empty eyes, blackened fingernails, frayed cuffs, alone throng gets down and dirty
n.b. Nashville, Tennessee, ‘The Recording Capital of the World, (as I heard a man in a check shirt, jeans, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat label the place to two men incheck shirts, jeans, cowboy boots and cowboy hats), is a busy place on a Saturday around noon.
It is mighty crowded. The sidewalks too narrow to accommodate the people. The shops too small for the lines of customers. The Johnny Cash Museum fulsome of people buying tickets, lining up to enter its exhibition rooms, queues of others waiting to have a gander around the souvenir store.
The air is filled with the low throb of traffic congestion; the whoopin’ and a hollerin’ of open wagon loads of young-acting women and men drinking heavily. Every building that isn’t a boot store, or souvenir shop is a bar with a stage that positions a duo, a trio, or a full bandwith their backs to the sidewalk. The bass drums and cymbals, distorted guitars and amplified voices tumble, conflictingly onto the street.
All around groups of friends, couples, families, stag and hen parties, step around each other trying to agree where to go next, what to do, or hesitate to check their party retains some coherent form.
In the bigger bars, several storeys of open windows and roof top terraces are full of people standing and drinking, or sitting and eating, often with bands bashing out popular songswhich encourage customers to try singing along.
A plane passing close overhead on its landing flight path cannot be heard. If you add a couple of ambulance sirens, or a police vehicle’s whining to the cacophony, then you have a good idea of the unholy racket. Music City indeed!
Well, getting back to the senryū above, in the heart of this overwhelming nonsense, there are some very isolated people. They carry all their belongings in a plastic bag, or even a suitcase or two.
They are not of this tourist partyworld. The crowds so loud and busy there is no hope of being heard if asking for handouts. These sun-weathered ghosts just wander around, or sit in the not so rare boarded-up doorways, or just stand and stare, sometimes mumbling to themselves, maybe fumbling a rolling tobacco cigarette.
Hieronymus Bosch would have loved Nashville. On a Saturday lunchtime, a setting forthe centre panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights; at night the setting fit for Hell.
they have fallen sooner this year and faster than last autumn covering paths, slicking up roads laying on the Wensum's thin skin betraying the tide creeping under Carrow bridge sailing counter to the current
tonight will be clear the plane trees flaking bark boughs shorn of dressing have nothing to deflect falling frost can no longer carry the weight of murderous cold that pours from the stars submerging underpasses, flooding shop doorways
I went out to deliver a loaf of bread and spent time talking with my friend who was taking a few moments outside her front door taking in the bizarre combination of fresh air and tobacco smoke. She smokes quite theatrically, turning her head to the side when exhaling the toxic gases she has moments before inhaled quite deeply. I haven’t spoken to a smoker for many months and it was a novelty to observe her process.
A recent study from Kings College London showed how vulnerable smokers are to covid-19. As I may have mentioned before, I think that banning tobacco sales would have been a good move when the pandemic measures were implemented. If saving the NHS was such a big deal, why not remove one of the main sources of ill-health in the country (in the world!) from the market?
“It is my only pleasure” you might hear a nicotine addict say. Will they say that again when dying of pneumonia after having a lung removed and their loved ones witnessing their ghastly and untimely demise?
Rain started to fall as we stood about four metres apart. Here and there tiny white balls of ice fell that appeared too white and too light to be hailstones. They melted on touching the ground. Snow balls? The Inuit have a word for this form of precipitation I suspect.
As I cycled back home through Chapelfield Gardens two police officers were talking to a homeless man. One was writing into her notebook. The man’s worldly possessions, including a sleeping bag rolled up and tied with string, were lying under a bush. I hope the officers were able to direct him toward some support. They will have plenty of information to tap into. The question will be whether he wants any help they can offer.
The first lockdown illuminated the size of the street homeless population. It is a growing problem as jobs are cut and incomes fall due to the economic impacts of the pandemic and Brexit.
Goldfinches litter the air with their excited song. The days are a little lighter, despite the cloud cover.
n.b. There is a man who comes into Norwich to sell the fund-raising magazine The Big Issue. Sellers are the street homeless who are trying to find a way out of the no job – no money – no home – no job – no money loop. This guy never stops moving, never stops trying to engage the eye, never drops his smile.
I haven’t bought a copy from him yet. You know? I will now. His smile has won through.
n.n.b. St. Vitus, one of the “14 Holy Helpers” and patron saint of dancers.