Colin Birtles is stuck in traffic, or more to the point, stuck in his car, in a queue, at a service station, idling his engine, with other unfortunates, in traffic, victims all of a garish advertising sign offering a fuel price discount, pock marked on the side of the road, with all the other pock marks, blathering the health benefits of Gatorade, the communication benefits of a mobile phone, or the freedom offered by the latest Jeep.
Floyd Collins sat on the hood of his Dodge putting on his walking shoes. The “hood” is a much more appropriate name to describe the door that opens up to the engine than what the English would refer to as the “bonnet”, which is what you put on the head of a one year old English girl who’ll grow up to marry a gentleman of the aristocracy. Besides, it’s an American car; Floyd has maintained the original left hand drive. And it drives like an American car should, all muscle and energy and James Dean swagger with the packet of Lucky Strikes under the turned up sleeve on the t-shirt.
One wet, cold September night some years ago now, a boy was born. It was late, his father, a veterinary surgeon, was out tending to another birth, a cow, in a time when it was hardly expected that a father would be in attendance for the birth of his child, he would be much more likely to be asleep, or having drinks with friends, than with his wife about to give birth.
What was meant to be an evening of conviviality amongst friends and acquaintances amidst the deep furnishings, large squashy cushions, paintings and dark woollen wall hangings from Turkey in the living room lined by book shelves containing manuscripts and novels, texts and biographies of those who pleaded to have their stories told, along with the red wines and cheeses of the local providors for measured complimentary consumption and the lives of those living their tangents of intellectual depth and meaning, their day jobs ranging from sitting in cubicles muttering onto spreadsheets, to manual realities sprung from twenty years of schooling to finally be put on the day shift, turned into something else when a randomly chosen line from a randomly chosen page from a randomly chosen book pulled from the shelf behind them somehow turned this gathering of like minds into a sirocco of subdued antipathy and enveloping rage.
My mother played Liszt. Not the transposed for modern players Liszt but the original bastard’s manuscripts that he didn’t want women to play, or anyone else for that matter, so betoken was he to his own musical genius. She was taken, my mother, I think, by his obsession with making the piano, the instrument that she devoted her life to, the life force of the musical world. She tackled Dante and Faust as Liszt might have done. Stubborn old cow (if you’re allowed to call your mother an ‘old cow’).
It was a woman at the checkout buying coconut oil. She had put it in her bag, with all the other groceries she was purchasing when she noticed that the seal on the bottle underneath the screw top lid containing the coconut oil had come lose.
I was approaching, in my car, some months ago, one of those ubiquitous discount fuel outlets that have become symbolic of our consumer age. As I had a voucher handy I decided that I should probably refuel.
Am I happy? It doesn’t matter, it’s not relevant, I accept my fate. Thoreau was right, the mass of men really do lead lives of quiet desperation
Having said all there is to say about songs the one remaining soul from the lost days of last centuries quelled rebellion and poetic wonder.
I have no room on my leaning frame
The seed that’s planted, in the ground
Caravan Parks. Classes don’t so much merge, as congregate there. Images of atmospheric smoke induced fellowship.