Neil Coppen

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Christmas Crackers (Harauz Peru)

January1

Christmas Eve is spent on a roof top. This time the Northern Peruvian City of Harauz. These roof tops are pretty much, much of a muchness, littered with washing lines, water drums and crates of empty Inca- cola bottles.

Places where, amongst the flapping sheets, I may conference (in peace and secret) with my past in it’s current carnations .Safe from being overheard (or deemed insane) by the man on the street. Alas the worried eyes of the land dweller and his land locked imagination.

Dues- ex machina is not my Saints chosen mode of transport and I am yet to see them charioting celestial cloud. No clarion overhead announces their coming, rather raucous laughter and the sound of clumsy feet up an iron stair. So accustomed am I too this sound that I need no longer flinch or pinch myself when they appear before me in the flesh. Rather wait, arms akimbo, foot tapping with mock impatience,saying :What took you so long?

Ah Saint Ric- though he might be Nic (for his head is adorned with silly festive hat) and accomplice Rosalind (his complicit elf).

Ric who greets me with laconic tip of cap (need he say more) then sets about perching on roof top ledge, one leg up, sparking a cigarette, then tune on the trusty Accordion.

To begin, a few obligatory Carols (It is after all Christmas Eve and Rosalind the nostalgiac- insists). Santa Rosa who in her unmistakable tipsy thoothless rathp (The voice of bed time stories as distinctive and familiar as Attenborough is to Nature documentaries) sings what words she can remember.Finally with Bony M formalities out the way, and a version of Silent Night so sad that it might silence all others, Riccardo starts up with a ribald range of Gypsy Tunes. (Acquired, so Ros tells me from a recent jaunt/ haunt amongst the Danube dwellers in Eastern Europe)

That’s the spirit- she cries, hiking up her Mettizo skirt (She has come a traditional Peruvian guise the old sport) taking my arm and spinning me in circles .Rosalind- Saint of the vine and wobbly line (and only just adjusting to the continental confusion that comes with omniscience) complains that she cant find a Checkers in the area to purchase her festive poison: a box of white wine. After reminding her which southern side of the globe we reside, she scuttles off and in no time returns with an adeqaute local variation.

Robbed by the wine of all sense, my Saints of all solitude, our eve on the roof top runs wild. Till Riccardo stops his music and Rosalind slips her hand over my eyes .Warm soft hands, familiar lines of fortune guiding me to the ledge. Nearly twelve she says. Nearly time, whispers Ric.

Clackety clackety clack go the fire crackers on the streets below-like a pair of love sick tap shoes clacking in Morse. I watch a sky set on fire. Roaring rockets and whinging wheels . While both guardians lean forward and take turns to kiss my Saint Chris (look at me- then go astray-urges Ric). I mark their faces in the purple flare, the flecks of fire now sparking from their hair. Feliz Navidad, yells the city at once from their roof tops. So I crow back, with all my voice, Pan rousing Never land-Feliz Navidad!

When I next look they have vanished, but not completely. The exit, as with most things in life, more spectacular than the arrival. My eyes trail the scattered stars of their tails, watching them peter out over the tip of a distant cathedral. Then tumble to the Plaza, two smoking canisters (and just so I know where to follow them next) with Made in China printed on the side.

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