On Poptones

Drive to the forest in a Japanese car. When it begins to rain, and it will, it will, turn on the windscreen wipers. They will swish swoosh swish back and forth across the windscreen of the Japanese car, just like they do across the windscreen of Marion Crane’s car in Psycho, to ensure that, however heavy and pelting the rain becomes, and it will pelt, it will, you will still be able to see the road ahead clearly enough to drive, in the dark and the rain, past Box Hill, towards the forest, in a Japanese car.

Sometimes the rain pelts down so relentlessly that even the swishiest and swooshiest of windscreen wipers, set to their most rapid swishing and swooshing, are barely able to wipe the raindrops from the windscreen, so hard and fast does the rain pelt down, and in the dark of an earthly night it can be the devil of a job to keep a clear view of the road ahead. Such were the circumstances that led Marion Crane to stop at the Bates Motel. Her car was not a Japanese one. She was not on her way to the forest.

I’ve got binoculars on top of Box Hill. I am protected from the relentless pelting rain by an anorak, a sou’wester, and the roof of a bird-spotter’s hideyhole. Because my shelter is dry, more or less, and my vision is acute, I can see clearly through the lenses of my binoculars. I would not need wipers even were the binoculars fitted with them, which of course they are not. I have trained my binoculars on the road below, and now you come sweeping into view, driving to the forest in a Japanese car. I slowly adjust the angle of the binoculars so I can follow your progress.

It is not clear whether there was a hill, like Box Hill, in the vicinity of the Bates Motel, but had there been, then Arbogast might have been stood atop it, with binoculars, watching Marion Crane pull in and park. The private detective would have had plenty of time to scamper down the hillside and jump into his car and rev the engine and tear across to the Bates Motel and forestall the horror. Arbogast was not there, on some putative hill, with binoculars. But I am.

The windscreen wipers of your Japanese car are swishing and swooshing back and forth as rapidly as it is possible for them to do, but now the relentlessness of the pelting rain redoubles, and it is almost impossible for you to see clearly the road ahead, towards the forest. You are driving more and more slowly, and with increasing difficulty, and a voice in your head tells you to pull over and stop in a layby. The voice is a sober and sensible one and not at all like the voice Norman Bates hears in his head, when Marion Crane comes to the Bates Motel.

Through my binoculars, on top of Box Hill, I can see you have pulled in to a layby and come to a stop in your Japanese car. I tuck the binoculars into the pochette on a lanyard around my neck and I scamper down Box Hill to where my own car is parked. It is not a Japanese car. Its windscreen wipers are no more, nor less, efficient than yours, but my vision is acute and I am a fantastic driver, so for me it is child’s play to rev the engine and tear across to the layby where you are parked.

I pull up behind your Japanese car and stop the engine and get out of my car and slam the door shut behind me and splosh through the puddles towards your car. I am wearing waterproof boots. I draw level with the window on the driver’s side of your Japanese car and, peering in, I am disconcerted to see that you are not sitting in the driver’s seat. Nor have you shifted to the passenger seat, nor to either of the back seats. You are not in the car. You must have gone somewhere on foot, through the puddles, in the dark, in the pelting rain, while I was making my way to the layby from the top of Box Hill.

I stand next to your Japanese car and take the binoculars out of the pochette on a lanyard around my neck and peer through them. So relentless is the pelting rain that I wish O I wish I had wipers fitted to my binoculars. I cannot see a thing in any direction. I can only assume that for some reason you have sploshed through the puddles to the forest, the edge of which is about half a mile away. I decide to follow you, in my waterproof boots.

This is ancient and dense forest and no felling has taken place to make a clearing in which a motel might be erected. It would not, in any case, make an apt site for a motel. A sinister house like that adjoining the Bates Motel might be apt, were there a clearing, but there is not. So to find you I have to seek signs, like a tracker. Soon enough, I come upon you, squatting by a fallen log, upon which you have set a camping gaz stove. You are preparing tea, and sausages. Along the log from the stove you have placed a cassette player.

“Hold it right there!” I cry.

You spin around, astonished.

“Picnic police!” I cry, “Don’t move!”

“Dammit!” you mutter.

There are some people who praise picnicking in the British countryside. I do whatever it takes to eradicate it. I place you under arrest. The cassette plays poptones.

5 thoughts on “On Poptones

  1. “Windshield wiper splashin’,
    Splashin’, callin’ out her name
    Just gotta see Jane”

    R. Dean Taylor, not ‘arf.


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