Alex James

Slow Life | 5 September 2009

Breaking point

We were about to leave. The bags were packed and loaded, the kids were strapped into the car. I embraced our host. He drained his glass, grinned, raised it and then hurled it through the air with a long, windmilling arm. It was a big throw, the biggest he could manage and the thing seemed to stay in the air for a long, long time. I heard my wife take a sharp breath as it left his hand and all heads present swivelled to watch the trajectory. And it was very quiet and still as the thing tumbled and spun along its arc.

A tableau, a picture; it was as if everyone froze for a moment in a situation that had suddenly become dramatic. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and September sunshine was pouring out of the blue way beyond the flying glass, pouring all over the valley below us, stoking myriad shades of green to incandescence. Perhaps I was looking at the prettiest corner of the prettiest country in the world at the prettiest time of year. There was nothing in that far-reaching view that wasn’t beautiful to behold. Beyond giant Wellingtonias and ancient cedars of the formal parkland, the sheep, the steep impenetrable wooded valleys and a whiff of Wales somewhere on the horizon. It was captivating. Even before the introduction of flying objects I caught an instantaneous but cast-iron glimpse of forever in the brief seconds it took for that glass to reach the ground.

Why had he thrown the glass? I wondered about it for a long time afterwards. Being as he is an artist and his father was an artist, everything in the house is aesthetically pleasing, considered, treasured. It was a nice glass. Perhaps it is a compulsion for artists to throw things.

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