I’m staying in tonight, taking care of my old man’s greyhound. No drinks, no smoke, just a quiet night without stress and craziness. I’d like to thank my readers for sticking by me through 2019, and I want to wish you all a safe and happy new year with your friends and family. May 2020 bring everything that’s good your way.
I live in a small flat overlooking a main road, facing the expanse of the city’s South-West, staring right down the barrel of the setting sun. Local daylight saving time kicked in a few weeks ago, and rather than dealing with an extra hour of searing heat and blinding light pouring into my glorified shoe-box, I have taken to walking in the evening.
“To a store that sells curtains?” I hear you ask. No, not to the curtain store. Just wandering around my suburb, blending in with the dog-walkers and lycra-joggers, you know. Walking.
This place used to be a slum, with houses crowded close together and built tall and thin with adjoining walls, whole blocks of terrace homes with fences and tiny balconies decorated with wrought-iron. Some are modern castings, replicas created for more recent owners who pay millions of dollars to live in these done-up 19th century flophouses, but others are rusted and worn with a hundred years of weather and traffic exhaust.
Further down the street I walk past a mansion from the same era, sold in the 70’s, and converted with fibro and asbestos into a pile of tiny flats, now crumbling gradually and gracefully and only rarely collapsing on the students, artists and minimum wage scrapers that reside within.
My eyes are drawn again to the wrought-iron work on both the restored terraces and that old mansion. All I can think about is that iron, once heated to a glowing white, then bashed, hammered and twisted into shape by sheer will and muscle. I picture this blacksmith, some huge burly bloke with biceps like gnarled wood and a grip that would break the bones of my hand, not that such a fellow would likely offer to shake the hand of a modern dandy like myself, but you get the point.
This huge guy, this big dude, this strong, fucking manly bastard spent his days in a workshop that was hotter than Hell itself, his unshaven face black with forge-soot and scorch marks as he uses fire and raw strength to delicately manipulate the burning metal into flowers, vines, broad and narrow leaf shapes, ubiquitous fleur de lys, these patterns of intricate beauty that adorn hundreds of homes, once thousands perhaps.
And I doubt one person was doing all the terraces in the city. I suppose there would once have been a street that rang with the striking of a hundred hammers as they worked, a legion of skilled craftsmen, people who could never conceive of the future into which some of their work would survive. Schools of technique that competed with each other maybe, and maybe some conventions that were universally taught. How many horse-shoes and hobnails did an apprentice have to make before they let them have a crack at this stuff? I wonder if I could study these lattices for long enough to understand what it all means…
A young man ambles past me, about my height but thicker in the arm and shoulder, tattooed hands and low-slung jean-shorts. I jump when he speaks with a smoke damaged voice.
“How high are you bro? You’ve been staring at that fence for, like, ages.”
“I’m on my way to the curtain store!” I say, maybe a bit too quickly. He nods, and walks away without saying anything else.
“Should I go to the curtain store?” I consider it for a moment, but that guy is right. I am definitely too high for the curtain store. And it’s getting dark anyway, so there would be no more sunlight in my flat “So who needs fucking curtains?” I turn around and begin to walk home.