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radiantfracture

September 2017

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Yesterday I learnt, through observation, that it is better not to paraglide when the wind is blowing away from the sea.

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Saturday was a bright, fine, windy day. All down the long hill of Moss Street, from the art gallery to the ocean, artists had set up display stalls. On the lawns behind and the driveways between, entrepreneurial children set up lemonade stands while their parents sold pottery. This is the Moss Street Paint-in, almost certainly the best-attended event of the local calendar.

There are a few elements I always look forward to -- artists whose work I've been following for decades, a vintage garage sale halfway down the hill -- but you must be prepared for dense (if friendly) crowds and a certain uniformity, or at least consistency, of subject and technique. (When I first attended, this meant oversized portraits of flowers in watercolour; now it often means glint-eyed ravens in encaustic.)

Yesterday, once I'd braved the art gauntlet, I sat down on the grass at Clover Point and, diffusely inspired, tried to sketch, but the flat lines of clifftop, sea, horizon, did not yield much to my lazy pencil.

Below me, nearer the cliffs, a paraglider was busying himself folding and unfolding billows of red and white fabric, so I tried to sketch him instead. For a long time I couldn't tell if he was packing up or setting out.

Finally he harnessed himself and hopped briskly up into the air. Immediately, the wind lifted him and set him down deeper into the grass, rather than swinging him out over the sea. Think of how you might move a small child or a kitten away from danger.

I thought, hmm, that doesn't seem right, but I suppose he knows what he's doing.

Soon I no longer supposed this. The next hop took him higher, but also directly out over the traffic on Dallas Road. This traffic was not insubstantial, but at least it was sightseeing-slow. A double-decker tour bus braked for him, and he went out of my sight for a moment. When the bus pulled away, I could see his chute woven into the telephone wires.

It occurred to me that I ought to go and see if he was all right.

He seemed to be. He was standing, unharnessed, talking with surprising ease to one of the traffic officers from the Paint-in.

I sat down on the fence to observe the chute extrication. A fire engine arrived, and then an ambulance. After long consultation, someone went into the back of the truck and meticulously set out two orange traffic cones. After this came a long lacuna, and eventually I left, so I can't say how it all turned out.

Anyway, here is a small pictorial tribute both to a day of public art and to the perverse human urge towards flight:



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