Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Balls Up

Today I'm delivering a new van to a British Telecom workshop near Heathrow. More specifically, it is lodged between two immigrant removal centres on the outskirts of the airport. The site can only be reached by a short access road running between tall steel fences, at least twenty foot high. Each fence is topped by a coil of razor wire, which is in turn topped by another coil.


I drive in, but leave on foot, giving me more time to take in the surroundings. The first thing that catches my eye is an old, burst leather football lying on the pavement – pretty much the only thing in view that isn't security related. I ponder on how it might have ended up here, and look up at the tall fences, wondering on the odds of anyone inside accidentally kicking the ball that high. And then I notice another, lodged inside the lower coil of razor wire on the left hand fence. And another.


All in all there are six of them stuck aloft and two that have escaped entirely to lie deflated in the road – an odd symbol of humanity amidst the solid greyness of tarmac and fence.


I wonder what time frame is represented by the display in the razor wire – how many years had it taken to create and how significant a calamity was each new addition to those on the other side. The balls are of different colours and designs – clearly not standard issue and therefore unlikely to be immediately replaced with another from some store cupboard. Does each one represent a frustrating hour’s delay in the match, or a whole unhappy day, or a ruined week? How far from home did the last person to kick it feel as they followed it’s trajectory and realised that it wasn’t coming back?

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