Sunday, 10 August 2014

Basement Light

Just over a week ago I sat alone in the dark of a basement in a house in a residential area of a small town. A low wattage light cast a very low light on the room and with a few minutes of adjustment little was to be seen apart from the embers of a small brazier. 

A dog began to bark in the distance, footsteps, some hurried, are heard and muffled conversations as individuals pass the small rectangular windows above my head at pavement level.  

The lights percolating through from the street outside flickered slightly and unevenly. A dull muffled bass sound could be heard intermittently. The pace of steps outside increased, a low rumble in a slowly gathering crescendo is perceived and the crack of gunfire can be heard as the voices outside begin to shout with some urgency.

The noise overheard gathers pace and the light in the basement imperceptibly twitches in response. At street level vehicles race by and there is a lull in the crescendo briefly but then breaks to be overtaken by a noise I’m not really familiar with. It doesn’t sound like a lorry, more like a steamroller clanging across some cobbles. As it gets closer and eventually passes the house it is obviously a tank. Its massive tracks squeal and vibrate the house causing the light to dance about creating patterns on the ceiling. 

As this thunderous noise begins to abate the rat tat tat of anti-aircraft fire takes over to add to the volume of noise. The level of noise increases as approaching planes and their payload arrive ominously closer.  The basement is loud, dark and vibrating with a deafening roar the like of which I’ve never heard. Then as I wondered what would happen next and ask myself can it get any louder or intense without the walls crashing down, it begins to recede. 

The light in the basement begins to stop swinging gently, as the noise seems to ebb away, the dog isn’t barking anymore and a baby begins to cry………..

I was sitting in the basement of a house in the town of Bastogne in Belgium. The basement was part of a recreation provided by 101st Airborne museum to be found there. I couldn’t help think of the people in the Gaza strip and basements in other conflicts all over the world. I can’t attempt to appreciate the hell they endure but I hope the lights are still tonight in their basements.

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