Friday, 10 June 2011

The Festival Opens

Voices.  It is darker now.  The blue gone, the grey is going; marbles of white light float on black water; we feel it, its presence pushing against us.  We feel the night on the edges of the bay.  It is close to us.  And voices.  Muffled, raking, indistinct.  There are voices all around us.  Everywhere words, like pebbles under waves; we see large diaphanous hands in fine lace gloves; they pan the beach, moving it, shaking it, slowly.  The beach shifts, collapses; folds rise here and there.  Going under…  We hear a stone plunge in the near distance.  There are seagulls, and a dog barks.  The lampposts, sentries of light, they hold back the night, encroaching all about us.  We feel it, and see it as it squeezes between the posts, pushing onto the pavement…  They stand so still, and so silent; and they are strong – always they hold back the night.  To watch us, stare at us, staring us out.  We return to words, the loose phrases; we catch some laughter – a momentary shock, a thing we understand, sounds clearer than syllables.  There is relief in human utterance.  Someone shouts, and another and another; a sentence shoots up into the night sky!  We strain after it, amongst the voices all around us; the air a busy room, far too crowded to get in.  There is music, closer and louder; close now to where we stand; waiting patiently.

All around us people are talking, everywhere there are words; they are like leaves on the trees; and it is autumn now, and they fall all about us.  We walk around the square and between the crowds, we walk around and around up to our ankles in half-formed sentences…

They are enormous!  We see three silver heads carried on the shoulders of the crowd.  We see them and are curious.  Wolves’ heads floating on a dark sea; that swells lightly, and parts – a medieval carnival in mechanical dress walks past us.  In camera close up.  Huge!  Though their numbers are miniscule: three tarred figures inside three large rib cages, to carry these over-sized heads; the eyes electric lights.  They stare at us, and are gone.  A silence goes with them.

They march, and dance, and when they stop they watch us closely.  Lighthouses over a slowly swelling sea, in a city returned to its dark origins.  Turn off the lights!  Torches!  Bonfires only!  But no-one listens to me. 

There are moments when the crowd is quiet.  These moments are rare: one’s own words more interesting than the spectacle playing out before you.  Ears more important than eyes; the waves rise and fall, phrases come and go, and are gone.  I throw in a bucket to catch some…  My hairdresser has pink hair.  I imagine her in a pink home; she has painted her body in the same colours: invisible against the dining room wall.  I dress her in blue underwear.  Later I add a skirt of the same colour; pink circles spiral inside it.  A friend says paint her face in sky blue shades, and give her shoes to match.  I do.  Domestic Abstract No. 23, Slightly Tilted… Fifty five quid off Dinah! last week how he has grown; the weather is holding out…  How much more interesting to feel your own words caressing your own throat: a friend’s sentence an opportunity for a paragraph of your own.

They have come back.  Metal boats wobbling on choppy waters; voices amongst the moving crowd.  They pass, and people separate; the words thin out around me.  Now I see a silver mouse: a Wurlitzer on wheels; show time on the streets of Norwich.  They have gone.  The crowd rushes in; and I see three heads bobbing down the street…  Ever stranger.   They are a mystery, we do not understand, unable to pick up a ballet in fragments; here on the street, the waves spraying all around us.  A few patterns is all we see: soldiers on parade, a 19th century ball, and a kaleidoscope of gestures as they tack from side to side.  Off they go!  Marching back up the hill, the crowd tumbles and falls, breaking apart as they reel from side to side, in a dance; possibly a fight... 

Like children in that old tale we follow them until the end; until that final triumphant splash!  We talk less now, the waves are going out to sea.  At last we return to the square, safe before these unfathomable cavortings.  They stop suddenly.  They speak.  Their mouths full of sparks, they are talking to us in fireworks.  We look on.  We watch and are silent, until the last sentence scatters across the night sky.

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