An Umbrella On The Wind

It was one of those days you wouldn’t want to be in school: a day when the wild boys turned their faces to the sky beyond the classroom window, staring at its astounding blue intensity, their hearts aching at the thought of those perfect wasted waves rolling in just beyond their grasp; a day when the humidity seeped through us, making concentration on anything but dreams of beaches, swimming pools and Coke floats impossible. So it was a relief to escape the classroom with my best friend, J, and the rest of the school to compete in our inter-House swimming gala at the local council swimming pool.

J joined our primary school mid-way through my time there. Sharing a love of dancing and an absurdist sense of humour, we became firm friends. She and her brother, S, who was a year above us, excelled academically, with both being awarded school colours for multiple subjects. J shined at sport and S was a budding amateur magician and comedian. He was also a dreadful tease and, as brothers do, annoyed J (and me) a lot of the time but also made us laugh. He was in his first year of high school at the time of the swimming gala and had promised to come and watch us swim, a cover, we surmised, for an ideal opportunity to chat up some girls.

The day sweltered in typical sub-tropical style while we competed our hearts out, glad for our time in the pool, an escape from the shimmering heat. As is the progression of such steaming days, a summer breeze, a welcome relief to those not in the water, drifted in and gradually built to  gusting. And as we swam and cheered, it found its way to the judges’ table, lifted the beach umbrella sheltering the staff from the heat of the day and tossed it like a tumbleweed towards the cheering audience.

Memory is notoriously unreliable. I thought S was in the stands watching, but my mother, 25 years my senior, says no, S had just arrived and was standing on the grass near the stands. It makes more sense, now that I think of it. The detailed events of that day, discussed many times in the ensuing years, were ultimately swamped by a terrible sadness, and diluted into murky swirls in the corners of my mind.

When the umbrella finally came to a halt, S lay unresponsive on the grass. Some assumed that he had fallen from the stands and been rendered unconscious as a result; others assumed he had fainted from the searing heat. But he could not be revived, and my father, suspecting something more serious, stabilized him and rushed him to the nearest medical rooms where they called an ambulance.

They say that there’s a million ways to die, but how many ways are there to render a life less lived? As J and I waited with my parents in the bleached corridors of the hospital that afternoon, J’s mother was informed by the attending neurosurgeon that S had a small entry wound in his forehead and an equally small exit wound in the back of his head, on the opposite side, at the base of his skull.

S’s intelligence remained intact; he even went on to get a university degree, but in spite of months in hospital and years of therapy, he would never walk or talk properly again, his motor co-ordination and speech severely damaged by the piercing spoke of a beach umbrella.

Whenever I hear someone repeat that thoughtless, vacuous line—everything happens for a reason—I think of an umbrella on the wind and reply silently: No. No it does not.


A History Of Fear

In The Blink Of An Eye

Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

bb - scale

Red Bishop – Kwazulu – Natal, South Africa


Beauty at scale rarely seen
by human eye, but inbetween
lush blades of grass daily spy
a microworld of strange small fry

As this mini-jungle wakes
from dark of night, a lone ant slakes
his thirst from fresh dewdrops bright
reflecting snails in love’s delight

Airfields of apian craft at ready
take flight from rouged poppies, heady
with blue jewels sparkling far and wide
on backs of bees on buzzing ride

A mighty dung beetle battles
sticks arresting rolling chattels
from onward journey, this daily testing
to construct his place of resting

Inkblot-eyes of springtails watch
(in somersault) nymphs slowly hatch
themselves from deep and watery vault
and caterpillars as they moult

A miniverse that’s quite astounding,
with creatures, strange and weird, abounding.


For more entries to last week’s WPC, see The Daily Post.

A Blank Page

What is one thing nobody knows about you?

This question is posed for the 27th January by my 3-year sentence-a-day diary, a gift from a dear friend. Since I started the diary 5 months ago, it’s the only page that remains blank.

And it’s not because the answer is something I wish not to put on paper so that no-one can ever find out; it’s because I don’t have an answer! What a strange thing to realize. Perhaps I need to get a secret life. :-D

Would you have an answer?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth

One of the things that sticks in my head from a photography course that I did is the instructor’s mneumonic for depth of field settings: F-stop 2 = 2 fence posts; F-stop 22 = 22 fence posts.

For more entries to this week’s WPC, see The Daily Post.

Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto

Torii Gates – Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto