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Monday, May 7, 2012

on days like this

I should probably research the provenance of Labour Day, it probably lies in Karl Marx and his theories of a just society and proper economy. Things that broke down in practice, but everything breaks down in practice. I remember reading once that  communism is the equal sharing of misery and capitalism would then be the equal sharing of opportunity but it’s not really. So every labour day we celebrate the worker. On a day that’s named for what most workers really are the labourers, the ones who push and push for hours in a dark, deserted ward. Surrounded by doctors and an expectant family outside  but in truth alone in a sea of pain and hope. The worst thing about this labour is that it’s usually for someone else. A child put up for adoption without consent. So every Labour Day governments around the world raise the minimum wage, the minimum taxable wage actually.

This labour day I was woken up by a phone call a friend asking if we wanted to go on a boat. The answer is always yes to this question. The sun was shining and the sea that had previously looked so foreboding angry with a dark shade of grey was now blue with possibility. We met her at the pier and got on the boat.

“Do you want to go fast?”
not the actual boat just a pic from the internet, but how it felt

And off we set. Boats are amazing things, riding them is an amazing thing. It’s not a passive experience to be on a boat, if you go fast it’s an active process. There are speed bumps everywhere, wavelet after wavelet crashing into the brow. The speeds we were going at meant that every time this happened we would have a little jump, then another, then another. And it’s not like being on a road. On a road the jumps aren’t smooth, and they are too far away from each other to develop any sense of rhythm. If you drive too fast you risk ruining the chassis of your car, or its undercarriage or carburettor or whatever’s under there. On a boat you let loose. You go faster as you come to a wave, you crest it with pride and soon you become part of the motion of the ocean. You learn to let yourself go as the boat goes up and fly with it, then come sailing back down to your seat so that it doesn’t hurt too much. Then the boat starts talking to you and you know when to do this. When I rode a horse for the first time the instructor told me, “just relax it’s like riding a woman.” Well about a boat, it’s like riding a horse, you let yourself go and listen to its needs and soon you can respond instinctively, you don’t have to think or do after some time just be.

But there’s the spray. The temperature was maybe 18 degrees but the sea did not know this; instead we got a constant spray of ice-cold water. It splashed in my face till I had a headache and I was shivering and chattering from it. It splashed all over my trousers and I had a wet stain in the place you don’t want to have a wet stain because people will look at you as you go home and think you either have very bad bladder control or had a very good lap dance, neither of which are very endearing. I looked back at my friend at the helm of the boat. It was the kind of boat where the captain stands and has her hair pulled out rolling a strawberry blond carpet all over the air. The splash didn’t bother her and the hair just made a better picture. There was something refreshing about this vision it was as though the world was hers and just as we bowed in submission to the sea  I did too to this. My mind told me that I had to get married to a woman who could ride a boat, and then I said the next thing that followed that thought.
“Oh you make me so wet.”
The cold reality of the present winning out over the ideal fiction of the moment yet again

When you ride slowly it’s an immersive experience. At sea everything succumbs to the seduction of the water. Everything bows down and quiets out. A bird caw is the only call you can hear somewhere far out in the distance. There is no splashing of the water on the waves,just the water and it looks solid. It looks like the ground except its moving and shifting, probably the only thing that Jesus and pins have in common is that neither of them break the surface tension. Right then I felt like I could do it too. Like if I just listened enough to the sound and caught the waves at the right crest, if I just let me follow them down it would be ok and i could walk off into the mist.

We came to the boat house soon enough and her father asked me that most famous of questions
“Do you like Norway?”
“Sometimes, on days like today with the sun out like this it’s nearly perfect.”

We got back to town around 2 pm and I couldn’t see myself going home luckily everyone agreed and we decided to rendezvous at the beach. (Various purchases tore apart our group.) Later I went to the beach. Now in truth this is not a beach, it’s a tiny little replica. Its 200 metres long and maybe 80 wide. But it has sand and a volleyball tent and there are people here when the sun shows its beautiful rays. All my housemates had ditched and I didn’t feel like giving up a beach day or a few kroner of credit to call them up so I took off my shoes and walked on it. It feels good to have sand between your toes. The grains caress them ever so lovingly, thousands and thousands with every step. Maybe that’s why it feels so good. As you walk on a beach your titan likestep encompasses all these little globes. Then I sat down and sun basked.
It’s not till you leave Kenya for a while that you understand it. It’s not till then that you realise why every tourist takes themselves to coast and even visiting relatives break off a little of the short time they have to visit Mombasa before they have to come back to cold, cold Europe. When you don’t see her for a while the sun is the best girl you ever knew. She’s warm and welcoming, she makes you feel good without even trying, she fills you with energy, the light of your life and all you want is to close your eyes as she kisses you. Because when she kisses you it all goes red. And I sat like that for a while with my eyes closed and my skin to the sun.

Then I continued walking. Stopping to say hallo to these girls who were also enjoying the day out. I had decided that the flashes of daredevilry need to be more common and that a hallo is such a small thing to lose for all the possibility that comes behind it.
“Please sit down” one of them said.

When the sun began to leave I decided to too. It’s always better to walk away anyway. On the way I had the patter patter of a basketball. And saw a group of people I know. The thing about living in a small town is you meet the same people over and over again. The streets are not crowded enough that anonymity is given. There is no cloak of invisibility just a coat of familiarity after a while. And when you know someone for some reason you begin to really see them. If I haven’t talked to someone i can pass by them in the street 100s of times and still not see them but conversation and shared experience has this bond it creates. Your mind now begins to look for the familiar and find it. Patterns are established ad the pattern of a small town is easy enough to predict, expect to see everyone. My housemate was there too having chosen the game over the beach but I couldn’t blame him basketball can be a beautiful game.

It took no time to convince me to play. We formed a team and began the game. It took very little time for the feel of the ball to come back to me. Soon I was passing and stealing and missing baskets just like the old days. Sports when played properly is almost like a dance. A properly gelled team is a symphony of talent and harmony. The sounds people make are irrelevant instead there are things like hand gestures and false starts. There is instinct and forgiveness given to those who dare. The ball can be whipped around going this way and that and back again, the whole time the people playing are moving, looking for an advantage, a little extra space, a spare moment. The other guys are moving too, pressing in and inching closer. The ball finds hands and the backs of baskets, there are moments of silence. Moments where the only thing interrupting the patter patter of the ball is the breath of the players, released in a measured manner and the sound of their footsteps and soon the hand gestures are replaced by looks and telling glances. Instinct seems to take over and when you watch a team playing well against another team it’s not all those people it’s just two entities locked in a dance to the win. This game was not nearly at this level. At moments we approached it but my lack of fitness caught up with me much faster than my lost talent could, we won a few and lost one but it felt great to play sports again.

Getting home at nine and the beginning of twilight was still in its infancy.

And do I like Norway? On days like this it’s perfect.


  1. Your labour day post inspired mine: http://savvykenya.tumblr.com/post/22593337805/labour-day

  2. just checking out the comments system on this thing