Metz, France 1974
I am probably four, its my first school year and my parents told me it was a time I was madly in love with my teacher. We have settled here for a few months but I am well accustomed to move from places to places. In the last 18 months a major change has occurred though, insofar as we have upgraded our short stays from a large caravan on wheels usually sitting on a deserted suburban parking to centrally rented and fully furnished flats. People here have a funny accent I think but little I know it would not take me long to pick it up myself before having to off load it on our next stop a few months later.
For the time being I enjoy the snow on this cold day of December 1974 even though logistical constraints mean that I am confined to spend the entire day in our 3 rooms flat. Living on the last floor of a seven storey building there is no way I can be left unsupervised in the playground by -2 Celsius.
So I have retired to my parents bedroom, I like to climb on their bed as I have a access to a small window overlooking the busy train station. The 'lucarne'' is small and half covered with frost in contrast with the warm flat. Its fascinating to observe such a hive of activity thru this little look on.
From right to left, my field of vision is full with loads, reloads and off loads of people and merchandise. I notice some people are wearing uniforms while others (I call them civilians) are engulfed in their winter coats but all of them seem to have in common that they know what they are doing , their demeanour is assertive albeit brisk sometimes but always in a motion that doesn't display any form of insecurity or suggest uncertainty.
Even though I would love to board one of those carriages I can not help asking myself where those train railcars and fancy locomotives are coming from and where they are going to?
Sofia, Bulgaria 1991
A trip for a soul badly needing repair took me to the Bulgarian capital for reasons that still somewhat escape me today. I have no clue why I had picked that destination, was it some adventurous eastern exploration, or some aspiration to experience the deceleration of the engine called the communist block.
Indeed, shortly after the Wall fell I went thru a central and eastern european roaming spell that had already taken me on a night train to Poland thru East Germany. That was the year before but prior to that trip I had also journeyed for more than 25 hours over to Budapest on a cramped bus. I had also added Prague as a curiosity destination just to see what it looked like a few months earlier.That was long before it got fashionable to spend a week end in the Czech capital.
February in Bulgaria is cold and I stand out like a sore thumb among the other pedestrians. My base ball cap and navy parka makes me look like a Marine on a day off and it is not helped by the fact that I am wearing rangers boots to protect my feet from the cold. I am staying in a very cheap and average hotel which oddly enough saw an anti mafia raid taking place the second morning I was there.
A big bang at the door suddenly left place to three officers barking at me some obscenities in a language I did mot master. I went to pick my passport and they retreated with incredulity once they saw my ID. There was a few unidentified insects crawling back to my room when the elite policemen slammed the door without a word.
I wandered for a few days in Sofia with no particular plan, my itinerary was led by instinct, mood and curiosity. I found a pizzeria owned by Macedonians, they spoke a bit of English and it became my HQ.
One day the owner asked me why I was there, in a town where by all means I seemed to be the only westerner. I looked at him and he got somewhat dumbfounded by my reply: '' if only I knew man, if only I knew! '' .
Dublin, Ireland 2018
That was then. These days I am slightly older if not any wiser, I am about to enter into my fifth decade and have firmly concluded two life decades in Ireland. We had a very strong and unusual episode of snow in the recent weeks so much so that schools had to be closed and people were advised to remain indoors. Trains were not working and many events were called off.
My eldest is passing an entry exam with the secondary school he will attend next year. Its close enough from where we live , it has beautiful grounds including great sport facilities. I love the pottery cottages and small houses labs near the Hockey pitches. There is a youthful atmosphere emanating from the campus, it reminds me of Harry Potter that's probably not even remotely true but that's the closest benchmark I can come up with.
My son will enter his exam room later but only after parents and pupils have attended a welcome speech from the head master. I am not sure what he says but he is busy answering inquisitive questions from anxious and zealous parents. I think it is closer to an interrogatory than a bunch of candid questions about logistics and fees.
I have zero interest in mind games or ping pong exchanges so I detach myself from the room and begin to intensely stare at the perfectly manicured lawn. I sense a change. What it is I don't know and I am very unsure I can even start to explain let alone describe it in physical terms.
The best I can think of is a tangible sentiment of time shift, a peaceful alteration to the journey , a palpable invitation from soft voices to begin another voyage.
The head master has finished his introductory speech and everybody gets up.
People and stuff
Mediocrity in life
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Written Material Copyright 2018 - Pascal Derrien -