I didn’t get cold, until the very end. When I stood to do some zoomed-in shots of what looked like a window in the sky, onto another world. Then I got cold. My hands, then my arms, steadying the camera against a post, a bench, a tree, trying for the right angle. A rough orange dog followed its breath across the grass, around and around me, and I was still as the trees, doing multiple exposures. You don’t breathe when you’re doing multiple exposures without a tripod. In the end I didn’t use any of the multis – I thought they’d make for a richer image, but the normal shots were more than enough. You don’t want to over-egg the dawn.
It was one of those restless mornings where you wake at four and never really get back to sleep. By six I was fed up with my own company and although it was pitch black, going out seemed the thing to do. I checked the time of sunrise, fed the People, heartlessly ignored their pleas for attention, made up a small thermos of tea to reward myself with at the top of the climb, shrugged on my overcoat and scarf, grabbed the camera and went out.
The sky was black and grey. The prelude to dawn was well under way – starlings mostly, with voices that sound like wet gravel, crushed hard together in a hand. Sparrows, too. The Moraine was deserted, not even a fox. I glanced down the narrow alley where two boys sell washing machines, and there one of them was, crouched on his haunches with a cigarette cupped in both hands like a trapped firefly. The light from the side door spilt out onto him, his dark hair, his jeans.
If you ever need to buy a washing machine before seven am, I know the very place.
I walked about for a bit. It wasn’t time for The Hill yet. And did I mention Maria Callas? I had her in my ears once I got past the bit of the Moraine where there are birds. Slowly, vans and cars started moving about. People appeared on the street, dressed for work, dressed quickly or carefully. The sky went all the colours of a woodpigeon and it was time, so I climbed The Hill. It wasn’t as brutal as last time – no hot wires pulling in my body this time – but it was still very hard work. Callas hit the explosive bit of Casta Diva just as I hit the steepest section. It wasn’t deliberate on my part, so I’m going to assume she planned it. I followed a skinny man with two small dogs. He was going about the same pace as I was, largely because his dogs stopped to piss on something every three steps. I realised halfway up, passing yet another punctuation mark – and they varied so: colons, commas, ellipses – that if I got a dog, I need never walk anywhere quickly again.
At the top, two ladies were using my bench. I strolled about, waiting-without-waiting. I photographed the moon, idly. The staffie-count is low in that park. At last my bench, the one that commands the best view of the whole horizon, but is not the bench I had my heart broken on, cleared. I pounced on it with an air of triumph and poured some black tea, which I set beside some graffiti which seemed to have been carved by someone channelling the soul of an ancient Greek. Badly.
Two flights of parakeets passed over in their speedy way, uncharacteristically silent. I peeled off my gloves and warmed up the camera in my hands.
The moon, setting: