Friday, 5 March 2010

A Mugging In The Country

So you spend your birthday alone. What do you do? You go for a walk on the hills. Walking and thinking go together: I’m alone with my thoughts. Mugging, and ‘being in the country’ don’t go together. So when, out of the blue, I’m knocked to the ground - mugged - on my birthday by a stray party-balloon - someone else’s birthday balloon at that - it’s not a happy birthday. 
I'm stood still, on the top of a hill, trying to photograph a sheep when, without warning, I'm attacked from the sky (an air raid?). It came from behind. Funny, von hinten (from behind) are the only two words of German I know (other than yes and no). Yes, an air raid - von hinten: I get a happy-slapping on my birthday from a balloon out celebrating some far-off stranger’s birthday!
After the attack - which leaves me flat on my back - the balloon hovers me. I'm pinned to the ground in its shadow, a shadow of indecision: is he going to mug me again or what? But as we regard each other (a couple of rear-regarders alone on a hill) from a safe-distance, I get to thinking: this is the only real contact with another breathing thing (he's full of gas and air - he breathes) I’ve had, and am likely to have all day. With this, I'm on my feet, arms (and legs) wide open: I call-up to the balloon (in English), “Come back down. Take me again. I’m ready for you this time. It’s my birthday.” 
But my desperate plea only seemed to frighten the mugger away; he climbed even higher into the sky. So I address him German. “Von hinten again, if that's the way you want it, I don't want to see the back of you. No. I do. Yes. Let's be rear-regarders, but…come back and take me”. 
Higher and higher climbed my rear-regarder, further and further – off - up into the blue. But the sheep I’d been trying to photograph, she clearly speaks German: upon hearing “von hinten”, she bolts for the woods.  
I watch my happy-slapper rise, until he becomes no more than a tiny dot, like a pinhole in the blue sky of a postcard (once pinned to a wall, but now released, yet forever scarred  - holed; marked like Jesus - he came down an mugged us, only to ascend again and watch over us). What a strange thing it is, when someone who has had such an impact on you - has been so large in you life - suddenly departs, and you're left watching them become smaller and smaller. There's not that much space between closeness and distance.
My mugger may have been full of hot air, but he was no mug: my mugger was a flaneur: a flaneur of the byways of the skyways. No, my mugger was one balloon that knew his Baudelaire: “But the true voyagers are those who move simply to move – like lost balloons! Their heart is some old motor thudding in one groove... Let us depart…when shall we set sail for happiness?

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