Saturday, July 26, 2008

Zapruder’s child

I was always known as Zapruder’s child even though my father’s name was Pete Weston. No, nothing funny going on. It’s just that I’m the kid holding his father’s hand in the infamous Zapruder film. Yep, that one.

You just see me, behind a sudden cloud of blood and brain and bone, in the frames that show John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s head being blown away, as the motorcade glides slowly down Dealey Plaza. That’s me. The kid holding his Dad’s hand through history, my mother on his other side, sharing the shock and tragedy of the day and the continuing rumble as history unfolds. As a nation goes into shock where just seconds before, we had all waved our flags and held our breath with excitement. Or I had. I was only five.

We’re still there. We’ll always be there. In magazines, newspapers, TV and movies, our moment is preserved for everyone to examine and ponder over for centuries to come.

Millions of people have seen the Zapruder footage. Millions of people have seen me. It’s a kind of immortality.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The fox

I lived in a cottage in the heart of rural England for two years – a wonderful place surrounded by trees and wildlife. The deer would come and eat the fallen apples in our garden and the gooseberries from the bushes, owls hooted at night and once an otter strolled up our path, stopped for a long look at my youngest daughter and myself, then continued on its journey. Apart from the cottage, I’ve lived in semi-rural Lancashire for twenty years and, before that, rural Suffolk, Cornwall and Devon. Yet I never saw a fox.

A few days ago, my wife and I went to London to join the hurly-burly for a weekend of concrete, pollution and noise. Unable to sleep, I got up at dawn and went for a wander around the leafy suburb in which our hotel proudly stood. I hadn’t taken ten steps from the hotel door and there it was. A fox, sitting and staring calmly from the middle of the road like it had been waiting for me for all my fifty-five years.

My one and only glimpse of a fox. And it took the great, roaring, chaotic city to give it to me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Artist

A small, shabby house. An old man lives alone, wears an ex-Army greatcoat indoors and out and as a blanket for his bed at night. The kitchen has an antique cooker covered in iron-hard spilled food. There is one pan, a bowl and two forks. There is one mug. A cupboard contains tins of beans and a large jar of coffee.

Downstairs is a single long room containing an ancient armchair. There is no carpet, just floorboards, bare and dirty. Around this room, stacked up against the walls, are hundreds of canvasses, some used, some pristine and waiting for inspiration and paint to flow.

There is a refrigerator.

Tall and startlingly white, it stands incongruously in the centre of the room, humming quietly. On top of it are brushes and palette knives and the tools of the artist’s trade. Inside, it is packed with oil paints of every imaginable colour and mix, in a glorious assortment of pots and tubes. No food, just paint.

There is an easel, a bare canvas in place, waiting for the soft pencil to sketch out the next masterpiece. It never will. The final picture has been completed. The artist has gone forever.