Friday, 30 November 2007

Chemical World

Standing in the chemists waiting for my prescription, it dawns on me how utterly shite I feel. It’s lunchtime - I left work early, feeling dreadful and guilty for breathing my germs over everyone – and the chemist is busy, a queue of people, mainly old, waiting for their medicines. Everyone looks miserable, and yes, it is a cold, grey, wet November day, but I am struck by their collective melancholy just the same. As I near the counter, I see packets of Warfarin and Diazepam, a cluster of bottles and pills over which an elderly lady argues bad-temperedly with the red-faced pharmacist, and my own antibiotics. It dawns on me that I am a lot less ill, and a lot less miserable than most of the assembled crowd, and that I will recover a lot more quickly. A wave of gratitude sweeps over me. Inwardly, I smile - the first of the day.

Thursday, 29 November 2007


It’s a grey, cold, November Sunday morning. I am up earlier than I would prefer, and switch on Radio 4 in an attempt to feel more awake. Armistead Maupin is on Desert Island Discs, and he is an entertaining guest. As he talks about his life and his work, I think back to reading the Tales of the City novels and remember, it was my father who recommended them to me, lent me most of them, too. Those were the days when he still cared about life and about me, and recalling happier times is bittersweet. While I am sensible how unpleasant he has become, remembering that it was not always so, and that his interest in literature and music brought me great pleasure, humanises him again, and that I enjoy.


Every Sunday morning, an email reports the number of visitors to this blog for the week. In stark contrast to my other place, Clairvoyance averages eight visitors a day. Far from being disappointed, I relish this fact, for this is my secret place, a place of no pressure, just odd thoughts, and sharing that secret with so few is special to me.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Overheard III

I share a table on the train home with two pompous, middle-aged city types sporting male-pattern baldness and bad shirts. In between looking at their Blackberrys every five seconds the following exchange takes place:

"Five-star managers (pause) employ six-star managers. Yah? Two-star managers (pause) employ one-star managers..." He stops, with slightly pursed lips and a pointed look that dissolve into self-satisfaction at his profound insight.

"Yep, yah." replies his interlocutor.

I want to punch them both.


Rounding the corner of my street in the bitterly cold November morning, I come face to face with a woman in a woolly hat. Simultaneously, we both jump, smile, and apologise, our breaths smoking into the morning air. It is a very British encounter.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Wish You Were Here

It’s a clear, bright day. Wearing my new red hat, I walk to the bakery with a colleague. It feels a little naughty because it isn’t yet lunchtime – like we’re truanting or something – but the sun is shining and despite the biting cold, my heart sings as we pass the park, foliage aflame, railings black and shiny.

At the bakery, I am dazzled by the sheer deliciousness of choice; croissants, scones, brownies, cakes, muffins, cheesecake and ‘Italian kisses’. I ooh and aah over the trays and the woman behind the counter laughs at me. She tells me the kisses are delicious and then offers me one to try. It is sweet, fragrant with lemon oil, unctuous with ground almonds and delicious. But I am poor, and chubby, and the cinnamon buns have already stolen my heart.

We walk back to the office, a blueberry muffin and a cinnamon bun nestled in my handbag, and these stolen minutes seem precious.

Sunday, 11 November 2007


It's been a tough week, and I find myself emotionally exhausted on Sunday morning. In the course of my pottering, I clear out the bedside table drawer to find a volume of verse, a birthday present from a friend. His note in the frontispiece guides me to four poems, among them one that resonates beautifully:

Trying To Ripen
By Linda Gregg

I thought if I lived alone
in stillness, God would be closer.
Or if I lived beyond aging and dying.
Now I look at the birds
and the orchard with longing.
There is ripe fruit on the ground.
It is time for migration,
but I am still not transformed.
I have become like the desert.
Today I saw a large red snake
and a covey of quail
strong enough now to fly over
the fence. I saw distance.

Thursday, 8 November 2007


The ‘sales representative’ is bright and cheerful. She asks my surname and when I tell her exclaims ‘The same as my boyfriend’s snake!’. Pardon? Yes, apparently her boyfriend keeps a 5’7”, black and red corn snake in a cage at the end of his bed that she’s rather afraid of, and its name is my surname.

Then she asks me my Christian name, which I tell her, adding ‘Let me guess, it’s the same as your boyfriend’s tarantula?’

‘No!’ she says emphatically, ‘If it was, he wouldn’t be my boyfriend. But it’s the same as mine!’.

‘So let me clarify this,’ I say wryly, ‘I share a Christian name with you, and a surname with your boyfriend’s snake? No one’s ever said that to me before.’

Friday, 2 November 2007

Rule Britannia

Out of the bus window I spy a white-haired gentleman on a bicycle wearing a pair of brown brogues, with white socks, khaki desert shorts, an anorak and a black bowler hat. He is a picture of English eccentricity as he whizzes past County Hall and I feel a surge of patriotic pride at the sight of him.