Above and beyond

I haven’t really written anything in a while. My adventures abroad are over for the time being, and coming home brings a necessary and pleasant whirl of people and pubs, jobs to do and hunt for and other things that distract.

However, it’s all calming a little now, and I have been thinking that one of several things I gleaned from my travels was that I quite enjoy writing, something which I had almost forgotten over the past few years. So, while I wait for the various people with jobs I don’t want to not get back to me, I have put my notebooks back in my pocket again. There is the possibility that sooner or later one of these people might, God forbid, employ me, and then I’ll be wishing I had all the time I have now.

Earlier today, I came across a site listing short story competitions. I have no wish to enter one, but it was interesting to see the various set themes – the subject matter considered suitable for modern writing. Recession seems to be a tedious forerunner, along with responsibility issues and sustainable travel (prizes generally being publication in a magazine read only by other people published in the magazine), but there also seems to be a nice sideline in fantasy, science-fiction and horror-writing competitions. One competition, quite possibly church-affiliated by its non-competitive wording, wanted stories about angels. I have one.

In fact, it’s more about antisocial behaviour. A few months ago, walking down a riverside path on one of Stockholm’s islands at about 9am on a wintry Sunday morning, fresh off an overnight train from Narvik, the river still full of ice, I saw a piece of the most pleasing vandalism I’ve encountered in ages. There was a street sign by the path – a white-on-blue silhouette of an adult and child holding hands, presumably to remind cyclists and roller-bladers that families used the path, so not to go steamrollering over them like some hippy wanker nearly did to me in Hyde Park the other week. Only here, someone had stuck some white paper wings on the adult figure. There was something simple and quite sweet about it, and it gave me an odd sensation of nostalgia. A brief wish, gone pretty much straight away when I actually thought about it, that I could have my own army of guardian angels again.

These days you almost never think back to the time when you didn’t have to sort out your own difficulties. But for several years of my life, as most of us did, I tottered about in search of adventure knowing that if things went wrong there was always someone around to sort it out. Heady days when I was in the business of seeking out problems rather than finding my way out of them, and discovering the world at my own pace.

As an illustration, there was an occasion while I was still tiny when my mum and a family friend took me to Fountains Abbey on a picnic. Of course, as soon as I was released from my pram, I began crawling determinedly towards the biggest hazard in the vicinity, in this case a large pond. My mother made to fetch me back, but our friend, who knew a little of child psychology, said that it was a fact that a child of such an age would not venture more than a certain number of feet from its mother. I did not look back, and a few moments later he was up and running to prevent me from prematurely terminating my short existence.

I on the other hand will have been having a wonderful time being the king of exploration, and was I am sure scarcely aware of being rescued. There is no feeling of security to compare to that of being small and protected, and walking by the river in Stockholm I had a momentary longing for it once more.

Of course the feeling soon passed. After all, there is something deeply pleasing about the notion of consequence, and besides, I think I probably still am surrounded by angels of a sort, only these days they’re just people who do the right thing in the right place at the right time, often quite unaware of the significance of their actions. Also, if one is talking about a deus ex machina to swoop in and deliver one from difficulties then a Super Puma helicopter did me pretty well just lately.

I imagine, however, these were not quite the sorts of observations the short story people were looking for.

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