Friday, 8 August 2008

The world as we know it

This is the world as we know it.
Grainy, lit only by lamps and televisions. Things are strewn, rather than placed. Nothing seems to have a home. Things crawl like a hermit around the house, laying down, depositing themselves.
Everyone has a book in their hand. Everyone, a drink or a cigarette. Music comes from every speaker, rhetoric from every mouth.
We try to get more comfortable, but we don't want to feel too numb, so we don't take off our shoes or our ties.
Someone will call us soon, someone will ring the bell. But until then, we might get forty winks.
And then it's out onto Crash Street for us. We'll drink in the Arrogance Cafe tonight, or The Strange.
This is the world of me, Algy and Pug. This is where we live.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Low tide

We slopped and plopped through the wet sands and puddles where the rain fell.
I was wearing jeans and my trainers. She had waterproof gear covering her, almost entirely.
Millie padded along beside. She loved this walk, her favourite of the week. She’d skid through confusing puddles, sniff crabs and snap at lugworms. Maybe it was Anne’s favourite walk of the week too, I don’t know.
I walked along behind them, trying to think of a way to tell her I didn’t want to do this anymore.
The water seeped through the cheap stitching of my shoes and my every step was uncomfortable.
I’ll tell her as soon as we get home, I told myself. As soon as we get home.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The fulmar

The seabirds banked, swooped and dived across the bay. So many different shapes and colours blurring across the horizon, cawing and shitting as they saw fit.
Several gulls were attacking a predatory bird that was returning to its craggy haven on the limestone cliff-face. They mobbed the bird – a peregrine falcon – as it tried to bring its hard-caught prey to its young. The proud falcon didn’t stand much of a chance against this rabble of sneering, sniping gulls and eventually relinquished its carrion.
The meat fell, flimsy, several hundred feet to the water below. The gulls that had freed it stood no chance as the amalgam of seabirds, floating and bobbing on the high summer tide, snatched and tore the haggard piece of flesh to pieces as soon as it sploshed into the sea.
But there, high above this scene, above all of this, circling and surveying all before it with a calm eye, flew the fulmar. This prehistoric survivor has seen so much. He is born to thrive.
Able to exist far out at sea, this little bull bird flying back and forth in search of fish, so hardy, he can live for forty years. His young share his spirit, spraying a thick and foul oil at any predators that come their way, fighting and thriving before they can even fly.
He’s the great fisher of the seas, and the trawlermen pay him homage as they follow him home each morning with their own hard-won catch.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Where he liked to sit

He had a real pedigree, did Jack.
The type of man I could get by on, I could live on. He brought me succour – I think that’s the right expression.
Once we were active, but when the sun grew long in the sky, we’d sit and question each other on this and that; sit and stew in the heat of the world we looked out upon, though we always sat just in the shade.
Jack used to say that he liked to keep the sun a few inches from his feet. Sometimes, when he was ready to sit down, he’d go out there onto the patio and test out the sun. Often it would be slightly wrong, out by a few centimetres even, and then he’d march right back in to where I was sitting, where it was cool and air-conditioned, and he’d say: “Not now, Laura,” then he’d look around for something to do, something he could do quickly and without thinking. He’d often find a crossword to start, though he rarely finished one.
He’d look up then and say, “Now should be just about right,” and it always was. So he’d take his seat for the remainder of the afternoon, and I would put the kettle on and join him presently, once the Earl Grey was ready. We’d both put our feet up on the stool.
He’d happily sit there all evening too, if he could, but I’d always make him take a stroll in the early evening. We might go and grab some fish from Sami’s, or some bread. It was queer, perhaps, to buy these things when the stores were closing, but it gave me an excuse to get him out of his seat and walking.
Besides, I liked to look at the sea. It’s the main reason I wanted to move here.
Lately I’ve taken to bringing a deck-chair down to the quayside. I’ll sit out in the morning but it soon gets too hot and it’s less fun without someone to chat and scathe with.
So I generally retreat before noon, back to the air-conditioned rooms and I’ll wait until the shade hovers over our seats. Then, I’ll come out and test it.
I’ll check how far the shadow has come and, if I think it would be good enough for Jack, I’ll take my seat.
Sometimes, I make an extra cup of Earl Grey. Sometimes, not by mistake.

Monday, 4 August 2008

After Christmas

And just as soon as Christmas had begun for the town, so it ended.
After Christmas ended there were screams and running and buildings collapsing. I walked out into the street and smelt the burning and saw the blood running down the camber of the street to fill drains and gulleys.
A flash had started life somewhere inside a supermarket and I saw it grow in a split-second to cover the delicate blue of the tree.
And then came the noise; an almighty cataclysm that rattled my windows and rocked the foundations of the house, like when the earthquake hit the summer before last.
After the explosion, the town was in tatters. The brief idea of Christmas had seemed to be holding it all together, keeping the town alive. Then, in a swift blast and a huge fireball, the scene was ruined forever.
I heard an old man on the corner of the street saying he’d never be able to remember what the street used to look like. This scorched shell of a street was the only way he’d ever recall it now, in his mind’s eye.
But I walked across the road, to where the Christmas tree lay on its side. Somehow, despite every streetlight in the town having died after the blast, the wintry blue bulbs that threaded their way around the body of the fir tree still shone bright.
Perhaps they were like stars that, to us, appear to shine on long after they’ve exploded and died?
Whatever, I stood there just gazing at the tree and, before too long, the crowds that had gathered to inspect the carnage in the street began to troop across and stood in a circle around the tree.
We all just stood there in silence pondering what we were looking at, thinking about just what a small miracle was and would we know if we ever saw one.