Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shooter's Hill, Autumn

Picture, if you will, a small, oddly shaped bedroom in Plumstead, 1993. The room is roughly square, but the walls curve and kink. The furniture--a desk, some shelves, a wardrobe--has been concientiously adapted to the room with offcuts and glue.Generations of thickly-applied paint have settled like snow on the fastidious edwardian woodwork around the door and window. Through the window you can see a garden that rises steeply: at its summit an asbestos garage stands level with the room, distorted by climbing ivy, gathering darkness, and lumpy, postwar glass.
On the bed sit two boys, one eight, the other ten. They are listening to a small radio. Not so long ago, they would have listened to stories, curled up and cublike. Now they wait for songs. They have favorites, but not the pocket money to buy them. Once, they tried to record them by holding a cassette recorder up to the radio's small speaker. This failed, because the younger one wouldn't stop chattering over everything, singing along, barking like a dog. So they wait, hoping that the unpredictable playlist of Capital radio will bring their songs back around.
The radio--a strange black Sony, with a jagged hole in the plastic of one corner--is propped up against bedside clock covered in stickers from the Young Ornithologists' Club. Their interest in birds passed quickly, just like the dozens of other hobbies that these boys had applied themselves to for a few short days; drawing, carpentry, knitting. The fearsomely armed model-kit warplanes that dangle from strings above held their attention for longer than most; they appealed to the older one's neatness, and the younger one's love of chaos and destruction.
After a time, their mother comes into the room. She persuades them to switch off the radio, the younger one protests effusively while the older one gets into bed. Still protesting, he is half carried, half dragged across the hall to his room, where he runs-hops-leaps into bed (on account of crocodiles). It's not fair, you see, they never play the songs he likes when he listens to the radio.