The strident telephone bell exploded into his sleep. Broke into his dream., where it was an alarm on a ship. And he staggered out of his bed into the corridor. Which became the half-remembered armoured claustrophobic corridor of a military ship. Which pitched and tipped as the ship, something like a destroyer to be moving like this … his waking mind was trying to make the unconscious inhabitable. And the destroyer was beginning the nautical equivalent of a racing hand-brake turn and his stomach was rising towards his throat. So he grabbed the big circular handle that, when turned would water-tight the rooms beyond, as he gazed into the …
…. control room of a Russian submarine, with transparent battle-stage screens and computers and the iconic periscope mount.
The telephone rang again. A jarring old-fashioned Rrrrring- Rrrring of bells. Now he was awake.
Who could be ringing at this time of the morning? His mother? Presumed somewhere on the way to Australia to stay with friends? The plane ? Oh God, please let everything be OK … the silent unformed prayer. One of his daughters?
Oh God …
“Good morning sir, this is Chris from …”
Highly accented voice. Cheerful, but somebody called Chris could not have sounded less like somebody called Chris if you had given them two sacks of diamonds and a winning Lotto ticket to try hard not to sound like Chris.
His mind now was working in different directions. Part of it relieved that the call was not from his family; part of it angry that he was being disturbed from a good sleep – and one he really, really needed by some idiot cold-calling. Part of him remembering another glorious time when an alarm bell had burst into his dreams. Dreams that were not entirely dreams.
Between lucrative jobs. Away from the wife he loved and the six-month old child that had turned their lives into a wonderful new phase he was loitering on the Bergen harbour front. Interview completed, nothing particular to do, nowhere to be for an afternoon.
It is fair to say that I do not usually explain my poetry. I like to sit and wonder what the reader makes of my words which leave my mind, my pen (for pen, read computer)
meaning something to me but will, almost certainly mean something different – and why not? – to you, the reader.
I am happy with this as a situation: we can all be right, perhaps.
But this piece is posted here as a tribute to Nelson Mandela and was written on the Victoria and Alfred Docks, Capetown after a visit to Robben Island, where I learned such a lot about the history I have
lived through. It reminded me that opinions can change with knowledge; that the best people do not seek retribution.
It was intended as a thoughtful piece: I had a great deal to think over, not least the glorious sense of humour of the guide (a former in-mate). It was not written solely about Mandela, nor, indeed for public consumption.