Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Blues 2

29 years ago I was hitchhiking through Guatemala when I got a lift from a German Photo Journalist. We arrived at our mutual destination, a picturesque local market hidden among volcanic hills, home to a large native Indian population that had paganised the Catholic Church that had come to convert them.

We parked in a side street and as we left the car a scruffy young boy approached and offered to watch in case something happened, in return for a few pesos. The driver agreed and off we went to visit the town. Naively I asked him why he had agreed to this offer and he explained simply that the previous week he had been there and had declined; then he described the impressive scratch that rang the length of the passenger side of the car.

I was thinking of him this morning as I returned to finish yesterday’s frustratingly uncompleted car tyre change. In Guatemala the journalist had stopped several times on our journey to photograph the landscape and his speciality was to zoom in on the edge of the mountain range as the sun set behind, focussing in incandescent detail on the ragged, burning edge. He would have liked it here this morning.

I woke to the first frost of the almost-upon-us winter and as I reluctantly drove down from the hills to the interminable wait that a-waited in the valley I had to stop and marvel at the morning sky. Low on the horizon in the east a heavy grey bank of fog or cloud masked the rising sun and upper rim was sharp and clear against a pale winter blue, the hidden sun illuminating the crest so that it seemed like foam on distant braking waves.

Down by McDonalds I can’t see any of this so I stopped at the side of the now-skeletal vineyards and tried to absorb enough to get me through a morning of sitting once again in this shopping centre that smells of stale disinfectant and fish. Yesterday the mechanic, despite two weeks prior warning of my visit was unable to complete the job as one of the two mysterious wheel alignment bolts, or something, was the wrong length. He invited me to wait another two hours whilst he went off for his lunch plus however long it would take to piece everything together. I declined, freed the car and went home.

A second bursting bladder of the morning forced me to stop in the forest and it was then that I noticed that the two new tyres - the main purpose of my trip - had in fact been mounted. Did I really need to go back and replace a wheel alignment thingy that as far as I mechanically know doesn’t even exist? I was tempted to rub my hands in glee and vow never to return to crummyville, the system for once beaten.

But today the sun is shining, the fields are silver and I learnt a lesson from the German Photo Journalist.

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