Sunday, 3 October 2021

The Old Box.





The cigar box is engraved solid silver and belonged to his grandfather who died 36 years ago.

 

It is wrapped in protective bubble wrap held secure with tape and was at the back of the highest shelf in the upstairs bedroom, hidden by old boxes and plastic and under a thick layer of dust.

 

It was not clear that he remembered it being there: if he did he had left it as the last thing to pack as a gesture to the memories that were beginning to overwhelm him.

 

Emptying this house had been difficult, it had changed from being an unwanted obligation and become a squaring up to loss, the past and an unknown future; the cigar box would not let him let go so he placed it on the shelf in the empty sitting room, defying any of us to touch it.

 

His daughter tried, placing it carefully in the box of oddments that she would take to her house and where he would sleep for the next few nights. The box already contained his childhood Teddy Bear – one eye a button and one arm absent – but he refused to allow it, instead setting it alongside the fireplace.

 

The fire was cold, three years had passed since joyous flames had danced in the grate; outside the pile of wood was hidden beneath wet newspaper, a rusty piece of iron, a broken hose pipe and a greasy bike chain.

 

Many people had once shared this house.

 

Now, it was just him.

 

Tomorrow he would be gone and someone new would take his place.

 

If he picked up the cigar box all this would finally be gone.

 

So he didn’t.

 




Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Three Chairs (Four) The Wise





The old guy was down by the bins this morning trying to dispose of the biggest pizza carton I’ve ever seen.


‘There’s no way you will gat that in there’, I offered.


‘Oh yeah, says who’, he replied.


I looked around thinking that that was pretty obvious but it turned out the vicar was walking past, the bins are next to the church, so I pointed at myself.


‘Yeah, and who are you from Adam’, the old guy continued as he pushed on the empty pizza container.


I myself was intending to leave a set of dining chairs at the bin: I knew full well they wouldn’t fit in even without the encumbrance of an oversized pizza box, so I set them in a half circle on the pavement.


The old guy and myself sat down to chat.


‘I haven’t seen you for quite a while’, I began.


‘Have you been to The Opaque Tomato, by chance’ he answered.


Conversations with the old guy are rarely linear.


‘What is The Opaque Tomato?’ I asked, using the same capital letters that he had used.


‘It’s a pub. He only serves craft wine.’


‘Craft wine?’


‘It’s like craft beer. Can I have these chairs?


I said that he could and tried to imagine what craft wine could be.


‘Don’t think about it’, he suggested, ‘just add it to the list.’


‘What list?’


‘Wild Air, Smart water and a female James Bond’


‘Bond?’


‘What’s the point? Just write a new story.’


I thought about saying ‘what’s the point of anything’ but wondered what the point would be, so I said nothing.


‘Cat got your tongue eh?’, he grunted.


It was a beautiful morning, the first light of dawn was creeping around the spire of the church, dew settled on the stain glass sparkled and a bird somewhere was singing.


I looked around.


I was alone sitting on a single remaining chair.


A fox sulked past.

 

 




Tuesday, 14 September 2021

The Ghosts, The Clockmaker and the Mushroom








In the car, the ghosts of his wife’s parents sat there silently.

 

They weren’t speaking to him but they had his full attention.

 

They made him think.

 

It started with the woods, beech, at the back of their house where they used to walk their dog, and the forest where he had slept this night, pine.

 

And then suddenly he was back in a garage in Spain.

 

They were not there, but it was the garage of his friend’s father, a clockmaker long-time retired.

 

Long-time.

 

He couldn’t remember sleeping but he had been there three days with his friend. The garage held no car, only a workbench. And a lot of tools.

 

Maybe he had slept in the van outside, and his friend inside with his parents; maybe they worked in there for three days straight.

 

The sea was across the garden behind the garage, but they had no time to swim; he would swim later when the driving was done and the ghosts parted.

 

In the garage a lamp lay in pieces on the work bench and his friend looked like a surgeon bringing it to life.

 

Like his puppets.

 

Father was a clockmaker, the son a puppeteer.

 

Mechanical puppets.

 

The ghosts in the back seat nod in agreement; they don’t remember any of this but they are happy that the past holds them along with all the other memories.

 


Saturday, 11 September 2021

Pirates on The Ridge Line






From this forest you cannot see the ocean, but you can smell it. 

 

At night the salt plays amongst the pines and in the day you can hear her waves in the cry of the gulls that come inland looking for food. 

 

All you can see from here are the castles that ridge the highland, waiting; far enough from the coast to be protected from Pirates, close enough to deter anyone who seeks their fortune ashore. 

 

Once they were watchtowers, now they are guardians.

 

When he sees the castles he knows the ocean is near and the tiredness of the days and days of dusty travel fall away, forgotten like the villages and faces he has passed through. He even forgets the future he had once imagined.

 

This is a moment of cleansing.

 

Later he will walk barefoot through the sand and feel the embrace of the surf on his toes, but now he must climb to the first of the castles, pay tribute and ask for passage.

 

If it is not granted, he will demand it.

 

If it is refused, he will fight.

 

To turn back, no longer remains an option.



Wednesday, 1 September 2021

There Is/There Was





There is a spring on the high pass and legend tells that the men who carried the wine from the valley to the high plateau would stop here and replace the wine that they had drunk from the barrels with the crystal clear water that springs from the rock.

 

The drunkard’s spring.

 

There was a mermaid.

 

I know she was a mermaid because:

a)    She stayed in the water longer than I.

b)   She was singing softly in Spanish.

c)    She had a tail.

 

There is a spring that bubbles and steams from the earth, it’s too hot too touch but it falls down the mountain side through a series of pools.

 

There was a Pharmacy in the village, it sold everything for every ailment. It is no longer there, today the space is a shop that sells candles and woven items. There is nothing there that I need or want, there was nothing I wanted in the Pharmacy either, but sometimes I needed it.

 

There are secret places still, some people know of them so they might not be completely secret. Most of them lie hidden in the folds of the distant mountains and people don’t speak about them.

 

A secret is no longer a secret if you tell it to someone.

 

No one is talking about these things, they are talking about vaccines (or not), masks (or not) and health pass (or not).

 

So the secrets are safe.