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Peering into Vermeer,
I saw the light of a soft human face peering back at me: fresh, real.
Singing with life.
350 years old.
If I reached out and poked her delicate features, would she say ’ouch’?

More likely, the unsmiling guards would poke the ‘ouch’ out of me instead.

jpm

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42. South Africa

At Table Mountain, the cable car floats us serenely above the hunkering Flats of Capetown.
The air is scorched by the sunset, but clear of the fetid undercurrent of bravado and fear
that lurks beneath the city’s civilian clothing.

In the far distance, Robben Island: brittle birthplace of a nation.

 

jpm

OK, so this week, you have a choice of two ’50 words’ – sometimes I write more than one, because of course there are many indelible ‘moments’ when travelling, and this week I couldn’t decide what mood I was in, so you have a bit of both – light and dark:

41. New Zealand

41.a

So there I am – girly heaven:
wallowing in an outdoor cast iron bath,
hot water swirling,
(bubbles of course)
champagne glass to hand.
Head lolling on the edge of the tub.
Admiring the endless mountainscape of the aptly named ‘Remarkables’.
Nothing but steam and immodesty between me and the view.

jpm

 

41.b.

On the Franz Josef Glacier, it’s all so unexpected.
The ice is not white,  but an unearthly blue,
and it’s not cold and silent, but alive with unexpectedly human sounds
groaning, creaking, squealing, grinding.

I hold my breath,
step tentatively.
Somehow to still the lumbering giant:
Unstoppable author of landscapes

jpm

40. France (Paris, New Year’s Eve, 1989)

Champs Elysee, twenty-four: the whole world before me.
Uniting adrenalin of the pulsating crowd:
350,000 intimate strangers surging as one euphoric organism.
Midnight hovers.
A collective breath …..
BONNE ANNÉE!!!!

Then. Rush for the last metro
Trammeled and crushed, footing lost …. panic!!!
then …. relief!
Spewed to the side like yesterday’s resolutions.

jpm

39. Hong Kong

39. Hong Kong

The pulsating mass that is Victoria Harbour:

Ferries and junks and boating allsorts
heaving and jockeying for position.
A constant throb of diesel amidst the rolling chop.

Littered with worn commuters,
Hurrying to insert themselves into the vertical living of Hong Kong’s sky high towers,
no elbow room to spare.

jpm

38. Sri Lanka

38. Sri Lanka

In the Galle Face Hotel, there is an ancient lift attendant supervising a still more ancient mechanical lift.
Smiles creasing the corners of his gracious eyes, from his perch in the corner he politely refuses entry, pointing to the copperplate sign:
‘Take the stairs instead.  It’s better for your health’.

 

jpm

37. Japan

37. Japan

There is a quiet in Japan.

Perhaps the quietness is a way of coping
with the truth of living with 127 million neighbours
on a postage stamp of land.

And every now and then, a sudden revolt:
devastating earthquakes,
horrifying tsunamis. 

As if the land itself were protesting its burden.

 

jpm

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