I was over in Berkeley yesterday evening, and someone was talking about collective nouns, a propos of a "swarm of gulls" in a poem. It's a murder of crows, he said, but what are gulls, and nobody could answer. A murder of crows!
My bedtime reading is Woolf's Waves. I reread all the italicized lyrical bits from start to finish, and now I'm reading the rest again, backwards. In the last chapter (I could be remembering this all wrong) Bernard's eye glances over the sideboard and some bananas in a bowl, and my thoughts suddenly skipped the book and went off to Ghana decades ago. I am standing on the verandah of my flat at Akrokerri Teacher Training College, south of Kumasi, where I am a volunteer teacher (which means I have a degree but sketchy professional training and no experience) teaching English to prospective teachers, some of them teens, some older than I am.
I am looking down the drive that runs from the teachers' housing past the school buildings and some new bungalows, behind them the house of the headmaster--a "been-to," a Ghanaian educated in England--to the school gates and the generator, which gives us light until about 10 o'clock in the evening. Walking up the drive I remember as long, is a farmer with a hand of bananas on his head. The hand of bananas is as high as he is, and his right hand is up to steady it. His left hand is rowing himself uphill. He grows larger. Soon he will knock and sell me bananas to put in a bowl on our sideboard. We must have had a bowl; but a sideboard? Unlikely. I'll put them on the table. Maybe later I'll ride my scooter over to Obuasi, the market and goldmining town, to buy a pineapple, the only freshly picked ones I will ever eat in my life, and some tomatoes and plantain to fry.