Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Traces of a fire.

The seemingly random track falls away into a sudden hollow, the surface is deeply rutted; I am afraid my wheels may get stuck, so I get out of the car. Now that even the sound of the engine has died I can hear the silence that I could only see a moment ago. It is an eerie quiet, not like anywhere else. No sounds of animals, not even the flight of a bird, only the wind hauling the hot air across the plain and on its way brushing against the blades of those parched plants. But that sound is silence too. The ground dips slightly in the distance and the track disappears from view. i am determined to see where it goes, and like an agent on a mission, alone with myself, I set off into the distance. The next panorama unfolds before me, but it is the same as the one I have already see. i am obstinate, or mad, and I press on. It must lead somewhere. Then the slope steepens. The track bends, I recognise goat droppings. And there: two huts made of turf. in front of them two troughs roughly hewn from a block of wood. I call out but there is no answer. a could of big black flies rises from the gnawed remains of a rabbit, making a horrible buzzing, like a bow drawn once across a malevolent cello. then they settle on the cadaver again and resume their labour: it is their duty.

I approach the huts gingerly. I keep thinking there must be someone there, but inside I find no-one. no animal either. a blood-stained sheepskin, lately flayed, hangs across a beam. Traces of a fire. It's dark between the earthen walls. The ceiling is so low that I have to keep my head bent. It must be a shelter for a shepherd and his flock.The floor of dried mud is stamped with thousands of shiny, smooth little hoof-prints. I hurry outside again as if I might be caught. the thatched roof is propped up with a few tree trunks. The place could date from any time, from five hundred years ago, a thousand, or even longer. The blue plants clamp their serrated spurs on my ankles as I make my way back to the car.

From: Roads to Santiago by Cees Nooteboom, pub'd by Panther 1997

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Portrait of the artist as a young goat

Being a priest isn't easy. 
In 1992 I was living in North London with a mixed bunch of Serbs and Croats and war had just broken out. One of  them made films, one of them worked in a bar, one of them had escaped with her younger brother and one of them had come back injured. He was dangerous, volatile, depressed. Someone said they're all like that. We played with a ball in the overgrown garden and sat on the steps drinking beer. After a while he went back, to be with a friend who'd lost his legs. Eventually he joined up again and I never heard from him again. 
Perhaps no-one did.