There’s a building site in Falmouth, half-way up the walk back to my place from Tesco’s. Stop, lean on the wall, and look down.
When the builders have finished, you’ll be looking at the roof of a house (one of two being built), but what you’re seeing today is flat, not-quite-cleared ground – and diggers.
There was also a skip lorry yesterday, for the removal of dumpy bags full of waste, and then there was a tipper truck delivering more ground – or so it seemed; a load the same colour as the surface onto which it was being tipped.
I stopped for long enough to be – impressed, actually.
The big digger flattened the surface onto which the skip lorry would drive, and then parked between the skip lorry and the dumpy bags. One man hooked dumpy bags onto the digger’s arm, and then the digger swung them round onto the skip, where another man unhooked them.
Then the man in the blue plastic hat roped a net over the skip, and reversed the skip lorry out to make space for the tipper truck. While that was happening, the hooking-up man and the unhooking man went and moved other diggers, and presently it came to pass that the tipper truck was able to dump its load of ground into a newly cleared space.
I’ve left out the tiny diggers and their drivers, and the smaller skip full of rubbish that had to be compressed, and the container that was clearly being used as an office, because this is complicated enough to describe already.
But what I want to get across is that there were multiple vehicles, mostly big with caterpillar tracks, moving in a co-ordinated way to enable a lot of things to happen all at once. And men walking about between them, not being run over.
I’ve never worked in construction, but it seems to me that a lot of co-ordination must have gone into the half-hour that I watched. Big vehicles moving out of each other’s way just in time; other big vehicles moving just in time to where they needed to be. If you’d speeded it all up, there would have been a symmetry.
There seemed to be no one person whose job was to tell all the others what to do. But – maybe I’m just not observant. Maybe the planning had been done earlier. A corps de ballet doesn’t need a bloke on stage blowing a whistle, so why should these guys?
That was my first time watching a building site for half an hour, and I’m not sure what I would have expected to see if I’d thought about it in advance. Men (and women?) rushing about at random? Stopping to discuss each move before making it?
If I was to tell the internet about this, or share it on Facebook, I suppose modern practice would be to declare outrage at some prejudice I was revealing in myself. Not to share my interest. You see, I’m clearly -ist about building sites and should be consigned to outer darkness.
“I really don’t get that.”
“That we use the technology to vilify each other?”
“That you’re so vigilant against each other.”
Edgalcius has borrowed an old suit of mine and we’re down at Specsavers on Church Street waiting for his check-up. I offered him a pair of denims and a hoodie, but he wanted the suit. With the braided hair and the beard, and the tan, he looks … distinctive. But I still say the beads in the hair were a mistake.
“We’re a competitive species, I suppose.”
“Predators. You’re always forming into packs. Left, right, colour, gender, nimby, trolls…”
“That rare thing, an expression of contempt coined by a politician to attack voters. If a developer wants to build student accommodation – Not In My Back Yard. By opposing builders in your back yard, you’re against progress.”
“Or homeless centres. Or refugee accommodation.”
“Maybe the guy had a point. Human nature again. No wonder so many young people these days turn to fantasy.”
“Speaking of which…”
“Cinema, games, books; it’s the dominant – oh, they’re all fine. Against his mother’s–”
“Mr Mage? If you’d like to come with me?”
“Take a look for yourself. Below the picture.”
“Oh yes, I see. Against his mother’s wishes, et cetera.”
“That’s it. Am I over sixty, by the way?”
“Of course you are, Ed. You’ve been doing this for–”
“So this check-up is free.”
“It’s just this way, sir.”
“Call me Ed, why don’t you?”
Actually replying had been a bit of a problem, until a talking bird had dropped out of the sky, having collided with some levitating plastic waste, and Pipsqueak had nursed it back to health.
Out of gratitude, the talking bird had asked Pipsqueak if he needed any help with anything, and together, man and bird had worded the reply.
They’re all drinking Frappuccinos, because Pipsqueak had just said “Oh, I’ll have what you’re having” when Roland had offered to buy, and Myrtille had said “That sounds great!” and smiled at Pipsqueak in a way that made him feel both comforted and a little bit suspicious that she was finding him funny.
Princess Eustacia – yes, she’s here – had said “Hey, cool, Roly!” in a way that had made Roland look embarrassed and Pipsqueak feel just a little bit sorry for Roland.
The two yaks are outside drinking from the fountain, the two horses are parked in their bays, and a court painter is crouched next to the table, working up a selfie for Eustacia with this amusing company.
It had been a shaky start.
But now, Myrtille and Eustacia are deep in conversation. Pipsqueak has heard the words “socks” and “precautions”, and he’s eyeing the court painter uneasily, wondering what parts of his private life will be going into the selfie’s caption.
Roland is telling him all about what a drag his life in the palace is, and Pipsqueak is regretting asking Roland where exactly in the palace he lives – round the back, to the side, in one of the hangers-on apartments in the annexe; you can’t even see his window in the postcard.
But he braces himself. There’s some scene-setting dialogue to be got through before they can continue the conversation.
“We’ve decided that we’re going together,” he interrupts.
“Eh?” After a second, Roland gets it. “Yes, and now we’re discussing the route and the timing. The Mage has told us that it’s urgent. But we can’t leave until after the party on Saturday. So we’ll have to travel fast when we do go.”
“Eustacia and Myrtille are insisting on coming with us. We’ve told them that it’s– we’ve told them that we can– we’ve accepted their kind offer to lead the expedition.”
They both relax. That’s done. Eustacia and Myrtille are still talking. Without missing a beat, Myrtille reaches out and retrieves the cake-fork that has somehow become embedded in the table-top in front of Pipsqueak. Around the coffee bar, conversations resume. The court painter comes out from under the next table and gets back to work.
“That was clumsy, wasn’t it?”
“We need a writer skilled enough to get that kind of background information across without clunking it out in dialogue.”
“With this guy, imagine if we were on a stake-out.”
“And now it’s not even clear which one of us is speaking!”
Pipsqueak eyes Roland. “Maybe I should be the hero and you should be the sidekick,” he says.
Pipsqueak says. To Roland. Pipsqueak said that to Roland.
The other two are off in their own conversation and didn't hear anything. They're not in this bit..
Roland looks shocked. By what Pipsqueak has just said to him.
“Aheh…hum…ah…” Roland begins. In his mind, there’s an obvious reason why Roland should be the hero and Pipsqueak the sidekick, but he can’t quite put it into words.
He lives at the palace – okay, but it’s still the palace. And Pipsqueak is a – is a – he wouldn’t even get in through the front door of the palace!
Roland, who has his own side-door key to the palace, can’t quite meet Pipsqueak’s eye.
Pipsqueak pushes his Frappuccino aside and stands up. “I need a strong black coffee,” he says. “Anyone?”
“Some more of that cake?” says Myrtille. “For all of us to share,” she adds. She pushes away the plate in front of her, which is empty but for a few crumbs. And a twisted cake-fork.
Pipsqueak, who likes the curve of Myrtille’s hips and her sexy little tummy – but who isn’t an idiot – says softly “I’ll share it with you.”
Eustacia says “Ooh, could I have one of those? With warmed oat milk and sprinkles?”
Pipsqueak looks at Roland. Their eyes meet. The two young men share a moment of perfect understanding.
Meanwhile, two hundred miles up the Frozen Trail that lies ahead of our Hero and her friends, far North of the walled town in which they’re drinking all that coffee and sharing all that cake...
...a teeny weeny little adorably cute fluffy little kitten, recently born, really adorable, tiniest and cuddliest of its (his) litter, who will be looking for an owner soon, somebody to love and be loved by, gazes up at a tall tree with lots of twisty branches and thinks: “I could climb that.”