Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Waiting at Schiphol

Airport lounges can be interesting places. I’ve been sitting by the library at Schiphol biding time during a layover. When I was here last year I roamed all over the airport, traipsing from one pier to another, taking in the sights, enjoying the slippery music that is the Dutch language. This time around I sit by a mock fireplace and watch other people do their roaming.  

I have a pair of books with me that I’ve been reading, “contrapuntally”, for the past few days. Amit Chaudhuri’s spry potraits of Calcutta and Nasreen Munni Kabir's interviews with the Indian poet, Gulzar. There is also a laptop, an iPad and an iPhone, all of which are intermittently coaxed to snare a WiFi signal and check Facebook. The books may be heavy with words but Facebook is the new oxygen.

A family comes to sit opposite me in the thick cloth armchairs. A mother with three young children; two girls and their younger brother. They are delighted by the faux fireplace and take turns touching the screen, amazed at not being burnt by the leaping flames. The older girl, gap-toothed with a wide grin, claims her mother’s cellphone and takes pictures. Her brother tries to steal into every scene. He is clearly the darling of the family, bouncing on chairs, mewling like a cat. He performs antics and they laugh with him, caught in the slipstream of his delight.  

A steady swirl of people walks by as we watch and wait. Corporate executives in smart suits, old ladies in wheelchairs, teenagers sagging under the weight of their backpacks. A flight attendant leads a young child by hand to her departure gate. A woman eats a plum. Across the hall, somebody sits down at a piano and starts to play. It is the theme from “Amelie.” We still ourselves and listen, immemorial in our brief, shared experience.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Listening to Collared Doves

I am homesick now for middle age, as then
For youth. For youth is our home-land: we were born
And lived there long, though afterwards moved on
From state to state, too slowly acclimatising
Perhaps and never fluent, through the surprising
Countries, in any language but one.

This mourning now for middle age, no more
For youth, confirms me old as not before.
Age rounds the world, they say, to childhood's far
Archaic shores; it may be so at last,
But what now (strength apart) I miss the most
Is time unseen like air, since everywhere.

And yet, when in the months and in the skies
That were the cuckoos', and in the nearer trees
That were deep-voiced wood pigeons', it is
Instead now the collared doves that call and call
(Their three flat notes growing traditional),
I think we live long enough, listening to these.

I draw my line out from their simple curve
And say, our natural span may be enough;
And think of one I knew and her long life;
And how the climate changed and how the sign-
Posts changed, defaced, from her Victorian
Childhood and youth, through our century of grief,

And how she adapted as she could, not one
By nature adaptable, bred puritan
(Though quick to be pleased and having still her own
Lightness of heart). She died twenty years ago,
Aged, of life - it seems, all she could do
Having done, all the change that she could know having known.

- E.J. Scovell

Saturday, June 01, 2013


When all this is over, said the swineherd,
I mean to retire, where
Nobody will have heard about my special skills
And conversation is mainly about the weather.

I intend to learn how to make coffee, as least as well
As the Portuguese lay-sister in the kitchen
And polish the brass fenders every day.
I want to lie awake at night
Listening to cream crawling to the top of the jug
And the water lying soft in the cistern.

I want to see an orchard where the trees grow in straight lines
And the yellow fox finds shelter between the navy-blue trunks,
Where it gets dark early in summer
And the apple-blossom is allowed to wither on the bough.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Site Meter