Thursday, 3 January 2013


Have you ever, actually, heard a lion’s roar? Don’t answer that too quick, mind: think for a moment. Can you recall standing in a small, enclosed corridor with your heart in your hands like a lunch package wrapped in tight brown string? Did you look to the corner and wonder what was just tucked around it, what was waiting? Could you feel (I mean really feel) your heart, doing what it always did, shoving the blood around your body with two eager flat palms? A lion’s roar is not like a church bell or a firework exploding or even like the sound of the door slamming after a lover’s last goodbye. It is more like you are standing on the top story of an old colonial hotel in Constantinople, holding a gin and tonic, laughing about the future, and suddenly you feel the earth drop out from beneath you. I mean really move; I am talking about an earthquake here. This happened to me once, and it was like nothing else—this feeling that the very surface of the earth was just a slim and wriggling crust. Our cities and civilisations just palmfuls of fairy-coloured sprinkles strewn unceremoniously across the surface. Do you ever wake up at night, clutching your chest, thinking of the aerial footage of that tsunami sweeping across Japan? That wall of fire and water, brushing away buildings as if they were crumbs on a tablecloth, as if they were dust? Sometimes I am frozen by all this and I can think of very little else. Lions roaring. Earthquakes. A deeper and more fundamental realm that is impossible to access voluntarily, that you don’t get to slip inside when you need a clip round the ear to get you going for the day. Close your eyes, for just a second, please. Think about the earth moving. Let your stomach drop to the floor.

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