Sunday, 31 October 2010

BARCELONA

Taxi cabs move with urgency with pulsating sirens, whaling intensely. Traffic lights that halter their progress, glow as red as the blood spilt by the matador. Leaving the taxi, I see the expanse of the plaza that glares white in the heat. People flock in their numbers to get there, like ants to a picnic spread.

Away from the crowds, the dark, cooling shadows are a blessed relief from the intensity of the sun.

Walking down one of the narrow side streets is like travelling through history. Grey, awkward buildings tower, enclosing those who venture on to the cobbles. A woman hangs over her veranda, vigorously shaking a white lace tablecloth. Remainders of her lunch rain down along with red petals from the strong scented geranium that she knocks over. Another woman shouts to her in their mother tongue, in a tinny, grating voice that follows me; hovering round my ears, like a wasp, as I walk back to the plaza.

Another street is awash with people darting here and there, like merkats, as they check out all the stalls. One way traffic guards the pedestrianised way on both sides, and the tree lined street gives the appearance of walking through a tunnel. Living statues beckon passers-by to enter their space, for a fee, whilst a dragon above remains still but intriguing.

 The once grey buildings change hue and as I journey on, take on an inviting burnt umber and azure tinge. The cloggy smells of traffic fumes dissolve into fresh bread and coffee, blown forward on the cooling breeze. Further still, the market throngs give way to echoing, soft squawks of gulls. 

Escaping the street, I see Columbus on his column. No more discoveries for him. People wait to cross the traffic encircling him, to sit beneath the monument.

Having been led to Columbus I look up at him and see he is pointing. I follow the direction out to sea.

END OF THE WORLD


I always start my writing on a Tuesday to meet Sunday’s deadline. On that same day, today, Janet my wife has gone to town to teach her ageing students the art and science of portrait painting in the town hall annexe. Her work adorns the house. Prior to the refurbishment of our Victorian home, the brilliance of the acrylic paintings would have clashed considerably, with the traditional flock wallpaper. The white-washed walls are a blank canvas for her vivid colours that stain what otherwise would have been a sanitised house.

I’m sat at the kitchen table with its matching green and white gingham tablecloth and seat pads. Opposite is a large black hole. Well that’s what the fireplace looks like against the white, giving the illusion of being sucked in. It houses the gas range with chrome and stainless steel products and utensils hanging above like ivories on a piano. The toaster pops up two terracotta tile-like slices that I smother in Lurpak and homemade strawberry conserve that I bought at the WI fund raiser this summer.

I am about to take a bite when the mobile grandly sounds the first four notes of Beethoven’s fifth symphony. It’s a text message from Andrea, instructing me to tune my radio to Talksport and to tell her what I think. I walk to the fridge and pick up the DAB radio remote and spot a note from Janet, held in place by a red heart-shaped magnet, telling me to get inspired. Every Tuesday she leaves me messages to find, usually in the kitchen, knowing that I’m never far from my food.

I use the arrow buttons to change from my usual Radio Two to Talksport. I just caught the backend of the news; something about the end of the world. Luckily I don’t have to wait for the next bulletin as I can rewind programmes minute by minute with the DAB. Unbelievable as it seems, American cosmologists researching into quantum theory are stating categorically, that stargazing is causing the end of the world, and that we are changing things by merely looking at them.

Let me tell you a story.

For Christmas an eight year old boy receives a telescope and never stops looking at the black well with its shimmering lucky coins that is our universe. He imagines travelling in his mind to all the known galaxies and discovering new forms of existence. At university he still searches until the death of his steadfast mother. His universe implodes but the barren well becomes satisfied by his discovery of God. Is this really what he has been looking for?

The irony is I’m a vicar. Can you see how messed up this all seems? I thought I knew about these things. Have I misguidedly, contributed to the collapse of mankind?  I can read the headlines now: Avert your eyes from God to save humanity.

Grim stuff I know.