Sport 22: Autumn 1999
There is a lean-to out the back where my grandmother made pottery. My grandmother was a cold woman—cold to the touch. The diagnosis was too much contact with earth, pottery and gardening—the warmth had flowed out through her hands, into soil and clay.
This was a present she gave to the children one Christmas: she agreed, straight-faced, to stay home from church for the first time in her life, so that her extended family could unwrap plastic toys, bottles of whisky and wine, clothes (trousers and socks), wooden puzzles, musical instruments, perfumes, candles and candleholders, recordings of Mozart symphonies.
If she said grace before meals it was quickly and quietly. If cancer came and took her away it was quickly and quietly.
I can only imagine my father's upbringing here. I imagine that his mother's gifts were all sacrifices. I imagine that his father's gifts were all demands. I imagine that he learned that gifts are either one or the other. His gifts are all books. What am I to do with the information contained in them?
But now, he has given me a pair of goldfish.
Hugh Grant says, ‘It seems the more people you want to bury, the less holes you have to dig. This story is all about you. It might seem like it's about other people, but it's about you. No one will read it, for it will not be of interest to anyone else.’
I say, ‘But there is history only if you know history. If you don't, page 22 there are only places. A house on a farm. A mountain. What else can I do?’
So I keep talking to them.
I walked down the mountain again, down a track past a skifield and out to the carpark. There were people waiting, as though they were waiting at the airport for a friend. I hoped that I might see someone holding the sign with my name on it. And it would be me holding the sign-I would have been waiting for myself, and holding the sign in case I didn't recognise myself.
They were the media. I was not sure how they found out about the accident, as I had been alone—there had been no one to tell about the death of my friend. I asked if the police or Search and Rescue had been contacted, and they said, ‘No, we hadn't thought of that.’ And some of them rushed off to interview the police and Search and Rescue.
I was interviewed by a woman in a down jacket. Her looks and hairdo were icy like the surroundings.
She said, ‘You were on the mountain when the tragedy occurred? How was it up there?’
I said, ‘Bad. Bad, not good at all.’
I noticed that the camera was remarkably small, and found it surprising that it would send my image to so many television sets.
She said, ‘Has a body been found to your knowledge?’
I said, ‘Not to my knowledge, no.’
She said, ‘What would you say caused the accident?’
‘Snow builds up on lee slopes. Windslab under tension can break and slide easily on an icy layer. It's just one of those things.’
She said, ‘You were a friend of the victim?’
I said, ‘Yes I was.’
She said, ‘Would you say he was qualified to be where he was?’
I said, ‘He had climbed Mts A and B, and he knew what he was doing.’
She said, ‘But did he have formal qualifications or training?’
I said, ‘I don't know, he had climbed a lot.’
She said, ‘Tell us a little bit about him.’page 23
I said, ‘He had climbed Mounts A and B. His face glowed with enthusiasm for the minimalism of the mountains.’
After the interview, I wondered who would watch it. Then I realised that I had my balaclava and hood on, and would probably be unrecognisable.