Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The Sound of Music

A short man in a tweed jacket stands with two full carrier bags in the middle of a shop walk way. He’s staring intently at the shelves in front of him as I move to slip past him. Suddenly, he turns and not seeing me, knocks heavily into my injured right shoulder, squishing my right breast in the process. I cry out in shock and pain and am just about to say ‘excuse me’ and smile when he tuts.

I freeze and shut my mouth. How dare he tut at me when it is he who has careened into me. He looks at me expectantly but I remain mute and eventually, he capitulates; ‘Sorry.’ he says.

‘Thank you.’ I reply and walk away, aghast at his rudeness, cursing the world for laying in my path a situation to tempt me into grumpiness and negative thoughts. But then, as I move through the shop, I see a timid-looking man at the helm of a pushchair containing a small, brown girl, who sings loudly and with utter, unself-conscious abandon, ‘Doe, a deer, female deer. Ray a drop of golden sun…’

I can’t help but smile and admire her spirit.

Monday, 14 July 2008


It's too early for cake. Regardless, the rather geeky-looking man sitting opposite me on the train stuffs a large slice of Victoria Sandwich while watching a film on his laptop. The bites he takes are enormous and ungainly, vulgar even. He struggles to chew them, open-mouthed, and I wonder what the hurry is as I note his wrinkled brow. He is unself-conscious, staring intently at the screen, so what can it be but hunger or greed? The cake looks homemade; firm yellow sponge, white buttercream, deep pink jam and a dusting of icing sugar. It deserves to be savoured. Its baker, I am sure, would be disappointed.

Friday, 11 July 2008


A tall, slender, young black woman stands on the railway platform with two young black guys and a white, middle-aged bloke who never stops talking. His constant chatter is peppered with expressions such as ‘I’m not being racist like, but…’ that are only ever uttered by people who are, in fact, racist. Most of his attention is focussed on the young woman, who is beautiful, and at one point, he pulls her away from the others in order to ‘tell her something.’

He is oblivious to my irritated and incredulous looks, but the young men are not. One catches my eye and pulls a smiling face that tells me silently he knows where I’m coming from. I laugh. He laughs. The other guy laughs, too, and makes a yapping gesture with one hand. ‘Is he your teacher or something?’ I ask them.

‘No,’ one says, ‘We work for a charity and he’s our fundraising team leader.’

‘Oh.’ I say, ‘He doesn’t half go on a bit, doesn’t he?’

‘Yeah! He never stops talking.’ They reply, and laughingly tell me all about his most annoying behaviour and that they politely indulge him, taking refuge in ipods when it gets too much to bear. They have more patience than me – the man is clearly in love with the sound of his own voice and listens to nothing else. I wonder if he has any idea how he comes across.

As the train pulls in, he leads his group towards me but I’ve had enough and keep walking through the train. As I pass the two young men, they smile warmly and knowingly at me; we share an understanding and a joke. I smile back just as warmly, and am still chuckling when I take my seat in the next carriage.

Heavenly Bodies

Looking up at the now blue sky through the train window, I spy a long, high trail of cirrus cloud that resembles nothing so much as a feather boa. Laughing softly to myself, I imagine the celestial striptease artist, peeling to the music of the spheres while an appreciative audience of angels look on.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


After an elegant breakfast in one of the best tea salons in Paris, we head out along the Rue Rivoli. Two men in excellently-cut suits stand on the broad pavement. Both move back to let my friend and I pass. One of them looks me up and down, slowly, appreciatively, catching my eye as his gaze meets my face. I look away, a little embarrassed by such unapologetic appreciation but as I pass him, I glance up again and see that he is still looking at me.

'Magnifique.' he says. I smile coyly and look away.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Freudian Slip

The managing director walks over to my desk. I push my chair back and turn to face him in my black, drop-waisted dress, a long string of pearls knotted about my neck.

'Hello!' he says loudly, 'You look like a slapper!'

I'm confused, embarrassed, and as the whole office erupts into laughter, it twigs:

'I think you mean a 'flapper',' I say, 'You need to mind your consonants!'

He face drops and he turns scarlet. 'Oh God, yes, of course! A flapper! That's what I meant. Goodness me - I didn't mean to be so rude.'