The light gleams an instant

Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time!  It’s abominable!  When!  When!  One day, is not that enough for you, one day like any other day, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you?  (Calmer.) They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.

Waiting for Godot

The most unsettling thing about going to see Waiting for Godot is that afterwards I find everyday conversations painfully reminiscient of sections of the play.

C: Did you get bread?

JP: Bread?

C: Bread.

JP: Was I supposed to?

C: I asked you to.

JP: For breakfast?

C: Yes.

JP: (wistfully) Some toast would be nice.

C: You need to go to the dairy.

He does not move.

Reading the back cover of my copy of Godot I have to agree with the original review from 1952: “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it is terrible.”  And fantastic.  Even though it’s not an English play it reminded me of a lot of older English TV comedy which was usually shot in one space and was just talking, talking, talking with silence inbetween.  It’s a very funny play, with moments of  terror:

Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave-digger puts on the forceps.  We have time to grow old.  The air is full of our cries.  But habit is a great deadener.  At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, he is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on.

It was disconcerting to sit in the audience.  The great homogenous, white audience.  Well dressed, well fleshed.  We sat and agreed to stare at two men pretending they were someone else.  The lady next to me constantly fidgeted and rattled her jewellery, and people always seemed to be kicking over the little plastic cups they had brought in with them.  Ceremonious apes.

Like me.

On Friday after work I went down to Island Bay with Eleanor.  I mostly have grown up in Wellington, but mostly lived in Khandallah, Ngaio and Karori.  It’s only since we came back to New Zealand and bought a house that I have lived near the south coast.  At first I found it disorientating, but now I love it.  The south coast of Wellington is beautiful.  Each bay as you drive around the coast seems to have a different character.

On the Friday in Island Bay I took this photo and thought: “A metaphor for the holidays”.  The first Friday afternoon of a holiday is a special time full of promise and possibility.  I remember it from when I was a student, and the feeling is the same as an adult although as an adult holidays tend to fill up with other things.  Still, looking at the photo you can’t help but see time all before us: a calm sea and a blue sky, boats restlessing tugging at their anchors and a headland on the horizon.

Of course time has a habit of running away on you.  The hour glass has it right.  At first there seems to be no movement at all in the sand and you can relax at ease until, quite suddenly, the sands shift, and sink, and then begin to drain at an alarming pace and you are left scrabbling to make the most of every grain.

I am going to Dunedin tomorrow to see my father’s sister, and I am taking this photo album with me.  It was my father’s photo album when he was young, and it starts with photos of him in the fourth form in 1945.  In almost every school photo he seems to look a little worried or ill at ease.  When he was only one his mother was placed in Seacliff and he was sent to live with his father’s sister and her husband in Clinton, along with an older cousin, a couple of uncles and a grandfather living around the corner in a shack.  It must have been a strange family to grow up in and although he became close to his cousin, and made friends at school, the boy in the school photos never looks happy.  In a note I have from his sister she talks about meeting with him when he was very ill and dying.  He told her that his earliest memories were of great unhappiness.

All of the people who lived in that house in Clinton have died.  In fact in 2010 I find myself rapidly running out of people I can ask about my father.  That is why I am going to see Aunty Isobel in Dunedin.  I want to show her the album and see what it stirs.  It will probably be a fairly exhausting trip but I have wanted to make it for a few years now.  Ever since Eleanor was born and I became someone’s father.  I feel like that is point that I began to actually wonder what my own father had been like.  Once, shortly after Eleanor had been born, I asked my mother half-jokingly if my father had been a typical 70s dad who left all the nappy changes and care to the mum.  She said, without hesitating, “oh no, he loved being a father.” 

It broke my heart. 

It still does.

I had better go now, pick Eleanor up and take her to the pool.  She loves the pool and I love taking her.  Listen, I am not one to give advise, but if you have the chance, go and enjoy the light that gleams with the ones you love.  There is not much certain except today.

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2 thoughts on “The light gleams an instant

  1. I suppose so. It’s simple and short with pleasing, honest lyrics. Cathy tells me one of the reasons it sounds nice is the change from minor to major. He died in a plane crash in 1973 and the song was a hit after he died, which makes the video quite sad.

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