Thursday, November 08, 2007

Catching the last post on Plymouth Hoe

I borrowed a fine house in an exclusive district of Santa Monica some years ago, all set for a writing retreat. It would have been an oasis of calm, but for the leafblowers.
As a kid I loved jumping in November leaves. As I grew up I loved sweeping them up. Mechanical leafblowers are one of the horrors of modern living. You no longer fill yourself with those spores, that early thrill of leaf mould. Instead diesel fumes choke the air, and men who might otherwise be gardeners wear headphones to smother the mechanical din.
A leafblower was working the gardens of Plymouth Hoe in front of my window this morning. I blocked it out, and managed to write on. Then with the brief staccato of a snare drum a new sound was invading.
I didn’t mind this one though. Plymouth Hoe turns with the seasons. Last Sunday the promenade was filled with workers erecting a funfair. It kicked into life on Monday evening, lights spinning music blaring girls screaming, and then sank into silence at 10pm. By the morning all signs of it were gone. This was part of Bonfire Night … our British version of Independence Day and a fiesta, celebrating the fact that our Parliament buildings were not torched all those centuries ago. The skies above Plymouth were ablaze with fireworks shooting out of the military citadel compound, twenty glorious minutes of explosive dazzle from 8pm. Thousands crammed Hoe gardens, which I am more used to sharing with dogwalkers and a few skateboarders. Then they strolled back down the hill to their homes and to bed.
The snare drum marked the beginning of a rehearsal for next Sunday. November 11th, the 11th hoursof the 11th day of the 11th month, will see troops stationed around the war memorial as they were today. This marks the signing of the armistice in the First World War. These marines and sailors are remembering those who died in service. The memorial here in Plymouth is tended by the war graves commission, because of course many of those who died at sea know no other grave. An old lady was arranging flowers beneath the inscribed name of a dead sailor as the rehearsal took place around her.
As a trumpet blew out the last post, I ended a section of my new novel. I wrote on, and paused a while later to stand in the old fashioned way for the national anthem, my window now open to receive the fullness of sound. As I later laid my pen down for the day, the band struck up a bouncy medley and marched themselves back to their citadel.
I don’t care for leafblowers, but it is pleasing when writing fits into the seasons of other people’s lives.

1 Comments:

Blogger pundy said...

A rather moving - and optimistic - post which gave me plenty of food for thought.

Thank you.

4:40 PM  

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