman asked me if I was a Communist, a gypsy showed me how to mend a rush chair, a girl brought me hot chocolate from the cafe at ten. I had a trailer like a red clam shell that opened up to show the display I built each week.
Now I have to confess to a private thing with all those books – I write. One of the ways I write is to search for tropes. That may seem like a silly word, but I understand it is the right one. A trope is a distilled form of action usually associated with a genre. Think the gunslingers walking towards each other down the dusty high-lit street. Fictional tropes seep out now into the everyday; after a violent incident people say it was just like on TV. Re-inserting tropes back into fiction where they belong after they’ve strayed into the real world is a full time job. They come back with all sorts of ideas.
Anyway to get back to my point: searching for tropes. I was reading Through many skies – the flying days of one Polish pilot when all of a sudden my memory told me that I’d read something like that before. Tadeusz Szumowski was talking about a temporary airstrip in France just after D-Day in 1944, talking about the depth he had to make his slit trench and about the two sides firing shells over his head and about how he went over to England and flew back with barrels of beer under his wings, using propellor cones to smooth the aerodynamics.
Fine I thought; it was like a children’s game, snap or pelmanism – I already had one of those. Which book could it have been in? Oh yes, If I don’t write it, nobody else will the life story of British comedian Eric Sykes. I pulled it off the shelf. On page 136 Eric tells us he digs a slit trench and the next night steals a barrel of beer from a marquee where there is a boozy send off for a big-wig. During the day the noise of Spitfires taking off and naval bombardment, during the night the enemy firing back. He digs a better slit trench.
The date is June 13 so just about time for the pre-invasion alcohol to have quit these guys systems and them be looking for more. Where did the barrels come from? Turn to Polish Pilot p114 11 June and the bare narrative above.
So you have the rough assembly of a trope which you can twist and distort according to purpose. It comes in seven sections with some branching spurs – (warning, this way madness lies) – the sections are: arrival, first impressions, digging a slit trench, the first night bombardments, getting hold of a barrel of beer, digging a better slit trench, being happier about bombardments.
For the branching spurs you can have for the first section personal feelings or description of military layout; for the second section you can have impressions of the countryside or reflections on the waste of war; for the third section you can have the older experienced soldier, the sweat of labour or the one who says I won’t bother.
For the fourth section you have a medley of light details, soundscape, nightmares and being awed by power; for the fifth section you have to make literary tapestry of a high order – this is where you can put in your other characters, this section is free to use as you wish but should include native cunning or brass faced cheek.
The sixth section is a reprise of the third section except that now the protagonist is the experienced one, his labors are drunken and the one who won’t bother is dead.
Lying in your pit, the tip of your cigarette the first red light above you, the whuffling and crumping all around you await the horrible accident of being dropped on by another sleeper – end of section seven.
*
There is another way of using the material, the coincidence if you like, which is to uncover or invent, research or presume the actual event-terrain between the two narratives. More complicated since it rests on the point at which you admit defeat in not being able to establish the facts. There are layers ordered like this:
Relying just on what is presented in the books.
Adding what you know as already held knowledge.
Adding precision by active research.
So I start at the top – what is presented in the books, under date time place action.
Through many skies – the flying days of one Polish pilot
11 June airfield B.10 within range of German gun in the hills over the River Orne digs a good deep hole and lines it with tar paper from the temporary airfield construction. Possible digression into development of temporary airfields.
12 June airfield B.10 asked to go back and get beer from country hotel near Chichester (their former feeding point in England. In the evening soldiers barter battlefield souvenirs for beer.
If I don’t write, nobody else will
13 June night somewhere past Bayeux, bombardment slit trench day Spitfire engines taking off.
14 June night deeper slit trench
15 June move piano from Cruelly steal beer – smash emptied barrel to sounds of bombardment.
The narrative rest on it being plausible that, pleased by the system, the RAF types order more barrels brought over between the 12th and the 15th. Accept that and you can look at the geography. Off the top of my head I can’t, so turn to my copy of Beevor’s D- Day and see straight away that our friends were at opposite ends of the Allied bridgehead. So the narrative as a tissue connected in fact falls. Connected in fact, a tissue of lies, we do say that don’t we? A tissue of lies, woven spaces, something that can be brushed aside unlike the facts which peg us nicely down to earth.
Through many skies – the flying days of one Polish Pilot
Tadeusz Szumowski
Highgate Publications Beverley
1993
ISBN 948929774

If I don’t write it, nobody else will
Eric Sykes
Harper Perennial London
2006
ISBN 9780007177851 tk

D-Day – the battle for Normandy
Antony Beevor
Viking Penguin London
2009
ISBN 9780670887033

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An exercise, English style.

 

I don’t know why, how, where or when but I found myself on a train, no, I don’t know how, why, where or when but I was on a train and sitting across from me was a female person, a woman, dark and plump. Whistling and rattling through the night a sailor at her side joshed and flirted. He got out at – was it Crewkerne? and I had her to my self. We drew down the corridor blinds and lay together on the narrow, tufty bench.
“Careful, she said, “I’ve got a metal plate” And through her finery I felt it at the base of her spine.
Now comes the puzzling part. In our embrace, as far as it went, I overshot the station at which I was meant to change trains. She went on and I went back to…? As I think about it now, writing this, it isn’t a puzzle at all. I will have got the next train back to Taunton, the fork in the mainline west. She will have gone on perhaps to Torquay, with the palm trees, on the south coast, think Florida.
Whatever happened on the train I must have passed her the address of the friends I was visiting. I got a card from her and phoned her from a call box. We arranged to meet in the village pub. She drank short, perfumed, alcoholic drinks and I took her back past the sheep dip and the rough grass to the caravan by my friend’s house and did that thing we hadn’t quite done on the train. Afterwards she sat on the edge of the fold-down bed, her arms up tying her hair, the hideous curtain showing behind her and slipped me a gift,
“Some woman will be lucky to find you. Strong but gentle” I swallowed the honey and grinned.
Her taxi arrived and it was clear there would be no sequel. But there was. About six months after the blessed perfumes of our caravan crosslegger I had paid work in her part of the country marshalling cars at the big show the farming folk hold. It was a misty late afternoon and I was checking numbers and drifting with the crowd when out of the gloom about twenty yards off her form, pregnant, came clear. She was with a husky chap with a stick. I stopped to be sure and she paused and turned her head, gave me a wide smile and trotted away after her man. I let it sink in.
And I don’t know why it is but even now years afterwards I have the impression, fighting off the net curtains of confusion descended on my head, that there was a postcard written in fast slanting black ink, about news, hidden in a box, that I was in some way pursued, that there was an issue between us I shrugged or shirked, that I’d like to name now my son Sam if he hears.

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Slow down Rob

rob

What do I think that I can add to my knowledge of the world by clicking on the video of a fatal car crash in Crowborough Sussex last April? The police and the parents of the dead believe it will make people think before speeding. That is why they have agreed to the video’s its release; why it appears in a click box on the Guardian website (and the Sun’s).
I have no idea what it will add until I click except I know I want to insert myself into that space between now and then, into the finest slice possible of time – the moment of disappearance, the secret one can never betray. I click on the video and watch.
The youngsters in the car are gaming the envelope that keeps the car’s tires on the road. It is late on a Saturday night in Sussex, their voices gargled with drink and spit thickened with drugs, the eyes of the driver flash red as the camera catches him turn in his seat to grin. The eternal threesome on a night out when they didn’t get the girls.
The one in the back drops his head forward all you see is his mop of hair, you can’t make out what he says, then the camera swings back to the unreeling, unfeeling tarmac. They are juggling velocity and mass with only the speedometer and their tiny headpieces as guides. They are riding such and such a number of finely engineered horse (chevaux) power.
The word in French is puissance, a little more than power. The French for impotent is impuissant. Potent includes the idea of potential – carry forward – and that there is something that is being propelled that can be carried forward, in distance, in time. They are being carried forward in time, accelerated.
The arrow says it all – power at a distance, carrying death in its tip and intelligence in its flight feathers. As soon as the first arrow went off someone will have wanted to ride it, be where the arrow was shooting up into the sky, escaping. To get away, to get past, to go on, to break thru. To outpace time. Didn’t we know it when we felt that force that pushed us, accelerating, down the first tube of all. Doesn’t any arrow type thing go where we’d like to be into the future into the next stage? Isn’t a bit more speed all it takes?
It took a while to get round to enough engineering complexity, rocket science, and now the manned space flight toys are shoved somewhere into the back of a cupboard in humanity’s hallway. We got there, the T shirt, we did it – why go back? Space is for tourists and death-robots.
The tickle that the boys in the car are getting, the thrill, is the tickle of their brains updating against an overload, slash editing quantities of visual data and the surge joggle jostle of their testicles, gyros translating shifts in the forces acting on them to signals tingling up the spine.
The champions of acceleration all agree it’s like they mate with the machine. The machines have been lending us stuff for centuries. Now it is pay back time, the machines are beckoning us with a crooked finger – come on honey, come play – they want some of the stuff we’ve got, they want to become man-rated.
The road ahead runs into the black. Yellow worms from the smearing street lamps go wriggling by, the camera pokes down at the speedo, looks like ninety, pokes up ahead at a darker shape with two low slung red eyes – go round ‘im go round im – and wherr heyy! Rob goes round the lorry in a sloppy curve. Then it’s the black road again, bumps and weaves, hoarse voices mouthing Sussex madness then more lights, white ones this time odd shapes of buildings – slow down Rob – the voice from the back says feeling deep voiced and grown up just before he goes. But the words are not executive, nobody grabs the key.
A few more seconds of camera judder, anonymous abstract tracings of some Sussex township some Saturday night – slow down Rob – and they find the church wall splat like that and something must have happened to the camera, there is just a second of crunching noise like breaking a connection or a tooth being pulled then black and silent.
Who knows what the young men will do when the automatic doodle cars come, the intelligent uberblobs? Seventy five years ago, in that sky above Sussex the Brits used to lose their young men at a steady rate, their flying machines and those of the guys on the other team slapped down all over the countryside and into the sea. Now they just get thrown away as a side effect of an engineering philosophy which embraces the lure of acceleration, of death, and turns it into a trigger that opens wallets.
The facades of cars are deliberately made to look like intimidating beasts in the rear view mirror, you have to accelerate to get away, frightened white worm in the fake leather smell cockpit. But as the hunter car goes past you see that although he carries the brand marque on his nose at back he’s just a light arse compact. It is all make believe, but we all fall for it. Stupendous are the traps we don’t avoid.

video link

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Tangier 1965

photo credit: Tom Hilton

Tangier 1965
We were on the roof of the hotel eating something delicious from a tin. Guava? Pineapple? At the edge of the roof were our rooms, each one white with a black hole doorway. The smell was like if you rustled your hand thru dust. And lapping over the other side of the roof came the voices of the people passing along the alley that led down to the Petit Socco. At night, stretched under a thin cover, these voices took on all the languages under the sun but turned into cockney, West London flavour, as they went by my unglazed window. I became like the unlucky monkey with its head thru the hole in the table, the diners spooning up its brains; only the people going by the window were putting stuff in not taking it out.
It was down to keef, grass, marijuana. We’d gone to the fountainhead, we’d made the pilgrimage to the nearest place we could be sure it grew. The soft, pale green chopped leaves, the sweet eternal reefer; the voice which told you you were leaving, the slow slow roll of the head against the pillow with all the crepisculations of the cotton and the hair running into the bone and beyond. And the music.
I hadn’t known about the music when we’d done our planning. At home I sucked up Willis Conover Voice of America`s Jazz Hour from underneath the pillow, with its signature, take the A train. If I had known then that the relay station was on a hill just south of Tangier I would have got there somehow and beaten the door down and licked them like a dog. I hadn’t known – the dancing boy winding himself round and thru his tunic, whirling a scarf; the men behind tapping the drums or bowing the strings, the hooked nose poking a wind pipe about. The round tables with the mint tea, the peach coloured half-circles above the doors, the hot bowl of the pipe. The phrase was it blew my mind.
The route was clear, you looked at a map and there it was. London to Tangier. We were sixteen, IGM and I. He had flame red hair, a hulking shuffle and a pre-Raphaelite profile damn him. Strictly girls only. I was light on my feet, with a bad teeth waxy face. On a good day people wrote down what I said on anything that came to hand. MB took us down to Dover in his father’s black Citroen DS. Wow! – he must already have been seventeen. He snuffled a bit but we told him he was base camp. It was to him we telegraphed for money just like in the books and it was he who picked us up, shivering and hungry at Dover six weeks later, having had the actual rubber gloved finger of the British Customs man up our arses.
All three of us were Latymerians, pupils at the well thought of school by the Thames between the Hammersmith and the Barnes bridges. On a summers day in 1961 the school lined the dual carriageway which split our playground to cheer Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, first man in space. He swept past standing in an open Rolls Royce, three times larger than his capsule had been. You couldn’t see whether he was saluting or holding his big brimmed cap on. He came from the Airport to meet the Queen.
As schools went Latymer was progressive, not yet snobbish, in lunch break the drug takers amongst us would slip down King Street to the chemists and buy slimming pills or cough syrup if we didn’t have any weed. In 1963 as Princess Pompiona, in the three night run of the school play I had to dish out quite a bit of sex backstage, but not to the big boys in the lead roles: AR, MN. Nor to the chemistry master BB who’d found my arse well before the Customs men.
It was to be a straight run south, IGM explained. We both had un peu Francais and IGM thought he could use Latin dative in Spain. He was very can-do. France was rain and black and white movie roads, trees flicking past and the mad secret army man in a hunched Beetle showing me a pistol in the glove locker “accidentally”. Spain was the blackened concrete of Franco’s frontier at Irun, the great, grapefruit strewn, plain of Bobadilla, the wooden benches in the trains and the hard sun, (a new sensation for us Limeys). Poked awake by guns on the beach at Algeciras we were lodged in a hostel for dying men. Thank you Europe – tomorrow Africa.
I tell you, isn’t that something – they do stuff other ways. I put my foot on African soil and saw those guys scudding about in dressing gowns and fall off my feet slippers. There is another way to do stuff – all thought up by them. True, it was a split city Tangier. It had a European part and a Tangerine part, but still it was straight away exciting. Rifi hooked onto us nice and quick, maybe on that first rucksacked walk into the Casbah up the Rue de la Marine. He had a face like a burst fruit and a big smile and he spoke rapidly, confidently. He became our guide, our aid and he never let us down.
So, we were on the roof of the hotel eating something delicious from a tin. It is a very small cast that memory has left me. IGM is strumming a guitar, two American girls lounge with their brown legs all anyhow. Another time (or the same) there was Scottish criminologist Jock Young researching his first book The Drugtakers: the Social Meaning of Drug Use or maybe just taking a break from writing and with him a lantern jawed pal I never got the name of and some little guy on a goat hair rug he carried everywhere.
Another day (or the same) there is a scuffling, a cursing and I slip back into the hotel and look down the madly jewelled spiralling stairwell to the cool central court and down the stairs is crashing our deserter in seersucker. The forces in Vietnam tripled that summer but he stripped off his GI uniform in Germany, got down to Morocco and set up as a smuggler and what he’s wrestling down the stairs is a keef stuffed camel saddle. Enterprise. He’s going to chance the Post he says; we’re eating spicy stew a stones throw from Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton’s pink painted pad. We don’t go in and trip over William S. Burroughs or Gysin or Bowles or any of the other literary cats having a naked lunch. We don’t penetrate the scene. We don’t, in that three weeks, hardly go out of the casbah – we’re here to stone it and we do.
I know it was 1965 because I caught the Rolling Stones in their skanky swim wear on the beach. Got a look at their skinny white thighs and rushed into the surf with an ounce of finest in my pocket. Postcards. Memory wont raise its skirts any higher; something African made a claim on me, something to do with time, the perceptual system: stuff comes in, your head does something to it and then you perceive it – Tangier put a knot in that loop. It was like the loop included something I couldn’t quite see which I did wrong trying to make useful. I’ve been too hung up on useful ever since while all the time this beautiful garment, shimmering, was waiting for me to put on – and I never did.
But I’m coming out of that now, I’m starting to see another way; I don’t lunge for the fish any more because I know it is just the water and the bent stick. I have no knowledge in the real sense of the word. The way I am now is I hardly project at all, I can feel the back spaces of my head as well as the front. I sit quiet and drop my attention equally over the whole scene.
Look at this description by Polish writer Ryszard Kapuscinski of the African view of time:
Time appears as a result of our actions, and vanishes when we ignore it. It is something that springs to life under our influence, but falls into a state of hibernation, even nonexistence, if we do not direct our energy towards it. It is subservient, passive essence, and, most importantly, one dependent on man…*
…Africans believe that a mysterious energy circulates through the world, ebbing and flowing, and if it draws near and fills us up, it will give us strength to set time into motion – something will start to happen. Until this occurs, however, one must wait; any other behaviour is delusional and quixotic…
You may say that the northern crust of the continent, like at Tangier, has been muslimmed out but I think Kapuscinski’s insight rests solid. I think our elder brothers down there know something useful about our place in time, our place in the middle of quantum mysteries. Scientists shake their fingers at us and insist these things are not for the everyday scale – but I’m not so sure they can’t be accessed. Take phase entanglement for example.
Effectively if two space/time events interact they each pick up and carry on certain information about the other. Phase entanglement, if true, means part of each space/time event is left in the other’s care to use Nick Herbert’s expressive phrase. Memory anybody? I wont say it is but it is like when you balance something finely, I mean an object say a pot or pan on the washing up pile, your hands leave the balance you’ve made and you turn away but feel the connection still, feel the forces in balance in your head. Don’t you?
Tangier anybody? I didn’t mean to get into this – feeling for the continuity between whatever happened there in 1965 and now when it is coming time to reckon up, put some stuff in a coloured handkerchief and set out with the six foot ash staff for the place, the hollow in the bushes, where I can lay up and wait for the shadow of the bird who’s going to come down and peck peck peck me away out of life.
Up on the hotel roof, the warm orange disc is lipping the parapet with its smile. The call to prayer begins, the honking speaker with the dusty wires, and the seduction of the swallowed and stopped sounds begins to work on me. The American girls have gone away with IGM. The criminologist and his friend have gone into their room to cook. There is just the man squatted down on his goat hair rug. A booking office clerk who still wears half his uniform. I’m lying on a hip and an elbow. He is saying what he says every time we’ve seen him the last few days,
“I’m going back tomorrow”
Each time we see him he’s lost another button off his waistcoat. He trades them.
“So where you going back to?”
“Windsor”
It seems right somehow; the first time we saw him he still had his semi-pillbox cap like a toy version of the kepi worn by the Foreign Legion brutes. The black cloth lined with red piping came in just after diesel electric locomotives. Modernisation by engineers, re-branding by Hardy Amies, designer to the Queen. He turned the rail staff into proper flunkeys. Windsor station with its Victorian fretwork for Europe’s last monarchy.
“Didn’t you find a family?”
I knew he’d had this idea of a nest, paying a little rent, teaching a little English. Rifi was looking out for something for him. I saw him curled up in his nest behind the door in the last and smallest room with no window and his red piped waistcoat pegged up with the carpet bag he had his things in.
He looked down. He was actually whittling a stick as we spoke, he had an idea about making things to sell.
“What’s that?” I searched for his name but I didn’t have it, Colin? Paul?
He looked up. He had glasses and heavy eyebrows half outside them, it was like he was going to ask me where I wanted a ticket for. How complicated could his job really be I wondered. Could I be a booking clerk?
He showed me what he had been working on and I recognised thought. It was the top half of a pen. He’d noticed that pens were used as a sign by pushy Tangerines. They paraded them in the jacket top pockets. He thought they would put up with fakes if they were cheap enough. He was going to paint them silver.
It seemed to work. When we left Tangier we brushed past him on the way to the Port. He had a nook between two buildings where guys bought his fakes. By then he had a soft brown hat and a baggy suit jacket and he’d grown a moustache to match up with his eyebrows. He must have found a family; I didn’t see how he could have made so many wooden pen tops so quick himself.

* Ryszard Kapuscinski
The shadow of the sun
Penguin Books 2002
isbn 0140292624

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