Friday, 19 September 2008

Girl on a bicycle

Abigail is the epitome of my lust. Perhaps that doesn't say too much about my sexual appetites, but there's something so sleek and handsome about her, so wholesome and healthy, my desire tarnishes her just that little bit and it stings me.
When I first saw her I wrote down these words in my journal:
"The girl on the bike wheels into view. I'm lost for a moment, panicked on a familiar street. Her hair falls like a celluloid dream, in perfect torrents of colour. She is an element of cool. Her very nature electrifies the air, magnetising the eyes and souls of wanton man and bitter woman. And she feeds off it. She grows straighter, more erect, atop her bicycle. She rides on without catching a single eye."
Perhaps, though, I didn't understand her at first. She is more than a simple object of desire, that is why I am so disgusted by my lust. It is difficult to know how to regard her. Surely not as some goddess, whose divine beauty inspires unholy desires which must be atoned for? No, she is not perfection, no matter how near that level appears in her.
Also, she is not unattainable, not at all. An ordinary man, as ordinary as myself, meets her regularly for dinner. They meet at Cafe Mouchel most often, although I have seen them at Taymon's, when it's not too busy. His name is Jeremy and he is a banker.
Her beautiful posterior is neither divine nor permanently attached to her bicycle, for I have seen her ride the bus and even a tram. Once I followed her onto a busy bus and had to stand, crushed, my face in close proximity to her hair, my body on fire. She smelled of damsons.
Sometimes she will ride her bike all the way to her mother's, on the east side of town, which isn't even served by an underground station. I watch from my scooter as she slides from the saddle and bounces up the grey concrete stair as if she'd just awoken from hibernation on a warm spring day.
I tried to speak to her once, at traffic lights. The red light meant I had to pull up beside her, and wait a few trembling moments in her presence. Remembering this was just a girl - a 27-year-old girl named Abigail who lived alone in the business district and loved to eat ravioli - I decided I could speak to her, we could notice each other today.
My voice was muffled under my helmet, she turned her face towards mine, in case I'd said something, and as her eyes met mine I was dumbstruck. She cycled on as the lights changed to green, but I was lost there, sinking still in the deep blue of her eyes, oblivious to the honking of the traffic behind me.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Summer, on the way to Sylvie's beach

Sylvie’s beach has sand dunes, did I tell you that?
There’s Sylvie, struggling up the dune, trying to balance as the plush sand subsides beneath her comfortable shoes.
Greta is lagging behind and Sylvie’s mum, Patricia, is saying something to her. Patricia is probably telling Greta that she’s done something wrong.
I’m lagging behind too.
I pretended I was just interested in the flora. How does something so green grow straight through sand? I suppose I am a little interested, but I’ve never so much as Googled it, so what the hey!
It’s true that I don’t want to talk to Patricia. She has a penchant for ‘tuts’ and ‘tsks’. At first I thought she couldn’t abide me, but she treats me as fairly as she does her own, so I suppose I can’t complain.
Apart from Sylvie, the other of ‘her own’ is Louis. He’s visiting too and struts about with such purpose and vigour, you’d think he was younger than Sylvie. But he’s not; he’s fully forty years old and still living with mother. A total berk, anyway. You can just make him out, disappearing over the hill.
Father, by the way, is not dead – heaven forbid! No, he’s too ill or lazy to come to the beach. Too much sand, too much sun, that’s not what England is about for him. Patricia would have had to go home soon after and fix him a roast dinner – it’s Sunday, after all!
What do you reckon? You’re not really interested in these photos, are you Anne? Anne? Anne!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

James, Wilberforce and the adult world

James watched the flock, pecking and honking in the grass. He rested his young arms on the old fence and made tentative steps towards whistling. He hoped to train his puppy, a recent gift whom he'd named Wilberforce, to be a sheepdog and thought he'd train him using the lazy white geese that lived in the meadow.
In honesty, James had a strong dislike for the geese. They always hissed at him when he ran by on the way to help with the milking, and one (he nicknamed him Goliath) had bitten him on the hand when he was very young and trying to feed them. He paid little attention to the attempts of Wilberforce to herd the birds. He just settled back to practice his whistling and watch the small dog terrorising the flapping, feather-shedding, creatures.
Like the repeat of a rifle shot, the snarl of the dog and the rampant honks of the geese suddenly reached a shocking pitch. James was on high alert now and sprinted into the melee of scattering birds and yelping puppy.
Wilberforce whined and cowered before his master as the voice of James' mother called out in concern from the farmhouse. There at the boy's feet lay the slain Goliath, it's neck bloody and broken.
A sense of satisfaction fought with a sense of impending doom. His father would be striding now, black boots menacing, across the field towards the house. James regarded the sniffling dog below him and couldn't be angry. He felt an extraordinary kinship with him then and knelt down next to the body of the goose, awaiting the fearful arrival of the adult world.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The letter

Dear Laura,

I’ll start this letter with the usual ‘how are you?’ Maybe it’s a stupid thing to ask because you can’t immediately reply, and how you are changes from day to day, but it’s the kind of rhetorical tradition associated with letters through the ages and I felt the need to continue the trend. So, how are you?

Hope everything’s good in your corner of the world, and, incidentally, I hope your sister got to Portugal. When I read about her passport problem I didn’t hold much hope for her – the way the passport process is at the moment! Oh and thanks very much for the letter, it was a nice surprise because, while I always thought you would write to me at some time – you’re a girl of your word, after all – I didn’t expect contact so soon. I thought an up and coming, forward thinking young businesswoman as yourself would be up to her ears in lucrative ventures and opportunities, and so too busy to write to some lazy arse writer. Anyway I’m glad you did write.

While I think about it, how are you finding your friends back home? What I mean is that I’ve been away from here for six years and I return to an altered landscape. I haven’t really kept in touch with people here and so now I’m finding life difficult and more than a little boring. I guess I went away to start a new life and now it’s difficult to pick up the old one where it left off. Anyway, I hope it’s easier for you.

I joined up with some people we met in India, just last week. It was a nice evening, yet strange to not have you there. Robert (small and Jewish) came along and we picked up our drinking where we left off in Mumbai. Carl is still considering whether to move to Australia or not, while his brother Owen hasn’t managed to find any work yet! He has interviews “lined up”, apparently, but we’ve heard that before.

Actually, Owen brought along his long-standing (and long-suffering) girlfriend, Caitlin with him to the restaurant. To think what he got up to while he was away. I don’t understand how he doesn’t even feel guilty about it, I mean Caitlin is a lovely girl and must really love him. Oh well…

That ought to be enough for now. I hope you’ll write back. I’m away to Scotland at the beginning of next month so I’ll send you a postcard and perhaps some shortbread. In the meantime, stay happy and having fun.

With love,


Monday, 15 September 2008


Leaves rustle and bushes twitch,
Tell-tale signs, nocturnal stranger.
Black and moist, the snout comes first,
Sniffs the air and looks for danger.
Slinky spines stand on end –
Ground shaking, people waking –
So hurry home, buried deep,
Day is broken, it’s time to sleep.