Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Barrier

It is a magpie that is battling against the brick chimney pot. It can not go round yet neither can it go through. It is levitated there, almost static despite the flapping of wings balanced against the bulk of a body.


The Dixie chicken shop was the last one allowed to stay. It is shored up with red steel girders strapped into place at criss-crossing angles, buttressed with wedges of wood cut and inserted to make good the constant lean and sway of the end building in its changing weight distribution. This bares a reflection on the many changing temperature readings that crack and contract, thaw and spread not only the aged brick and mortar of this holding, but the London clay in which it is partially buried.

Beyond the chicken shop there is a large hole, a digger by the side, tunneling out muck and putting it to one side where it rises as a hill of loose earth, clods of clay and stone in equal measure, an inverse of the hole.

The tracks are being put down just behind this operation. They run the length of the absent buildings then tunnel underground when they come to the Dixie Chicken just before the turn in the road, which is in fact, a bridge. Behind the tracks there is a Pentecostal red brick building with a small Cross on the top and a flapping white banner attached to the outer wall that reads "Church of the Pentecostal reaching out to all the Community". Traffic continues to thunder down the road. Behind the church is the burnt out remains of a Victorian building, its roof blackened and punched in. Every side of the building is heavily caged in strips of dull silver metallic scaffolding with the struts of plank-wide walkways interspersed and looped around its body at meter intervals.

Rising above the road, past the main junction now sealed and boarded with blue placards to all but pedestrian single file commuters are the steel and wooden frames of the high rise buildings. Men in yellow jackets, picked out on this cold sunny morning from the buses and the streets below, can be seen here and there on this level or that. Most of the floors are now sealed enclosures with panels of glass running and wrapping around the skeletal blocks bouncing back out the sun on this particular day. But a few however remain open. Men stand daringly at the edges.

In the foyer the furniture is arranged into groupings. There are wide leather settees, low tables, then more settees. There is the distant echo of footsteps, the sound of voices and the occasional raised voice over at the bar. There's an unspoken rule of silence over around the settees. Some people have their lap-tops flipped open. A toddler walks around eyeing anyone with food from behind the sofas. He opens and clenches his hand. Then puts it to his mouth. Another child is being swung by the arms by two women.

The child keeps arriving in a different spot further from before. The other toddler runs behind this pogo step. Then overtakes and runs in front. They all disappear behind the black folds of a curtain that runs along the far back wall.

Uniformed Stewards approach. I am eating a green apple, saliva nearly escaping from my mouth.

The steward asks me to leave. They are clearing the space of all the furniture for an event later in the evening. Then he goes on to someone else. With each whisper somebody rises.

I go and sit down on a similar sofa above the foyer near the bar. Pink helium balloons are attached by long strings on to the sides of prams. Women and children sit together below this display.

There is another level below the bar that one would almost fall into if it were not for the low glass barrier at the end of the sofa.

There are more chairs and sofas down in the semi darkness at this level that I can see through to through the transparent smoke glass barrier. Crammed shoulder to shoulder on these settees are sleeping men. They are dressed in many layers with rough shaven faces raw from the cold. Some of them clasp cans of beer even in their sleep.

The event is a film showing of a concert given in Ramallah behind the concrete security wall involving people from both sides of the conflict. The Jewish Musicians unlike the Palestinian members of the orchestra, were ferried in with military protection, allowed to play, then ferreted back out to the airport where they were flown over the 4 meter thick wall before they even had time to change out of their formal black and white dress. They never got to walk in the streets at all or do normal things with the other members whom daily they rehearsed with and with whom they gave this moving performance "At the heart of the conflict". Everyone was nervous about this concert which was only just allowed to take place under these strict conditions.

I pass red suitcases on the way home. They are in a doorway creating a kind of wall- almost a barrier- behind which people stay.

The Violinist could not help herself; her camera paused on the gap in places as she was being driven to the airport. It was already evening but still the bulldozer worked.

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