Life, photos but not the universe

Big, bigger, biggest, quite big enough, too big.

A trip into Newbury the other day caused me to think briefly about big things.

They’re building a new shopping mall in the town centre  (why, I don’t know, since we already have a perfectly good one which is dying slowly from excessive rates and rents and lack of patronage).  The giant cranes which have overlooked the town for the last year, (?)  two years (?)  can be seen from the surrounding hillsides and here and there, as you walk around town, they suddenly become visible towering over buildings and trees like some kind of  monstrous, patient insect species.  Occasionally, as in the mist the other day, they loom suddenly from an unexpected angle and their sheer bigness momentarily overwhelms me.

Other big moments I have enjoyed over the years include waking up one morning in a village at the bottom of the ravine below Machu Pichu* and wandering out onto a balcony to look around.  We hadn’t seen anything much in the dark when we arrived the night before and I was admiring the view down the valley.  After a few moments I began to feel as though I was being watched and looked over my shoulder.  No human people, but a group of gigantic, vertical sided mountains looked down, so huge that they seemed close enough to touch – if I had been so presumptuous as to try.  So close that they seemed alive.  I suddenly understood a good deal of the superstitious awe which must have dogged the tiny human inhabitants of places like that through all the centuries of their ancient civilisation.

On the same holiday, we spent a week in the Amazon rain forest.  Arriving at Iquitos by air in a small plane we could see the meandering, serpentine Amazon and some of its many tributaries below us, laid out like an unlabelled map.  Very interesting it looked and evoked travel programmes on TV.    Armchair enjoyment kind of thing.

We had to travel on the Amazon, to its junction with the River Napo, by boat to reach our lodge.  As we scrambled down the wooden steps towards the

RIVER and the

boatthe river seemed to get bigger and bigger and the boat seemed to be shrinking so that by the time we were clambering on board, with all our luggage it felt as though we were in fact some kind of  small, soft animals embarking on a leaf.  Darkness was due to happen in an hour or two – quite suddenly, so near the equator,  and a thunderstorm was rather obviously approaching .  We set off, out onto the vast waters and realised that our little open boat with its puttering outboard motor had no headlight though the boatman did have a torch.  It all began to seem more than usually adventurous – there was just us two, the boatman and our guide.  And of course the rusty trusty leaf boat.

Ah well, we thought comfortably, these local chaps probably know the river like the backs of their hands.  Our guide was having some kind of quite intense discussion with the boatman and after a bit he informed us that it might be a bumpy ride as the water was getting a bit rough and really we needed to get to the landing place before dark since it was easy to get lost out on the Amazon.  About an hour and a half it should take, if we were lucky.  So would we hold onto our belongings and also to the boat – just in case.  Adventurousness quotient suddenly shot up to a new level.

On another holiday, there were pyramids.  Most of them were pretty big.  But they didn’t prepare us for the sight of the Great Pyramid, apparently hovering in the dusty sky behind, and way above, the tower blocks of Cairo.  Especially as it was a good kilometre further into the desert.   And that didn’t prepare us for the length of hot, dusty time needed to walk up to it nor for the gigantic blocks of stone of which it was made.  Each step seemed to bring us no nearer to the monstrous thing and each block was considerably taller than a Barney – mountainously taller in fact and it was impossible to take a photo which included both a recognisable ant person and the whole pyramid.  I simply don’t understand people who say, “oh the pyramids – just like the photos only a bit bigger – nothing to write home about”.  They must have very big egos or a very poor sense of perspective.

It’s all about scale isn’t it.  Once, in a nightclub in Tangiers, when I was considerably younger and probably a lot prettier than I am now, I found myself unable to escape from the clutch of a local, small, youth.  Barney had gone to get drinks and I was ready to stop dancing and the young man wouldn’t let go of my wrist.  Suddenly, to my relief, Barney appeared, standing right behind my little problem, so I looked up at him with that kind of “thank Goodness you’re back, rescue me!!!” look and the young man also looked round … then up a bit … then up a bit more.  Barney smiled kindly down at him.  He dropped me like a hot thingie and fled, muttering obsequious apologies.  Nice.

So here are the cranes which set me off  on this large wander-about –  I’m sorry I don’t have photos of mountains, pyramids or the Amazon to show you.  We only had  a little film camera at the time and there wasn’t room in it for all that bigness.

Though there is a photo of Barney celebrating.  Does that give you an idea of his bigness?

He wasn’t wearing a top hat or a sprig of holly in Tangier, mind.


*The ravine is at the bottom end of the windy road – which is to say top right quarter of the picture.



January 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments