the m john harrison blog

teasing the dog

View from the cafe window: a part of the railway bridge, trees, a car parked with its nearside wheels in a long puddle. Some hikers come past with their trousers tucked into their socks. The cafe dog, a big alsation, looks up. Half a dozen climbers are eating out there, grouped round the weathered grey tables in the ten o’ clock sun. A boy nineteen or twenty years old stands out from the rest. His hair is dyed dark red and worn in plaited rats’-tails down his back; his arms are thin and white, and will show no muscle until he locks them off later in the day soloing Quietus Stanage, which he nearly falls off; he has on elegant dirty fatigue trousers and a T-shirt with the sleeves torn out. He is teasing the dog with the remains of his breakfast. “Look at this!” he shouts. And then to the dog, “Hey!”, snatching the food away at the last moment, offering it and snatching it away until with a look of understanding the dog loses interest and moves away.

From Climbers, 1989

a tempting fate

It’s the end of a December afternoon. The tourists have gone back to South Korea for the winter, leaving empty all the little low pedestrian bridges of Cotswold stone. From outside I watch you step to your window and, one hand raised to the curtain, look down at the ducks busy in the wide shallow stream, and think for a minute: “It is rather beautiful,” and, “We are rather blessed,” and then close the curtain and step back into the room and go back to your life, because privilege never likes to be aware of itself, or acknowledge itself, in case of tempting fate.