Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rotterdam or anywhere

It's pushing towards four thirty in the morning, and Fionn has just finished his night feed. Outside, I can hear the slow drip of the rain water falling from the terrace above our apartment. It must have been raining continuously since yesterday evening - the rain has that "settled in" feel to it, as if it knows it's not going anywhere else any time soon. An Irish summer.

I take Fionn in my arms, and wrap a woollen blanket about him. Opening the window, I step up on to the sill, and into the edge of the night. Curtains of rain fall steadily, driven softly through the trees by the breeze. The breath of the morning, I keep forgetting, the smell of the warm summer air. I stand there, inches from the drops of rain, and watch the headlights of cars make their way along the main road from the city. Taxis no doubt, ferrying sodden and exhausted revellers home to their beds, or on to the next drink.

Perhaps it's the smell of the breeze, or perhaps it's the hint of dawn creeping along the base of the low-slung clouds, but I'm reminded of another morning, a morning maybe four years ago (has it really been that long?) in late Spring. I'm in Rotterdam, visiting an old friend, where we, along with a group of his acquaintances, have just piled out of a nightclub, giddy and noisy, high on life, techno, alcohol, or whatever else you're having. We make our way to an all-night eatery, where other buitenlanders serve us "Turkish pizza", which I'm assured is a local delicacy. It's hot, spicy and greasy, and washed down with a Coke I'm inclined to agree with this. We sit on our bicycles (this is the Netherlands after all), and wolf down the grub, shouting abuse or encouragement at various passers-by, and give some startled locals an impromptu rendition of God Save the Queen, before deciding that perhaps it was now best to head for home. As we pedal furiously, crossing the bridge that spans the Rhine delta, we are greeted by a red-hot, heavy-hanging sun, looking for all the world like it was lifted straight from the closing credits to China Beach. I stop my bicycle, push whoever I'm carrying off the crossbar (we've picked up someone on the way, or lost a bicycle, who knows?), and stop and stare as the early-morning mists begin to kindle and glow, setting the East aflame. I stand at the apex of the bridge, breathing hard, tasting the spices of the pizza, my sweat and the smell of the river, all mingled together. It is a good moment.

I look down at my son, fifteen days old and sleeping fitfully, and performing a remarkable impression of a cantankerous grizzly bear trapped in the body of a kitten. I wonder about the moments he will have during his life: the people, whom I do not know, with which he will share them; the places, that I have not been to, where he will have them. I hope the best for him, that he will find the world as mesmerising and perplexing as I have done so far. Not many answers, and an endless supply of questions.

The wind shifts slightly, and a little rain splashes our upturned faces: his turned to mine, and mine turned to the cloudy sky. I close the window again, and step down from the sill.


paudie said...


Greg said...

Profound. Evocative. Keep writing.

Amen said...

Nice words.
But you should probably explain the context behind our (whose?) rendition of God Save the Queen :)