Wednesday, 29 January 2014


In the black yards of Thomastown, where the barber-shops and pot-scrub sellers open up, there the brine of long sea-days whitens all the window-panes. Down the end-on streets, the ships are bigger than the brick wall houses, huge towers in metal liveries.

The chimneys, the house-funnels, smoke and make a cloud on the rooftops. Lower than the high stratus, lower than the steamboat haze, the shilbottle reek falls in its occlusion as near the ground as air permits.

It falls like a fog upon the people, brazen, historic people, brought out of retirement or memory for us to revitalise in what now has made of us; more like a dream where interiors hold us in, familiar interiors which we could never describe in a waking word.

The director calls ‘Cut!’
The crowds of people making their grimy way along these shabby streets with tired purpose stop. Rather, they pause and regroup, pause and return with a more modern kind of haste to the end of the street. From out-of-sight places others join them, today’s others, in jeans and sweatshirts, around their necks wires and headphones, in their hands clipboards.

The hustle now is urgent. The crowd gathers in bunches. The jean-clad ones give delegated direction. Calls echo. Around corners old cars chug out and come to an idling halt. The crowds turn again, some facing down the street, some walking back to now-closed shop doors and awnings, all waiting like a turning tide to repeat what went before.

The director calls out ‘Cameras!’ The reply, ‘Rolling!’ repeats on the heavy air.

The mist is still low on the house-tops. The smoking chimneys smoke on, fuelled for effect rather than warmth. The occluded weather is real, a meteorological coincidence, a cinematic bonus. At the street’s end, the ships which tower are ferries, liners, cargo boats, all to be rendered old at a later date, for the sake of realism.

The director calls ‘Action!’

After a moment, a beat, the black back-yards of Thomastown waken up once more.

People appear. Doors swing wide and slam shut. Down the pavement, the barber-shop is opening, the monger pulls out his tattered awning. Footesteps gently sound on damp cobbles. The crowds are moving. Down the street now the chugging cars rattle, first one way, then the other, passing with a honk at careless walkers.

A woman steps out from a nearby doorway. Running towards her, a man in cap and overalls. He pulls up beside her, grips her arm. She pulls away. Face-to-face, leaning inward only just, they seem to argue. Gestures of frustration, resistance, anger and something more, pass the space between them. He tries to take her arm again, to pull her near. She takes one step away. He steps too. She swings an arm and slaps him hard. He holds his cheek, astonished. For a moment, rage, then he seems to wilt. His shoulders hunch as she turns and walks away.

The scene unfolding in our eyes is only part of the scene. We have not seen the cameras moving in to steal their glances. We have not seen the sound recordist and the booms, diving in like indistinct birds to hear their pained and hurtful words.

© BH 2012

Snapshot fiction. Well, I coined a phrase. Put this up on Wattpad but the much vaunted writing platform hasn't had much press and I never publicised it anyway. 
So much for cyber-excitement. 
This is just a scene reimagined by its own media. I've long been fascinated by the observer hidden in the observation. It's very Heisenberg, in my estimation. Or quantum. But I'm no scientist…

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