Saturday, 19 January 2008 evening with Norah

I picked her up about seven from the Grosvenor hotel on Park lane. As soon as I stepped in it was as if I had been transported back to 1897. The hotel was so Victorian that a portrait of the monarch who lent her name to that era adorned the walls as you walked in. The hotel lobby was a marriage of oak and leather with the furnishings, subtle and homely. I announced my name to the butler (not a concierge) and picked a discreet seat in the corner to wait for Miss Jones. My wait was a surprisingly short one as I had barely begun twiddling my thumbs when the butler ushered her in my direction. I momentarily forgot my manners and remained attached to my seat. She was a vision. She wore a black and white polka dot dress with a black sash across the middle. Her lips were bright red to complement the ruby slippers that decorated her feet. She reminded me of Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz. As she smiled and extended her hand towards me, the analogy became the realer as I instantly lost my brain, my heart and my courage. I mumbled out some words that bore some resemblance to my name and an introduction. Her coy smile indicated that perhaps the words had not manifested themselves in quite the order that I had rehearsed them.

The walk to the car is an awkward affair, punctuated only by perfunctory questions that I already knew the answers to. The autumnal leaves swirled around us in earnest and brought with them a melancholy sort of surrender .The car allowed for the silence to be broken. The husky vibes of Tom Waits filled the air upon ignition. We are now on terra firma. We spoke of the sterling job she had done in updating the Waits Classic “The Long Way home”. She speaks of him in revered terms and it is clear that his music has been a major influence.

She is a meatarian and I rejoice at this fact. There is therefore only one place in London to take her to. London can be quite magical in the fall and it was a day that was, thankfully, without seasonal rain. I suggest that we drive halfway to the restaurant and walk the remainder of the journey. I regret the suggestion on utterance but, surprisingly, she agrees, apparently oblivious or immune to the possibility of autograph hunters. This is London she says. No-one troubles you. Well, not unless you are David Beckham she says. I laugh.

I had the foresight to provisionally book a table at the Gaucho but unfortunately lacked the wisdom to say that I was myself a celebrity. We waited as our table was prepared by the unhurried Argentine waiters. We are seated at a quiet table near the entrance to the kitchen and presented with the menus. We share a plate of ham and cheese empanadas for starters. As the main course I select the Gran Parrillada which is a glorious ensemble of grilled lamb chops, bife de cuadril, chorizo pinchos, Morcilla, sweetbreads and marinated chicken dressed with chimichurri. Norah orders a cheeseburger. She is a cheap date. We submerge the victuals with one and three quarter bottles of Ch√Ęteau Beychevelle which is, to my mind, the greatest red wine God ever made. I find that it also serves as the bedrock for the most humorous and agreeable of conversations. We remained in the Gaucho until closing time, laughing, smiling and joking, with the ease of a couple who had been in pleasant acquaintance for many years.

We both wanted the evening to continue so we returned to her hotel room, beyond the paternal gaze of the butler and her security staff. We tumbled into Room 314 and I immediately spotted a Spanish Guitar in the corner. A little alcohol stirs in me the restless spirit of a failed musician and I found myself grabbing the guitar, strumming a few chords and singing a song I had written long ago. She sat on the edge of the bed gazing intently into my eyes as I stood there, strummimng, swaying and singing. I was unsure if the intoxicated look in her eyes was more to do with the good Monsieur Beychevelle or as a result of my warbling. I did not care. She rose from the bed and glided towards me. The effortlessness of her movement made me conclude that she actually found my singing agreeable. She put one finger to my lips and the very touch murdered rationality. Suddenly we were back in Oz again. No brain. No heart. No courage. She drove and I became passenger. She carefully slid the guitar over my stiff, rigid shoulders, holding my eyes all the time with hazel tinged intensity. The ensuing embrace is a moment that froze time. The gaze remains. It is intense and describes desires that a tome of a million words could not. Her hand is on my waist and I feel it’s softness as it creeps under my shirt and works it’s way up my back………



real world. 2007

My reverie is rudely interrupted by my friend who pokes me in the ribs. After all the warm up acts, Norah is finally on stage. The soothing chords of “Sunrise Sunrise” fill the auditorium and I begin to love her all over again.

Friday, 4 January 2008

On......the aftermath of the accident

He thumped the car brakes. The action was a token one. The impact was to be full and comprehensive. Metal, glass and acrylic fused with skin and bone, forcefully and finally. The horrific union was interrupted only by the perforation of human organs. Wounds shortly gave way to the lamentation and gushing of blood. The thick viscous liquid disregarded the amalgam of metal and flesh, flowing freely and disdainfully in various directions, relentlessly seeking all available avenues in its escape. The pain, as is often the case, was the last thing to come. It arrived, like a corrupt dictator, with an unnecessary entourage and staggered ceremony. It had neither the courtesy nor the consideration to fixate itself in the areas of direct impact. It raced through his entire body with the speed of a bush fire in the harmattan months. The accident was complete save for the immovable, irrefutable shock that transfixes its victim. The kind of shock that causes temporary paralysis and tricks the mind into believing, for a split second, that your injuries are not severe.

This was not yet the time for remorse or for reflection. This was not the time to mentally recreate the events that led to the accident, to question what manoeuvres could have been executed differently to avoid the pedestrian and the traffic light.

This was not the time for pity and penance. It was not yet time to question the madness of drinking the cocktails of vodka, tequila, gin and that obscure punch drink yet still insisting that you had the wherewithal to drive home. This was not the time to curse the friends who should have wrestled you to the ground and ordered you a taxi.

This was not the time for regret or repentance. This was no time to start thinking about loss and the overwhelming baggage that it brings with it. It was not time to think about the two seconds it took you to partially overtake the car in front of you. Two seconds for a lifetime of guilt. A poor trade.

All those emotions are for another day as you lay in the hospital bed recovering from your wounds, praying that God give you the strength to one day recover from the mental anguish of stealing the lives of two people.

This was the time to feel scared, helpless and mortal as you remain attached to the dashboard, with the lifeless body of your best friend by your side and the other hapless victim somewhere between the car, the road and the leaning traffic light.

This was the time for realisation and revoked responsibility.