Sunday, 18 January 2009

Akzident

On the road again, destination Madrid. I pack up at Pomeroy Street, say my goodbyes and jump on a bendy bus to Victoria Station. Two punks get fined for not having a ticket. At the easybus stop on Fuckingham Falace Road, I meet the thickest brick, bluntest tool in the shed of a Polish bus driver you could imagine, and after some procrastinating, we're off. It's 16:20.

easybusVery soon we're up to our necks in a traffic jam. We move by jolts. Everywhere there is chaos and red lights in the darkness. Then in an astounding show of prowess, our driver slams us into another van. “Currrrvaa!” (bitch) is his war cry. He starts in pursuit of the other van. “Currvaaa!”, he repeats and repeats, while hitting the horn in free verse. Finally he catches up with the other guy, points and shakes his hands above his head while hitting the horn. Both vehicles stop on a side lane. It's 16:35.

The drivers step out, start discussing whose fault it is. Then they start discussing whether it is anyone's fault. Then they start discussing whether there is anything to discuss at all. It's 16:45. I watch the minutes trickle away while they keep going back and forth expertly assessing damage and our driver keeps flailing his hands around, pointing and shrugging and sweating. “Contact! Telefon!”, he demands of the other driver. It's 16:50.

I decide I've had enough, jump over the driver's seat, get off the bus and point out to him that we should be going.

He shrugs and shows me his scratched bumper in a gesture of quiet despair mixed with hopeless acceptance of inevitability – one would think he's pointing to his lost youth, to his third divorce or to his incurable haemorrhoids. “Akzident!”, he offers as explanation. “Akzident!”, he insists, his vocabulary limited, but his tone rich in inflection, denoting “This, as you see, is fate. Fighting fate is pointless.” I steal a glance at the quite inconspicuous and irrelevant scratches on the bumper, and quickly summon the words that might well be my best shot at getting back on my way to the airport. “Akzident! But I have plane! Now quick-quick, taxi airport chop-chop, yeah?” I offer while I present him with a flurry of urging hand gestures and speed-encouraging facial expressions. “No problem!”, he dismisses twice. “Contact! Telefon!” It's 17:00.

We start again by snake-racing our way out of a labyrinth of narrow backstreets, climbing on sidewalks and zigzagging among taxis. Two policemen on a pedestrian crossing ahead. I pray to all deities, from Allah to Zeus, please don't let him run them over. It's 17:05 and we're back in Marble Arch.

What follows is an agonizing 95 minutes of feeling the merciless methodical ticking of a fluorescent digital clock while looking ahead in despair at never-ending winding lines of red lights in the dark rain. London never seems to end. My flight leaves at 19:00, the boarding gate is supposed to close at 18:30, and easybus was supposed to drop me in Stansted at 18:05. We get there at 18:40.

By this time I need to urinate very badly, but instead I just jump off the minivan and run like the wind. I use my most desperate, most pathetic voice to jump several queues, I bark and spit at several square-headed members of staff at “airport security” to fuck off and to hurry it up for fucks sake, my plane's about to leave. The idiocy of the concentration-camp treatment still makes me lose a few minutes, but I jump into my untied shoes, pull up my belt-less pants, grab my stuff and start running like mad down the halls of the very well designed labyrinth of duty-free traps that await the na├»ve passenger before the departure gates.

When I get there, tomato-red, panting and wheezing and sweating like an old horse, I find that the flight is delayed and thus the boarding is just about to begin. “Currrrrva!!”, I offer to no one in particular while I bang and lock the toilet door.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I am not one for tradition. I am not one to run with the herd, to buzz with the swarm. I am not one for religion, thus I am personally unlikely to find the anniversary of the birth of a prophet a worthy cause for celebration*. I am not one for conventionalism, and the idea of a socially-dictated date for family bonding makes my blood boil. I am not one for presents, and find present-giving on fixed dates to be a pure celebration of consumerist debauchery -- Saint Marks&Spencer.

All this goes to explain why last xmas, while pretty much everybody ran away to their homes and families, or with their loved ones, or with their friends, I stood like a tree, firmly rooted in London.

I had great plans at first. I though I would study. Then I learned all the libraries would be closed for 12 days. Ok, I thought, the gym then, work hard on those muscles. Then I learned that the gym would also be closed. Ok then, I thought, let's do some tourism. This I finally did, and enjoyed the atmosphere of the city dressed in light with her lips painted neon, but let me tell you it was damn fucking cold.

So I spent xmas & New Year's Eve in London. It was nothing much, but it was all right. I had my time, time to walk and think and lose myself down the streets among the crowds, which I cherished. I also enjoyed some really good moments, and have some really cool people to thank for that.

And so now, after the whole xmas jazz, when others are returning to London, I go away, inverting the J&B commercial. I've come to Madrid for a week: the Ghost of Christmas Past is visiting.

* Nor am I particularly inclined to celebrate Saturnalia, Sol Invictus or the winter solstice.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

2009

May you all have a joyful, abundant, prosperous and unforgettable 2009! May it be full of riches and solid in health, ecstatic its every moment, epiphanic its every memory! Happy 2009!