Festina Lente

Festina Lente

The motorcycles swarm and huddle in the shade under the bridge, like so many angry bees, waiting for the green disc up ahead to light up, so they can soar back into the sunshine. Summer is like that, here. I see us jumping from pocket of shade to pocket of shade, using the accusatory fingers of high rise apartment buildings to block the sun. These are our gnomons, writ large, as we scurry across the dial plate of our world, tracing the hours with our harried, sweaty feet.

They have made the telephone boxes bombproof. Over the past six months the men in dark blue shirts have worked, disassembling glass boxes and replacing them with dull grey plinths. The metal is cool to the touch, even in the hot sun, and several inches thick. I note the notches at the edge and wonder if they can be used as firing positions. Whether they would be used as firing positions. What they would look like with a dozen burning tyres rolled up against them, thick oily smoke blotting out the sun just as effectively as the high rises.

In one of these new metal boxes stands a lady wearing a full motorcycle helmet, visor pulled down, clasping two full bags of cooking oil. She is wearing a bright pink apron, with a portrait of His Royal Highness. Waiting for her own buzzing velocipede to scoop her up and transport her to the cooking stove. Nearby, out in the fierce sun, is the woman who cleans the two hundred metres of road between the lamp posts and the bridge. She is emptying a mug of coffee over the stained patch where the garbage piles up every night. She is smiling, as she reaches for her broom. She is always smiling, always says hello.

I wonder what you would say of all this, if you were here. There are seven space invaders, pinned up on bridges and under overpasses in Bangkok, their tiny mosaic tiles smeared with dirt and grime. The closest is on Surawong, on the crumbling façade at the entrance to a Chinese cemetery, and it is blue and red.

Mach' es wie die Sonnenuhr: zähl' die heitren Stunden nur!