Waves of Insurrection

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Rain drummed incessantly on the shell of my hood as I walked through the rusting iron gates of the public park. Fingers red and burning as they gripped the plastic handles of shopping bags, I started the long trek up the hill, rivulets of water streaming down the path to run around the soles of my shoes. I trudged steadily upwards, getting closer to the clouds, passing the ‘Mediterranean Zone’ with its laurel trees and then the ‘Prairie Gardens‘ with its grasses weighed down by water. As I walked higher and the rain fell down with more intensity I began to make out wisps of a voice ghosting through the watery air. It was so soft that I had to turn my ear towards the peak of the hill to hear it against the pattering raindrops. Intrigued, I walked faster, squelching upwards towards the source of the voice and the water. Passing the rhododendrons of the ‘Asian Zone’ and the clipped hedges of the ‘Lost Garden’ I came to the green lawn that spread downwards from the Edwardian glasshouses that stood at the edge of the park. On the grass stood a wooden stage and the source of the voice. Above the stage hovered a dark cloud and the source of the rain. I sat on a park bench, facing the direction from which I had come, to contemplate both.

I sat next to my bags of shopping as the opera singers rehearsed for the next day’s concert. Behind the stage, grassy slopes slid away to reveal a vista of what I had just been a small part of: undulating waves of redbrick terraces, grubby spires breaking free from the parallel lines to shoot upwards towards a seething sky. Streaks of cloud scudded at right angles to the spires, some high, some low, some a pale white, some a bruised blue and some a peachy red as they reflected the rays of the dying summer sun falling behind the western hills. Bolts of that fading sunlight speckled the urban blocks, dancing across house windows to produce a sparkling luminescence that flickered in waves across the hills. This shifting mosaic of light and colour formed the backdrop to the motionless stage as, overhead, a lower dark cloud moved stubbornly slower than the rest to pour its contents onto the heads of those few who watched the rehearsal.

A few damp figures composed this audience; the elderly, the unemployed, and young mothers with pushchairs. These figures stood in disparate clusters in front of the stage or, like me, sat on the benches that lined the path. One enthusiastic group had even produced small flags to wave at the climax of each song, striving in vain to shake the cheap rectangles of red, white and blue plastic free from the heavy water that weighed them down. We listened in the rain as the singer sung songs of victory, glory and hope; the words and ideas as dusty and old as a grandfather clock, a porcelain teapot or a cucumber sandwich.

During one such song, a single shaft of sunlight shone across the stage to fall on the ‘Western Temperate Zone’ and reflect off the glistening bark of the native oaks. As it did so, the silken waves of rain sparkled with the line of falling sun, the convergence of light and water representing the brief merging of cycles that had continued for aeons. Behind these curtains of flickering light the orchestra reached a crescendo of noise and the singer held onto a wavering note. Suddenly, as he did so, the whole scene was bathed briefly in a flash of nearby lightning to burn the outline of the scene onto the retinas of the watching few. Seconds later a loud blast of summer thunder tore the watery scene asunder to shock the singer from his third ‘never’ and upset the harmony of the instruments. The performance faltered as rhythms and pitches clashed together in anarchic waves of clattering metal and rasping air.

The dying orchestra grew quieter than the pattering raindrops and the feet of the audience members shifted on the sodden grass. The flags hung limply in the rain, no longer moved by waves of patriotism. The unemployed and the elderly looked around, embarrassed for the musicians. Then suddenly the opera singer broke into a giggle that flowed into wild laughter. His huge lungs went from belting out lines about nationalistic mercantilism, to silence, and then to generating booming laughter. The orchestral players looked around at each other and began to laugh too.  As they did so more bolts of sunlight shot down to fall across the glistening grass like spotlights across a Gilbert and Sullivan stage or like searchlights against a Vera Lynn sky. The rain lessened to a drizzly mist, more air than water, and I pushed my hood back to warm my forehead in the soft evening light. With the laugher behind me, I picked up my shopping bags and left to walk out the entrance of the park, upwards towards the clouds that flowed in waves of red and white across the darkening blue of the summer sky.

 

© 2012 Thomas Halvë

Pause

 

Colours seep together as the intense white of the sun obliterates my perception. Within this washed-out world I push down on hot aluminium pedals, rubber tyres already beginning to roll along hot tarmac. As the bike gathers pace I squeeze the frame with my thighs and ride with no hands, tangling and untangling the headphone chord with my fingers. Slipping the buds into my ears I press down buttons that pulse the electricity that begins the music. As my hands grip the handlebars and my back arches down, the beats lay down the sinews of a framework upon which my mind can construct reality.

A shower has just passed and the clouds in the distance tell a short story of rain that has gone and rain that will come. All around me the spent water is evaporating into the ether as the sun’s hot rays vaporise its molecules into upward movement. I split this migration of hydration, puncturing the long trails of moisture as they re-begin their long journey upwards. Overhead, new clouds race along tracks of azure sky, eager to add to an ever enclosing encirclement of grey. It will rain again very soon.

Ahead of me the traffic lights are changing from amber to red. I can see the orange shades darkening into ochre as time slows and everything seems to pause. A bass beat of music pulsates through me, underlining the rhythm of the cars as they vibrate slowly behind painted lines, impatient drivers scowling as their feet begin to push down upon pedals. Everywhere water hangs in the air, a melody of molecules refracting the rays of the sun as they play towards a sky in which a kestrel floats, blown upwards on the heat that rises from the hot tarmac below. As quickly as it slowed, time resumes it’s normal speed and I accelerate, piercing the intersection at a tangent to the floods of cars that career through seconds later, front ranks of drivers angrily honking their horns.

Up ahead is a congestion of traffic. I overtake a lorry as it begins to slow down, running parallel to it as the spray from its wheels combines with the sweat from my forehead. I look up and smile at the driver as he looks down and glares at me. I swerve between stationary cars, signing my brief existence into the rising water and falling light with a flourish of liquid synergy. Thoughts rise and fall within my mind as I breathe in and out. I am one with the flow of the movement. The motionless will take care of themselves.

Suddenly I escape from the bottleneck, shooting out into an empty road like a single raindrop squeezed from a bruised cloud, falling into a blue sky. As I look to the  road ahead the music stops as it pauses between tracks. My mind settles and re-focuses even though its edges remain blurred. Sometimes I’m not sure where the stationary objects stop and the flowing movement begins. Enclosed, as we are,  in a mind of pulsing electricity driven by a heart that beats on a planet that spins in a universe that is expanding and contracting into eternity, who does?  A new beat begins as I pedal on, the sky above me steadily darkening, my fingers tapping on the handlebars without pause.

 

 

© 2012 Thomas Halvë

 

N.B. Four Tet ‘Pause

A Chinese New Year

 

I ran up the down escalator as she ran down the up, taking swipes at each other’s head’s as we passed. We did this for twenty minutes, frustrating commuters, foreigners and manual labourers alike; a thoroughly communal anti-socialism. Exhausted, we were catching our breath when she lifted a five yuan note from the ground. We yelped in delight! Debating how to spend it, she mooted the idea of actually riding on the subway!

We found the ticket machine and not knowing where to go or where we were, we pressed buttons until cards emerged. Restraining ourselves as we went down more elevators, train’s arrived on both sides of the platform. She chose the right one because, unspoken, I knew she liked the look of the advertisement painted onto the side of the carriages. I followed her as I always do.

Being accomplished elevator riders and not fully comprehending the concept of subways, we decided to walk down the carriages. Under the intense lights I could see just how grubby her face was. I told her this and she told me she doubted it was as dirty as mine. We both whooped with laughter and picked up the pace. We eventually tired of walking and got off to ride the escalators up into the fading twilight.

We gasped as we looked around. The buildings were higher than the mountains of our home! In between these megaliths the sun was setting into the smoggy haze. All nearby consciousness was focused on the sky, on the twirling rosettes waltzing their way across the penthouses of the rich and dancing through the ghost trails of fireworks long since fallen to earth. We stood and stared at the top of the escalator, those still emerging pushing past us angrily.

Cordite stung my eyes and as I wiped them I followed the smoke trails down to the ground, to where a man stood holding a burnt-out match. I recognised those clothes, that stance, that haircut. Father? No! It couldn’t be, Uncle? I shouted ‘Uncle!’ but he couldn’t hear me above the cacophonous explosions. Then suddenly his face was caught in the flash of a rocket. Neither of them. I looked at her and she looked back knowingly.

Not really having much of a bedtime plan we held hands as we stared at the sky, smiles fixed to our faces, tears at the corner of our eyes.

 

 

© 2012 Thomas Halvë

N.B.  improved immeasurably by being read to the sound of a Four Tet song (most things are improved in this way). I’d suggest ‘Circling’ from the album There is Love in You.