Slacklining

 

The walk up to Deer Park stream: some gentle people are stringing up a cord between two stone pines. Then they spend Sunday tight-rope walking above the lawns. The gap between the two trees chosen is long; they have winches and climbing gear to get the necessary tautness; a picnic blanket and basket; significant sunglasses and (one of them) splendid brown slacks – I almost stop to ask where they bought such trousers. Drifts of plastic litter and empty food packaging along the stream. Homeless people do their laundry here but I think that today it is employed citizens who are lying face down on the grass, asleep. After the grind of a daily job, the vicious commute that Cape Town’s geography demands, the ongoing transport strike – after all that you see people just exhausted on Sundays, pole-axed on municipal lawns all through the city...

Saunder’s Rock tidal pool. I find myself going there often, straining the Peugeot up and over the nek, down the Glen and round to the southern end of the Promenade. The tide was out this week and I jumped into a sea that was too shallow, jarring my knees.  30cm less water and I would have been injured. It made me think of that film where a young Javier Bardem stands at the zenith of his life, above a sun-drenched Spanish cove, about to dive off a rock. He is distracted for a moment by a young woman, changing on the beach behind him. The sea pulls back, he dives, is a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. A film about euthanasia, based on a true story – he takes his life on camera, drinking cyanide. The potion is prepared in different stages, each ingredient added by a different person who loves him, so that none of them can be prosecuted. His last words: ‘The heat…’

Afternoons in the Film House, Edinburgh. All those films I didn’t choose, and didn’t pay for. So many of them I have never heard of again; many were low-key, state-funded film projects from a Europe before the recession, no doubt. But those afternoons affected me hugely, flipped switches in my idle, over-heated brain. French choristers, handicapped Italian children, Glaswegian swimmers, Spanish drag queens and dockworkers, Iranian widows, Korean bikers – they all paraded past in the dark northern afternoons, when there was nobody I had come with, no recommendations and no expectations: a uniquely pure way of experiencing cinema.

Wearing black clothes to be invisible in the auditorium, in the reserved usher’s seats. Tearing tickets, picking up litter, melting away.