Sunday, May 09, 2010

9. Walking home through a cold, dark night

Walking home through a cold, dark night, Charlie said, ‘What’s a man with a light on his hat?’
‘A miner?’ I said. ‘Do you mean a miner?’
‘What’s a miner?’ he said.
Someone who goes down a mine, I said.

A mine, I said, is a kind of big hole, like a tunnel underground, where people go to get things, like gold, or coal, or emeralds, or silver, or oil, or -

Thinking, oh, no, I’m going to have to define all those terms. And should I be raising issues like working conditions in diamond mines; the historical implications of the closure of mines in coal mining towns; and at what point do I gently let him know that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a man – the man with the light on his hat – miners can be women, too.

‘Oh, yeah, I know mines,’ Charlie said, nodding to himself, ‘a mine is where you go to find things when you’ve lost them.’

We rounded the corner, a steep corner of the path, and, ‘Look,’ said Charlie, ‘see, there he goes again,’ pointing at a cyclist riding by, safety light flashing on his helmet, a man with a light on his hat.