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Sunday Times Books LIVE

Richard de Nooy

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Jagged Strips & Manic Rattles

My walks have taught me that there is joy in the rhythm of a limp, the shape of noise and the movement of garbage.

Those who ask for nothing in return are often the most difficult to please.

Our obsession with screens, big and small, is driven by our deeply-rooted desire to sieve reality and bend it to our will.

It is unclear whether the photos of Balkan treats on display in the snackbar window were taken before or after digestion.

The petrified wood on display in the window of the floor shop has no obvious reason to be scared.

The commuters who snatch free newspapers outside the bakery seem oblivious to the price they’re paying.

The rain tells its tragic tale of endless regeneration in whispered rhythms.

Double parked, the hot date waits in the nearby shadows and leaps upon his girlfriend, arousing her because he is not death.

The puzzling man has almost finished the black tableau with jagged stripes – just 100 pieces left to go and an answer I will never know.

The tram is a caterpillar weaving its silver overhead line into a loose cocoon that binds the city.

The wind has laid a carpet of leaves on the wet glue of the street.

The whitest beeches are conveniently located, row on row, near the windswept airport onramp.

The stewardesses gather in gaggling groups before taking off in tight patterns to warmer climes.

Three melancholy trios in the park at ear-shot intervals, as one faded the next swelled, forcing me to stop and slowly walk my bike.

The clarinet a mournful mistress, the sax a whispering, wanton wench, gathered at the bedside of their dying crooner, the accordion.

It’s really hard to look cool when you’ve got a gigantic cardboard flacon of Chanel riding up front on your carrier.

There’s nothing like a sudden hailstorm to transform children into a screeching, fleeing mob of monkeys.

The excavator smoothes the sand like King King stroking Fay Wray’s hair, a monstrous arm guided by gentle intent.

When passing joggers in the street, I cycle just ahead of them and pretend to be a nervous star pursued by a tenacious fan.

One swallow doth not a summer make, but one poor summer doth an ice-cream parlour break.

Is there anything more chuffed and astounded than a toddler perched on his father’s shoulders?

And so we see once more the muttering ire, the barely-restrained rage that marks man’s eternal struggle with the parking meter.

To celebrate our gratitude and joy and hope, it is inevitable the several million small trees must die.

Jesus help the retailer who hasn’t got his Christmas shite up and shining yet, for he shall not taste the profits of heaven.

Four mannequins in their Christmas finest stand by a wooden pole suspended like a swing with five owlets perched upon it.

The tram has its own tiny electrical storm overhead as it thunders across the darkened square.

The Council on Superstition has yet to rule on the new scaffolding that has pedestrians walking under a ladder for 25 metres.

The roughness of the world lingers on fingertips as they turn instinctively, seeking the warmth of smooth palms.

All that we must touch – saddles, doorknobs, polished cars, canvas covers on sleeping scooters – is created to the comfort of our caress.

Touch is the most neglected sense and the most suspicious, judging by the faces of those who see a large man fondling his world.

A car reversing to retrieve a forgotten laptop or lunchbox expresses the driver’s impatience and annoyance with its high-pitched moan.

With mocking calls, the crows and magpies wait to feed upon the more impatient birds that cannot resist the road at rush hour.

Forlorn, a child’s bike stands chained to a steel gate like a tiny, shiny Shetland pony with training wheels.

Children who drag their feet on the final stretch to school, enjoy the thrill of sprinting to the gate before the bell stops ringing.

Flashing brightly, the ball orbits the skipping child’s ankle as if to confirm that she is the centre of her smiling father’s universe.

The toddler in the kiddie seat leans far back, head aside, to evade his mother’s cycling buttocks, like a priest at a strip club.

The Christmas trees, each in its own net, have been individually tracked and trapped by Scandinavian woodsmen, which explains their price.

Clouds catching the last rays of daylight become trendy cotton wool lamps floating abstract against a dark designer wall.

I sometimes go out in the garden at night and sit looking at my house, watching the lights and movement, until I wish I was home, and I am.

The sign on the tree reads: “This is NOT a dog toilet!” The root-riddled patch of soil around the trunk proves just how illiterate dogs are.

Reno Slovak offers rock-bottom renovation rates on five consecutive lampposts, underscoring his precision by charging 13.90 euros/hr.

Some people are born to work in supermarkets, but end up becoming great thinkers, artists, authors and leaders.

Three laughing schoolgirls on one bike, two facing forward and one back, are sharp-eyed bait for scooter sharks.

The Banished Queen has posted a still-life review: Stephen Poliakoff’s Perfect Strangers shares her freebie table with a crash helmet.

Café Pleinzicht is undergoing open-heart surgery, its hardened plastic arteries removed and neatly stacked against the façade.

The black dog, muzzle greying, urinates in short bursts, losing its balance every time it lifts its leg. Squatting is not an option.

The old lady with the heavy grocery bags hails from an age when you were considered mad if you didn’t greet every stranger in the street.

The wind breathes life into umbrellas, gives them a mind of their own.

A workman hoisting building materials waits on the sidewalk, rope in hand, as if amnesia has thwarted his suicide attempt.

Jacob’s Chapel has a three-part frieze: two men back to back; two sharing a book; Jesus in the middle, arms wide, wearing a sou’wester.

The hippest hangouts have an antique element accentuating their modernity. In this case, it is a vagrant, seeking shelter from the rain.

Creepers hang on where others have died. Not the prettiest plants, but the most tenacious: Hedera Hibernica vs Passiflora Caerulea.

The old dog walks his even older master to the butcher and the baker and then around the corner, home.

Dying bikes are marked with orange stickers, giving owners a chance to resuscitate their steeds or to see them meet their mangler.

The only hill in the area is a mound built on wood and bones and standing stones, bearing the names of long-unvisited ancestors.

The nocturnal flatulence of sleeping cars greets the early showroom client with the heady scent of worn rubber and spent gasoline.

Still the most hotly contested and perilous territory on the planet: the zebra crossing.

“We gave you our best price…” says the garage guy, “…wrapped it around a spanner and shoved it up your arse,” I add in my mind.

63% of the equipment in a garage is financed by way of the gullibility mark-up.

One of the best ways to retain your independence is by painting racing stripes on your boring sedan.

The municipal transport service clearly hasn’t received my memo on musical concertina busses.

The more elusive the neighbour, the more effusive the Christmas display.

Let me tell you about the night, its infinite depth beyond the last streetlight, its slow breath and the silence.

Let me tell you about the men who park their sleek cars on corners, their intricate handshakes disguising simple thoughts.

Let me tell you about the trees that raise their bare arms in the night, spreading their fingers to capture thoughts like birds.

Let me tell you about the light that bleeds from tight geometry to warm the night.

Let me tell you about the moon that lost its way, condemned forever to stalk the earth in the shadows.

Let met tell you about the scent of deep-fried dreams and pizza that weaves through the rain to embrace the smoking scooter sharks.

Let me hunger for more, ever more, let me thirst for the dull light that shines from the grey stone and the tarmac.

Let me feel the cold air slide its hand in my coat, causing my skin to rise to its touch and, deeper, my flesh to shiver in welcome.

Let me tell you about the blind dawn, reaching out silently as it picks its way cautiously to avoid waking the night.

I will venture outside in a moment, walk the 276 steps to get cigarettes, walk the 272 steps home, and unravel my mind.

My coat hangs about my shoulder like a pleasant memory that has changed shape over the years but retained its warmth.

The alien spaceship replenishing its water supply at the edge of the pond claims to be a Lebanese Restaurant.

The night shop has a handwritten sign on the door for its tourist clientele: “Beware. The door hangs.” I am the only customer.

If I were a girl wearing a sequin-skull jacket and silver moonboots, what would I be thinking? In whose arms would I find love?

Hail is ambitious rain.

Dostoevsky on a park bench addresses an attentive feathered salon, his grey muse perched upon his knee.

Even Dutch pigeons are best scattered by the hissing of a snake.

The gypsy trio with their melancholy dirge turn my run into a headlong dash to attend a funeral on time.

And so emotional phases are precipitated: rain is sadness, hail is rage, sleet indifference.

I cannot shake the ever-stronger feeling that I may be writing a novel in public.

A cement truck pumps a new floor through a narrow tube with fluid, yet concrete intent.

Thin ice on the bridge claims its first wrists and ankles, the three-bike pile-up sliding gracefully to a halt against the garbage.

Every supermarket has its own poetry, stacked row on row in garish stanzas, aisle upon aisle of clichéd verse.

The clotted cream is not here yet, perhaps tomorrow it will come. He begins to point out an alternative, but decides against it in mid-air.

The elderly lady behind me in the queue has just one item in her trolley: a large, cheap, lonely bottle of white wine.

The homeless woman with the shy smile knows I do not want a magazine in exchange for my trolley coin. I can read enough in her eyes.

The old dog with its blue-sheened eyes and wobbly gait carries a football in its jaws, like a punctured memory.

The three invigilators, shepherding a flock of playing kids at St John the Baptist’s Catholic Primary School, all wear headscarves.

Ciara, the headline act at this week’s Black Music Special, has a lovely cappuccino complexion.

“Judaism – A World of Stories” is now on at the New Church in Amsterdam.

The green parakeets in their screeching swarms are now as much a part of Amsterdam as the boats lining the canal.

The glitter on the classroom floor will find its way to houses throughout the neighbourhood like a sparkling memory, slowly fading.

Lying side-by-side in the street, the scooter shark and fragile lady awaken like morning-after lovers. “I didn’t see you, ma’am,” he says.

“I don’t think so, no…” she tells her phone, then sighs the answer it doesn’t want to hear: “…that things are going to be alright.”

There is something utterly intriguing about transparent bin liners. Like open curtains, they say: we have nothing to hide.

The paint bomber has hit the parking meter again. He is probably Italian, judging by the red, white and green traces on the pavement.

You can tell a great deal about a man by the way he clears his throat and spits his phlegm upon the waking world.

The full moon just above the skyline would have been spectacular were it not sponsored by ARAG car insurance.

Little bashful girl, your life is held together by snot, two pink ribbons and maternal love.

Like your smiling teeth, you leather legs and feet, your hands, speak of comfort found in discomfort and inexplicable joy.

There are those who want for nothing because they wish for nothing, with hope just around the corner at the garbage can.

The watery sun and boisterous breeze conspire to weave a golden tapestry with the feathered pennants of the dry reeds.

A noisy demonstration of grey geese has gathered on the grass to protest the mild winter undermining their right to migration.

How sad that the desire to walk is inversely proportional in dogs and children.

The simple joy of having the time to stand staring into a copse until you spot the woodpecker and see its manic rattle.

The water seeps and trickles from the lock, patiently feedings its ferns as it awaits its inevitable release.

Beyond the houses, a wave of humanity breaks incessantly on the city’s shore in a rolling hush.

Dawn’s grey light seeps evenly, avoiding stark contrast in favour of a mild compromise between night and day.

The breeze is just strong enough to clear the backdrop for the brightest stars, spelling out the pinhole autograph of our universe.

Darkness wraps your skin in ice and steals your breath in gasps, bold wind whispers names of those it has taken, driven to the fire.


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