In the heart of the night of travel

Bubbles of small pain like the bends rising from the depth of sleep, make me wake. I messed with my neck on a chair the other day ow ! Through the dark wet window are the gumtrees scribbly lines and smudge against the dark misty sky and below the sill line, way below, a shellowing creek rushes along down the rocks and through the fallen trees, grass, bark and creek paraphenalia.

It is the dark heart of the bush out there, and on the roof, slight soft raindrops fall, in the house, the only sounds are the clocks, tick in bathroom, tock in loungeroom, clunk in den.  Clocks, its 3.30am on the quiet bedside digital, the radio alarm has a few hours to wait. I’m awake and the dark heart of the night is time to think over what just happened out there, time to pray for the kids.

A lone bird whoops down the creek and the frogs croak, then go back to sleep.  There are no peepers here, where I live, but I know they used to be there when I woke in New England, no Sydney frogs are a bit different, like the people I suppose.

So here in the heart of the night, with the clocks and the creek, the occasional frog, and bird, and the sounds.  I get a chance to reflect on the things that happened in the last rush of a crazy trip where the minarets cry Allah, and the sands fill your pockets, and the trains go fast, and the limo drivers smile, and the tourists are stressed.

Sand, hot wind and sand, i felt it, brought in from the Kingdom’s Al Khobar’s hot streets and Brighton’s sunny beach, I didn’t declare the grains in my clothes. But what happened to the chalk smooth pebble I found on the beach in Worthing ?

The sounds of the people in Brighton, where the new pier is brightly lit, alongside the old one, burnt out,  with traces of the past still clinging to it.  In England the South Downs looked familiar with green hills and narrow roads, and nice places to get lost, and traffic jams to get stuck in.

But don’t forget Paris, didn’t you go there for the weekend ? Didn’t you meet so many people, etrangere, passer’s by ?

Yes the Eurostar, got on at St. Pancras International, and was fine headed for Paris, under the channel separating Albion from Gaul and not providing the fine view of the chalky cliffs of dover, but then speeding out from ground at Calais and over to Lille, where turning sharp south it travels fast down map into Paris.  At the Gare du Nord, the train pulled in.  Paris, ah, so full of people from all over the map, and so Parisien. I stepped outside the Gare, to use  my phone, and others also were there on their blackberrys.  Salesmen in suits with an earpiece, talking to themselves in the sunshine, talking of gas fields in Algeria, and Turbines, and such. Inside getting Metro tickets in a queue, since the machines don’t like my Australian bank. For this trip I tried the cheapest hotel I could find in Paris, and at 39E + tax for the night it was a good one.  The hotel, out near the Universite Rene Descartes, was a Formule1.  Excellent value really.  So alone for the evening I walked by and by down the rue ‘Porte de Chatillon’ from Metro Porte D’Orlean and checked into my little automated room. Clean, quiet, and a place to call home for the evening.

It was in the evening around 7pm I went walking and got a crepe on the street down to Alesia, and then decided to take it easy that evening and go back to the hotel.  Walking back, on the way to the hotel, I was stopped by a lady, who might have been from somewhere in North Africa.  Initial thoughts on someone stopping you, is they want money, which is generally the case, so I generally prepare a phrase in my mind, that goes, ‘Non !, Merci !’ or somesuch probably quite rude thing to say when you think about it, but you don’t have time to think normally.  Anyway In this case, the woman asked ‘as tu un plan pour la route ver a Porte de Chatillon?’ So I said ‘Non ! Merci !’ and left walking back, and then thought about what she said.  It took a while for me to figure oh okay, she wanted a map or wanted to find her way to the Porte de Chatillon.  I guess I could have helped out really.  I should have quickly pulled out my blackberry, and called up google maps and then showed her how to get there on the blackberry.  Still it was just up the road, so she probably would have made it ok.

The next morning came, and it was my dear son’s birthday, he lives in Paris now, works at the Polytechnique in Palaiseau, so glad to have been there that weekend.  We ate at the restaurants at the top of the rue ‘de la Butte aux Cailles’, in the southern 13th Arr. part of Paris, where the food is great, and the people are Parisien, but not too crowded. The Fete de la commune was having a singing dancing affair that day in the square that saturday, complete with stage, minstrels, hurdy gurdy player, singer and lutes and dancing caroles. 

He has a black mantlepeice in his small apartment in Paris, not far from Glaciere Metro.  Thats where the chalk pebble is now,. I remember I put the round white grey thing down carefully arranged.  It looks good there now, along with Gabrielles bit of polished gumtree wood beside.

On my return to the UK, and at the Gare du Nord, an american tourist from San Francisco was out of breath, panicky, and lost at the Eurostar terminal.  A french lady was trying to help her in english and figure out where she should go.  I joined the conversation and the french lady spoke to me in french on behalf of the american, I replied in my best French and this was then translated to English for the American.  I said ‘hello’, the french lady said ‘merci bien, tu parle en anglais ?, ‘oui madame, je suis Australien’.  The french lady didn’t mind but smiling back, left me to the help out the American, who badly needed a smoke, in a non smoking Gare.

Flying is so convenient of course, but my Saudi visa said in small arabic writing, that I could only enter the Kingdom by land.  I guess my booking clerk didn’t do the figuring right, and couldn’t read the visa, so I got stranded, had to be driven over instead.. lovely Bahrain..Al Khobar,..mysterious kingdom of oil under the sands, where in the streets the women wear dark, and the men wear bright.

So here in the heart of the night, in the dark, and in the morning, it is evening in Brighton where the lights are still burning with laughter on the pier, and it is later in Paris, but the bars are still full, and it is even later in the Kingdom, where the oil still bubbles up like nitrogen into the pipes to power the planes that get me around the place, and the Gare du Nord is still busy with tourists lost and stressed no doubt about it… en francais, en anglais and other lingua.

Still the heart of the night here in Sydney is restful, and dangerous, because the creeks can flood, the gums can burn, and the wind can blow.  So I am thankful that it is still tonight, and I am home again. A kookaburra starts the dawn.


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