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The rain crackled like small arms fire on the plastic roof over the balcony in Durlach. We’d raced the darkening clouds home from Borsalino’s restaurant where gathering winds had forced us inside from the terrace. As the ink of the night spread and stole the blue of the sky we’d watched the black and white footage of World War one documentaries, glasses half full of dry chilled wine and our cigarettes fire flies in the descending gloom. A hanging smiling wooden sun like a prop from an early 20th century French movie clattered against the wall in the stiff breeze carrying the storm. Crows were raised from sleep, cackling witches protesting their rude awakening. From a pond hidden somewhere under the foliage in the neighbouring gardens and allotments the frogs chorus rose to a frenzy as the barrage of rain intensified knocking insects from the leaves to the waters below. We sat holding hands in silence waiting on the thunder that never reached us from further down the valley. I was very aware of the mountain looming out there in the darkness beyond a horizon that had vanished in the night.
We’d been disturbed earlier by continued shouting coming from the street on the other side of the flat and had been drawn to that balcony where we hid behind the flower baskets watching the scene below. A Middle Eastern man was in the middle of the road screaming at a second floor window a few houses down the street. He was waving a metal bar which he was using to smash up a van parked outside. A voice filled with frustration and anger which increased in volume and despair as an unseen figure interjected his ranting from above. The dialogue was all in German and the translation I was given by Simone told the story of someone who had been ripped off for 5000 Euros on a business transactionand who wanted his money back or revenge which he was swearing he would get on the life of his daughter. It was like an act from a play as the man, who had obviously been drinking in the 30 degree heat of an afternoon and who had finally had enough, pleaded his case to other neighbours also taking in the scene. He moved to let passing cars through and meant no harm to anyone else but to the man who was the source of his betrayal. He played to the balconies and continued to spout his wrath at his tormentor waving the steel bar until it’s hollow clatter filled the street as a swirl of blue lights from 2 arriving police cars surrounded him and he dropped his weapon in resignation. He made no effort to protest further and was led handcuffed to the back of a vehicle in silence. As if on cue a few minutes later a corpulent man, again seemingly of Middle Eastern origin, dressed all in white, appeared to discuss the matter with the police officers, pointing at his damaged van and obviously proclaiming himself the aggrieved and innocent party. I felt sorry for the man in the back of the police car who was driven away probably drowning in regrets and anger to wake impotent in a cell facing a world of complications with nothing gained from his badly advised but understandable reactions the previous evening. The tableaux reminded me how we are all on the edge of exploding these days. That thin crust that sometimes barely contains our frustration and anger in a society plagued with greed and inequality and injustice. How many times in my life I have been close to being that raving lonely figure in the street with a hollow steel bar in my hand I shudder to think. And that was what disturbed me more than anything else last night as I recognised myself down there in the street, playing to the gallery, ranting at the world and achieving nothing but my own incarceration and a footnote in a local newspaper.
I awoke in the arms of a beautiful woman and drank coffee from Kenya on the sun strewn balcony overlooking the lush green valley. Chattering magpies fill the air while the frogs are relatively silent after their midnight feast. The scent of brilliant white jasmine flowers and straggly lavender stems fill the small area. The planned walk with the wolfhound along the ridge dissuaded by the prospect of muddy forest trails and anyway my mind is full of mountains. Tonight is a last meal in an outdoor restaurant with family and my lover before I am taken away by a train in the very early hours before the dawn even considers breaking. From there to an airport and a flight to another airport before I reach home and base camp for my next climb. This one is a big one and I need to stay concentrated and in control of my feelings and my direction to achieve the summit.
It’s going to be an arduous task but I know when I get there I will see my future out there somewhere on a new horizon and can look back on the ranges I have already conquered with a degree of satisfaction that I made it intact in mind, body and soul. But for now I prepare for the ascent and say farewell to the balcony where so many lofty ideas were born. The challenge of realisation beckons.