house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Eddie and Jill

On Saturday morning, in Kathmandu, I'm walking, sight-seeing, glued to buildings, legs shaking just a tad. My head feels unstuck; it swivels and wobbles entirely on its own volition, like one of those toy-dogs in the back windows of cars. Up it goes: watching out for electrical wires (hanging in garlands and knots overhead); checking for loose bricks; scanning for escape routes from mopeds, cars, dogs, rubble, souvenirs.

And those old windows. There's something wondrous about windows in Kathmandu. Dark wooden frames, elaborately carved and elevating naked brick walls to a state of art. It's as if somewhere along the way builders said to themselves "Hey lads. Let's forget ring beams, posts, all that structural namby pamby: windows! That's what makes a building last."


M. pulls me inside a house, and I discover another secret of structural strength: dragons with curved rams' horns, standing in each corner of the room.
'Why?' I whisper.
'Shh...' he bats me back.
'But why?'
'We're going now.'
'And what were all the dragons doing when the earthquake...'
But we're already out in the street and my head is swivelling for survival, and the words disperse in the beeping and the bells and the dust of the day.

Bells, here's another thing - temples are equipped with bells on strings. People pull bells when they pray, presumably to alert the gods that a greeting / request / reminder / final demand is on its way. This happens at any time of the day, or night. Bells everywhere, clinkety clink, bells, bells. The gods must be deaf, otherwise they'd be gathering brimstone in cloud-shaped baskets by now, their eyes narrowed to blades. Or bugging humans for some paracetamol.

Improbably, we're going to an Eddie Izzard show. Even more improbably, we find a taxi and it takes us there without killing a thing along the way. Eddie's great, but the real event is seeing my friends Jill and Shane after 11 years. Even now, they might not make it. They've spent the day in hospital with a severe sprain - which should be mine, incidentally, after my first encounter with the streets of Kathmandu - but instead adorns their son's ankle after a more memorable encounter with his trampoline.

They're here! They look exactly the same. Something scratchy behind my eyes, something warm. Hug Shane. What do you say, after 11 years? "Eeerrr, hello..." Hug Jill. The hug goes on and on and on. I think people are staring. "11 years..." I hear someone say, a friend of Jill's I think.  "11 years?" Jill whispers. "Don't ever do that to me again." My head has stopped wobbling; now it's my chin. I'd like to find one of those temples, one of those bells and pull, "eeerr, hello? Just calling to say thanks. And here's some paracetamol, from the UK..."

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