‘The Men Who Came Too Late and Stayed Too Long.’


Surgery is a major life event. I had a hip replacement, which means full derailment; it’s a paradigm shift quite unlike any other. And most of the time, paradigm shifts find you stranded in a world that’s changed and requires that you develop new skills in order to cope. In my case, I return to the world with a certain ability that I had lost, namely, the ability to walk and stand square and strong, without pain.

Unlike many other paradigm shifts, this one lasted a month. I spent a week deranged by medication, and then the next three hanging around my house, finally relinquishing the crutches in the last seven days. The drugs and lack of exercise threw me out, so while I would normally spend the bulk of my leisure time reading and writing – my vocational work – I found my brain wasn’t up to it the way it was during COVID.

I did watch a few films, however. Predominantly documentaries, but also a number of fiction films. I also returned to what are, to me, the ‘classics’. Sam Peckinpah is always up there, and the two great Peckinpah films are The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs.

Milan Kundera wrote in The Unbearable Lightness of Being that ‘guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurrence (Beethoven’s music, death under a train) into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the individual’s life.’

I walked into a café the other morning and a strange song with a soaring melancholy voice enveloped me like a shaft of sunlight, sequestering me away from everybody else.

‘Who is this?’ I asked the barista.

‘Billie Eilish. I think it’s called ‘Ocean Eyes.’

I returned to the gym, and consulted Spotify.

‘I’ve been watching you for some time

Can’t stop staring at those ocean eyes

Burning cities and napalm skies

Fifteen flares inside those ocean eyes…’

I don’t know when it began, but the fiery image of the apocalypse has become a motif.


I began thinking about The Wild Bunch recently, after seeing Point Break. I made a fleeting comparison between the two of them, but found myself returning to Peckinpah’s western for some reason I couldn’t be sure of.

I’m uncertain of my own response to the film, less now than ever before, but I am sure that more than any of his characters, Peckinpah is the hero of his films; he is the shadowy protagonist gliding about beneath the action, simultaneously designing and participating.

I had a significant success recently, which may turn out to the biggest of my literary career this far. To celebrate, I purchased a giant poster advertising the French cinematic release of the film, Le Horde Sauvage. Last time I saw it was in Paris six years ago, and this same poster was out front of the movie house.

The poster features the silhouettes of all nine members of the bunch facing a bright light.  They are facing it with the only thing they have; their guns, and a willingness to engage. An overwhelming, brilliant light has always signified the presence of God.

In the historical context of the film, it suggests sunrise; the dawn of a new era, for which the bunch are unprepared. For us, post-nuclear weapons, it carries connotations of the apocalypse, which is of course, the Bunch’s final destination.

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