Category Archives: Daily pages

Behind the screen

Behind the curtainSo, what is going on behind this screen? Well, let me share something with you.

For a while this morning I thought I was watching a man die. Not a good feeling.

I was sitting quietly enjoying my coffee when an old man standing outside the shop with his wife (or maybe daughter) just keeled over and fell, head crashing to the floor. My instant reaction was “What should/could I do?” before realising that I was impotent. You see, I have no first aid training and beyond putting the man into the recovery position (which was not necessary as he happened to have fallen in exactly the right position) I could have done little except check if he had a pulse and, I guess, make some amateur attempts at CPR in the event that he didn’t have a pulse. Impotent.

Fortunately within seconds  a couple of passers by who it seemed to me knew what they were doing stopped and then 10-15 seconds later one of the security guards for the building turned up and started checking pulse etc. whilst one of the ladies who first stopped was ringing someone (presumably 999?).

Frustration turned to concern for the man. He was very grey and there was blood coming from his mouth. The first security man, eventually there were 4 or 5 moving on the gawpers, calmly checked his pulse and I saw a twitch of the old man’s mouth as he appeared to answer a question. The longer it went on, by now perhaps 2 or 3 minutes but who knows as we don’t put a stopwatch on these things do we, the more I could see the old man slowly yet clearly moving his mouth.

His wife, or was it daughter, was there and I finally found something to do. She was clearly shocked and I decided that a chair would be in order so I picked one up from the cafe, took it outside, a gentle touch on the shoulder, a gentle “I see you are trembling, perhaps you might like to sit down” and 5 seconds later she was sitting down. I had done what I could.

The medics arrived after about 5 minutes and maybe another 5 minutes passed before the screens that you see in the picture were wheeled around the scene and the man had some privacy while he was treated.

Some time later he was wheeled away on a stretcher, clearly alive and I hope not too seriously injured.

All in all it was as smooth a response as you might hope for (with the exception of the screens, which might have arrived earlier and maybe those who tended to his needs in those early minutes did actually save his life. Because I didn’t.

I am left reflecting on my own impotence in this situation.  What is the minimum that ‘one’ might hope the average man or woman in the street to be able to offer someone in these circumstances and do I have those skills. Should I train as a first aider on the offchance? Fortunately this was a crowded place and equally fortunately others appeared and did the necessary, but what if I was in the middle of nowhere and something similar happened?

 

Reflections on friendship

LoveAs I have mentioned elsewhere, I am almost overwhelmed by the outpourings of support and expressions of love that have come my way since disclosing my current pituitary challenge. I am immensely grateful for all of these and I find myself reflecting, as I would, on the processes happening here.

All of the things that have been said to me have been supportive, and some not only been wonderful but also somewhat unexpected. Unexpected not only in content but the fact that they have been said at all.

I am left wondering how often we fail to express our deepest feelings for others. Whether we keep that love, respect, appreciation, recognition, whatever ‘under our hat’ or whether we choose to express it. Are we perhaps more able/willing to write down our innermost thoughts? Do we take those thoughts and feelings for granted, always assuming that the other person somehow knows through some mysterious process how much they are valued?

Let’s not hold back. Let’s express our love for each other, our respect for someone’s ability, our recognition of someone’s contribution – whilst the emotion is hot rather than leaving it to cool down and lose its power.

So, whoever you are reading this, THANK YOU. It’s important to me that this blog is not just a piece of self-aggrandisment but also something that others find interesting for whatever their own reasons.

Migrants, refugees, hordes, people…

Refugees

Refugees

This is a thinkpiece, and perhaps inevitably something of an opinion piece as well, about the current challenges faced by people fleeing for whatever reason from the Middle East.

These people, for whatever other label we choose to apply to them they are all people – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, neighbours, friends – have all chosen to travel thousands of miles, often in appalling circumstances and at risk to both lives and future financial capacity, to escape a regime that dehumanises them in so many ways. Ethnic cleansing, oppression of women, forced combat status, simply being in the wrong place when an oppressive (and yes I reaise that is MY values surfacing) regime decides to start shelling or gassing or raping and pillaging or abducting women/children/men – add your own reasons for wanting to escape ISIS/ISIL/DAISH. As an aside, why do so many politicians insist on using a label – DAISH or DA’ESH – that is known to be offensive? It would certainly piss me off if every time someone referred to me I was called “tosspot” and I would not be likely to engage with them on neutral terms – here is one explanation from The Deconstructed Globe:

In all of the Arabic countries, ISIS is referred to as DAISH, which is short for ‘Dawlat al-Islamiyah f’al-Iraq wa al-Sham’, Arabic for the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (Syria).  What makes the Arabic acronym interesting is that the Arabic word  ‘دعس‘ , or daish, which means to ‘tread under foot‘ or ‘crush‘.   I’ve been meaning to look this up for a while, and I’m glad I finally did.  The Arabic acronym is pejorative and clearly hostile, unlike the English word Isis, which is the name of a powerful Egyptian goddess.

But back to the people massing on the shores of Europe. One might argue how great it is that we have created a culture/economy that is so successful and, by and large, accommodating that people want to live here. Does it have to be a culture/economy that is restricted to those of us living here now? Let’s be honest, much of Europe’s success has been built on the Imperial past of the UK, France, Germany, Austria. An Imperial past that, to be very polite, ‘drew on’ the resources to be found in those far-flung lands where we managed to impose our will. We cannot deny our implicit connection to the oilfields of the Middle East, any more than we can dismiss our earlier pillaging of India, Western Africa, the Caribbean etc.

It was us that drew the lines on a map delineating most of the Middle East. Lines that crossed traditional tribal or other groupings, just as the lines dividing India from Pakistan led to discontent that remains today.

It was us that armed and supported regimes that turned tyrannical and now we find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma about how to support whom in the mess that we helped create.

It is us who, if we believe the conflicts to be religious in catalysis, refuse to remember the death and destruction wielded in the name of Christianity. Crikey, if we think the Sunni/Shia division is baffling then how do we account for the Cathars driven to extinction by ethnic cleansing by a Pope who did not like their particular form of Catholicism.

But back to today’s people and ‘our’ response to the reality that so many hundreds of thousands see themselves living a better life in Europe. Can you imagine yourself so dissatisfied with what is happening where you live that you set off to walk thousands of miles across countries you have never visited, across desert with little water or food, carrying your life possessions on your back with your wife, children, mother, grandmother in your company. The when you get somewhere near your destination – Europe – you find it necessary to pay mmore than your life savings to an unscrupulous human trafficker who packs you so tight in an unseaworthy vessel that your mother slips overboard never to be seen again, your child dies of the crush in a locked below-decks compartment and your wife is raped in front of your eyes by those traffickers who you so hoped would lead you to a better life? Go on, imagine it. I have tears in my eyes as I just write these sentences. These people are HUMANS like you or I, with desires and dreams like you or I, but without the ability to make them happen.

You finally make it to your destination, only to find that instead of the dream you are living in the open air or under a plastic sheet with thousands of others who made it. You are treated as criminals by regimes who you believed were more compassionate than the one you escape. You are held in detention centres while some bureaucrat driven by Political will, decides whether HE thinks it was worth all your sacrifice to get here.

We were happy to accept, even encourage the inhabitants of many of our former colonies to come to our textile factories, our buses, our shipyards, our hospitals. We were even magnificent, albeit probably not magnificent enough, in helping thousands escape the Nazis. Yet here we are making it difficult, and more difficult by the day, for those who look up to us, who value our freedoms to share in them. How selfish. How uncaring that we pay for fences and razor wire to stop a few thousand desperate migrants/refugees/whatever coming over from France. How petty-minded that when Germany has accepted over 800,000 such people we are resisting a few tens of thousands. How ridiculous that we spend millions on arming and training and even bombing one or other regime in the Middle East while we refuse to help those fleeing from the carnage.

Let’s find a way out of this situation that treats these poor people as human beings, that shares our wealth with them (maybe the oil companies could ‘repatriate’ some of the profits they make out of ‘their’ oil to the people in such dire straits) and that positions us as a beacon of human responses to human challenges. We need to address both the cause and the effect, we focus on the effect because it is here in our backyard whereas the cause is thousands of miles away in foreign lands so many of us do not understand.

Refugees welcome in german footballWhat a delight to see German football fans with signs saying “Refugees welcome here”. What a delight to hear of Icelandic families offering their homes to refugees.

And what a shame on us that 67% of the population think that sending the Army to France to restore order is an answer!

And one final question. How much is it costing us to resist the few thousand in Calais, compared to how much it would cost to treat them as deserving humans and find room for them in our so-called compassionate society?

The Man Behind the Curtain

Langoustine

Langoustine

Last night, we went to The Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds – here is my  Tripadvisor review. You might get the impression that we liked the place!

 

 

 

“Creativity, wittiness, technical skill – this place has it all!”
5 of 5 stars

Our second visit found a substantially changed menu – which is good as you have no choice, a £65 taster menu or go to McDonalds. That’s a good thing in my book as it saves the effort of choosing and exposes me to food experiences unlike those I might choose.
And what experiences! I’m not going to try to describe all the dishes (I could actually try to describe the dishes, because every course was served on its’ own rather special ‘crockery’, offering an extra dimension to what must be described as a dining experience rather than just a meal) because I could not possibly do justice to them.
Let me instead just give a flavour of the offerings, as if I were ordering a four course menu from what we ate – start with a spoon-sized serving of raw langoustine in a mussel broth dribbled with basil oil, move on to an offering of prawn/scallop/sweetbreads served with a very spicy Ponzu sauce and preceded by an “electric daisy”, for meat take the braised ox cheek with salt ‘n vinegar crispy rice etc, and finish with a single bit of tiramisu stiing in it’s edible cup and exploding in your mouth to give a spectacular end to your feast.
Of course, in the real work dof Michael O’Hare, you get 8 other equally creative and impressive dishes. We were there for 3.5 hours and enjoyed every minute.
The gold high heels have gone, and the very friendly and communicative staff appreciate that, presenting cutlery in boxes has also gone (I thought this was rather cute if a touch OTT) and chef made an appearance to explain his ‘electric daisy’ creation to us.

We ate at The Man Behind The Curtain

The Man Behind The Curtain - brilliant Leeds RestaurantStylish, witty, inventive and best of all extremely tasty.

If, possibly like some of those curmudgeons who give low marks, you want to go home feeling stuffed then go to your local fish & chip shop; if however you want to go home feeling nicely replete after experiencing a series of often surprising, and always interesting and successful, tastes then head here as soon as you can afford the (£65 per head) tasting menu which is the only offering on an evening.

First, the room. On the 3rd (top) floor above Flannels men’s clothing shop it is airy with well-spaced tables (your private tete-a-tetes will not be overheard here) and very ‘modern’ and edgy art on the walls. A big space (50 covers?) is broken up by strategically placed walls with the bar along one wall and the open kitchen along another. Sitting watching dishes being assembled, and having the chance to chat to the chef and his very small brigade (who often served and explained the dishes) was endlessly fascinating and added to the enjoyment for me. Don’t be put off by the dress policy stated on the website; the night we were there I did not see a single men’s jacket and it’s much more the kind of dressing up that would be appropriate in a continental high end restaurant than a stuffy British one. And finally on the facilities, go to the loo whether you want to or not – surprising toilet tissue!

Now the food. From beginning to end, over 2½ hours and 12 (?) courses later, we were presented with a series of small portions of spectacularly presented and often even more spectacularly flavoured dishes. Each came with its own cutlery presented to the table in a black box – an intriguing touch. Here goes with some of them:

Poached chicken and foie gras ‘sandwich’ between two piece of crispy chicken skin – one of the standout tastes for me. It exploded in the mouth with layer after layer of chickeny flavour which just kept coming and lasted in the mouth. A plate of these alone would have made my night!

TMBTC soup treeRazor clam poaching in a mussel consommé dripped with parsley oil – never has razor clam tasted so sweet. It’s a single mouthful beautifully presented in a sort of tree contraption with a spoonful of the creation balanced on one of the branches.

Langoustine ‘sashimi’ – morsels of raw langoustine served with a lavender smear (yes, he does them!), dill(?) oil, pickled carrot and all sorts of other tiny little bits of flavour that created a harmonious and spectacular whole.

Black cod – wittily presented under a cover of shards of crispy salt & vinegar flavoured potato shards which were drifted with a black (squid ink) powder. VERY upmarket fish & chips was the resultant taste. Clever, witty, moresome.

Ox cheek – clearly cooked for hours, it was soooo…. soft and deeply flavoured before it was covered in a foie gras foam and puffed wild rice.

I’m running out of superlatives for the food, so perhaps here is a chance to talk about drinks. A very ‘sensible’ wine list has maybe 50 bottles but no outrageous £500+ ones and best of all they offer 3 different flights to accompany the meal. One of us opted for the standard one, rejecting the premium pairings, and I was driving so was delighted to find a soft drinks pairing available. Some of the pairings were outstandingly good and the highlight was a carrot and passion fruit juice with the ox cheek, yes it works but how does it work this well? It was actually much more successful than the Oloroso Sherry that accompanied the ox from the alcoholic flight. Servings of wine were plentiful and at least once we got a top-up, no skinflints tasting portions here.

But back to the food…next came a big rectangle of slightly fluorescent orange Perspex (watch out for the interesting range of ‘crockery’) onto which was artfully arranged slices of a cut from near the shoulder of an Iberico pig, some cracking, anchovies and baked purple potatoes, all drizzled with something creamy and pink. Stunning!

Onwards to desserts, starting with the highlight – a tiny little cup cake appearance, which we were advised to eat whole including the (rice paper) wrapping, revealed a mystery chocolate shell which cracked open in the mouth pouring passion fruit flavours over the creamy, and much more complex than I can recall, outer. More please.

Gin & tonic marshmallows, peanut butter doughnuts…

All in all, a wonderful experience and I hope that The Man Behind The Curtain can succeed where Anthony Flinn, despite his many talents, could not. It’s not as good as L’Enclume, which is my closest reference point to the whole experience, but then again they have been open less than a year and that Lake District delight does have 2 Michelin ‘stars’ after all.

GO and be amazed.

Cheese and music – an interesting combination

Music & CheeseYesterday, at Cornucopia Underground I took part in an interesting cheese experience (courtesy of Homage to Fromage). Now these are the guys who have spent time putting together the Periodic Table of Cheese, so an invitation to take part in a Heston-style experiment exploring how, if at all, listening to different music changed one’s appreciation of cheese was not to be missed.

The proposition was that we taste five cheeses, each twice. The first listening to one track and the second hearing a different one. Our noble leader suggested that he had chosen the tracks to associate with the cheese or not. We were offered five very different cheeses, starting with a Parmesan, through various soft cheeses to Blacksticks Blue.

I’m not going to bore you with my detailed tasting notes (not least because we were asked to hand them in for analysis) but simply offer an overview of the experience. For most of the cheeses I did not feel that the music made any difference to the basic taste, although it did affect the overall experience.

Firstly, the pace or beat rate of the music seemed to matter. Faster beat rates led to faster mastication, which in turn probably helped entrain more air (which we know makes a difference to many tasting experiences) and led to more saliva production (which affected the mouthfeel).

Secondly, whether or not I liked the music and.or had any associations with the music affected the experience too. One one occasion I found myself just absent mindedly chewing a lump of cheese while listening to one of my favourite tracks, on another the positive associations with the music brought back pleasurable memories which in turn led to enjoying that portion more than the twin. Others reported that a disliked track led to less enjoyment. This ‘cross-anchoring’ is well known on other circles and might well be used to advantage if only we knew what tracks we could play for individual eaters/drinkers to trigger those positive associations.

Do, an interesting experience and experiment – why not try something similar yourself.

The cockerel crowed

Cockerel

Cockerel

The cockerel crowed, his territory slowly and inevitably being challenged by his own offspring.

The products of the three second liaison had been nurtured by one willing mother, who took on the role for her and the other three members of his harem. Extending the harem seemed a good idea, but the thought of male competition was not welcome. The brood had produced eight potential wives but also four future challenges for their favours.

One challenger, somehow maturing that bit faster than his brothers, now stood atop the fence post. His still small yet equally distinct comb and wattle engorged with youthful excitement. He throws his head back in the early morning sun and crows as if his life depended on it, as well it might if in due course this verbal battle turns physical. For his old rival already sports savage heel spurs capable of doing serious damage, or even meting out death, to this young upstart. For now, the verbals are enough, the patriarch of this growing clan flutters atop an adjacent French fencepost and lets blast; a slightly deeper, perhaps more mature, crowing; one carrying more variation and lasting longer; one clearly designed to put the youngster in his place; a rallying call to the hens that are still his and will probably remain so.

For this new cockerel, just like his three brothers, is unlikely ever to savour the glory of being king of the coop. A few more days and he and his brothers will be segregated from the rest of the flock with a different end in mind. Fattened for three or four weeks on a rich diet of corn, he will make a magnificent lunch one day soon, leaving his father to deliver another crop of siblings who he will never see or hear.

Enjoy your crowing dear cockerel while you can…

A barbecue on a boat?

Dinner arrives!“How will we barbecue fish on a boat?” was the obvious question. But we can deal with that later.

The prospect of a week sailing a yacht through the waters off the Turkish coast had brought six men, of varying sailing ability, together. The experienced skipper had assured us of all the usual – day long yellow sun, cooling breezes, warm deepest blue waters – and then tempted us with the further prospect of catching our own fish as we sailed. Well, could I resist? There is little better than eating fish so fresh that it was swimming around only minutes before being cooked. I recalled the fishing expeditions with my dad. Evening sessions on the beach in Hornsea or some other East Yorkshire resort. My job to find the wood and light the fire on which the first fish we caught would be cooked. One eye on the rod waiting for another unwilling victim, one on the frying pan where our supper lay cooking to perfection. Could we regenerate that passion, that atmosphere, that unforgettable smell on board our 40foot yacht?

Let’s take a look at those six willing victims volunteers.

The most experienced, our skipper – let’s call him Jon – had enough certificates of competence to be able to sail our 40 footer across the Atlantic let alone around the relatively calm waters of the Mediterranean.

Next – calling him Geoff will protect the innocent – was an older version of that callow youth who accompanied his father around the coast when he was young. His childhood had been spent in and around boats of one sort or another, in on or near water. He had later learned to sail dinghies when his not inconsiderable bulk helped hold them in the water when less well-upholstered persons might have got blown over.

Wynn and Adrian, old greying friends, professed to being happier half way (or more) up a Himalayan peak and turned up with their Nepalese or Burmese T-shirts, Factor 50 (they knew all about the effects of the sun reflected off the snow, or sea), layers of technical clothing and ice-axes (OK, I lied about the ice-axes). They were up for anything and keen to learn.

Chris, the psycho (sorry, psychologist/counsellor/therapist) would undoubtedly have a key role in holding us all together when the going got tough.

And last but by no means least was Henry. Henry needed a change. He had recently retired from his long-held post at a prestigious university and was free, easy and available – although what prospect there was of romantic entanglement when we spent all day cooped up with five other red-blooded married blokes was hard to imagine.

So there we all were, enthusiastic yet largely unskilled. Willing to be led and educated by our brave skipper who proceeded to show us not only how to tie a bowline with one hand (try it yourself) but also the other delights he had brought with him. Carbon fibre rod, multiplier reel, lines, spinners and hooks galore. Yet apparently not quite the right lure for the huge great tuna, grouper, gilthead bream and other delights promised on turkishculture.org . A visit to the tackle shop beckoned.

Aladdin’s’ Cave would have looked tawdry compared to this place. Tempting the unwary fisherman in with garish offerings of soft rubbery lures, trapping him once inside with the prospect that any one of this cornucopia of delights could be just the one for that big fish and holding out the prospect of rewards unimaginable once it had been tied on to a bit of string and flung out the back of the boat. The walls covered with photographs of great fish and the even greater fishermen into whose firmament we could enter if only we bought the right tackle. “This one, Sir, will guarantee to seduce any local tuna onto your hook”, “How about this green and yellow imitation squid, or perhaps this with five different yet similar lures all on the same piece of wire?” (The wire being necessary for when the sharp teeth of the tuna bit into the lure and raised the angler’s heartbeat.) Fishermen find it hard to refuse these emblandishments and we walked out with the latter five-temptation setup, eager to get out on the water and catch our supper.

Fast forward – well, as fast as a Force 3 wind will allow – to mid-afternoon on Day1. All sails out, sailing as close to the wind as we can get, relaxing into an easy cruise to our dinner destination and out comes the fishing rod. “Time to catch dinner”. The little rubbery pseudo-squid dangle wobbly on the end of the metal trace as yards of line pay out behind the yacht. And then we wait, and wait, and wait… For today was not going to be our lucky day and dinner tonight was pasta and tinned tuna.

The next day followed the same pattern – we are going too slow, too fast, bouncing around too much. Not a nibble. Not even a change of tactic – replacing the by now infamous rubber squid with a garish spinner – tempted even a tiddler to bite. We knew that there were fish to be caught, every time we moored we found either a thriving fish market or some local restaurant’s fish tank packed with a range of treats that we could only dream about; the posters on the tackle shop window seemed to be advertising someone’s reality, just not ours.

By Day 5 we were beginning to wonder if we would ever catch our own supper. We had heard that the scent of women on the lure was more likely to attract the objects of our desire (fish, not women) but with six men on a boat that was out of the question. Perhaps Chris would come into his role, holding our psyches together amid an ocean of disbelief and hunger?

We moored that evening in a secluded bay with a rickety jetty and just one little restaurant. Drifting up to the landing we shouted out to ask if they could feed six of us and if they had any fresh fish. Encouraging nods and waves beckoned us over, by which time the one son who spoke broken English had been summoned. “We have fresh swordfish” sounded encouraging, so we settled down for a beer or two noting that the service was slow even by Turkish standards and wondering how come our Turkish guardian had time to phone his friends when he could be preparing our dinner. As we finished the starter of inevitable Hummus, Aubergines, Dolmades our friendly son – we never could understand his name – remarked “Fish here soon”. Good, that is what we were there for. A further beer arrived and then we heard the gentle and unmistakeable sound of a small outboard phut phutting in the bay; louder yet louder until it turned the headland and was clearly heading in our direction. It seemed like all of a sudden there was activity on a scale totally unanticipated; one son sent off to the shed to get something, another off to help the little fishing boat moor, yet another encouraging us to come and see.

Well, having a look at the boat mooring would pass the time, so off we went beers in hand. Big smiles all around and we were informed “Fish here”. The phone call had been to a local fisherman, who had promised to deliver fresh fish to fulfil our order. Not just Fresh fish, but fresh swordfish. Not just fresh swordfish, but three of the glistening silver and blue beauties. The smallest about 2 feet long, the biggest perhaps 5 feet from the crook of the splayed tail to the pointy tip of that fearsome sword. Eyes disproportionately large to help them see in the depths in which they hunted their own prey; bodies of pure muscle shaped to enable speed; a sword not used for spearing other less fortunate fish but to slash at supersonic speed through a shoal of prey stunning one or two who were to become the latest snack.

A large plastic sheet was hastily laid across one of the restaurant tables while help was sent to find the ancient weighing balance – you know the ones you see on the old photos, with a sliding weight on the top. But how to get these huge soon-to-be-dinners onto the vicious looking hook to weigh them? Another excursion to the shed revealed a length of rope with which the tails and heads of these slippery beasts were tied together. Two of the medium-sized sons held the pole on their shoulders and the weighing apparatus was hooked on. Slowly the fish were eased into balance and the fish eased into the air. We could not establish the total weight, but the more experienced amongst our crew reckoned on about 50kg in total. The fisherman had had a good day. An unknown amount of Turkish Lire exchanged hands and dinner was on!

And what a dinner. Can anything beat the taste of freshly caught fish barbecued on the wood from local vines and olives, basted in rough olive oil and herbs from the hillside only 50metres away? Potatoes sliced half a centimetre thick were cooked in oil with garlic, olives, onions and yet more herbs – soft and unctuous. A simple local salad of lettuce, tomatoes that had been on the plant less than half an hour ago, raw onions still warm from the earth they had rested in until very recently and yet more local olive oil.

THIS was gourmet eating and after all our disappointments we still ate barbecued fish, and never had to meet the challenge of how to do it on the boat.

A blind man’s beach

2014-06-01 16.33.03Stevie wanted to know what the beach looked like.

She could feel the gravel and grainy sand between her toes, she heard the crash of the waves, and the smell of the sea salt and ozone brought back long-sleeping memories.

Hidden to her was the vast expanse of 2-tone sand, old and new gold, stretching ribbon-like to the long distant horizon. She heard, but could not see the deep blue ocean bounded by white breakers crashing endlessly onto the beach. That beach, previously ruffled by the hooves of hundreds of horses on their afternoon gallop, was now being swept clean and smooth.

The azure sky as if reflecting the seascape, a soft silent roll of white cotton wool cloud rolling gently off the tops of the hills that rose gently from the beach.

“Take me to the waves” said Stevie, I can feel those.

An interesting place

coffee1We have shared a table for half an hour, him with his new Kindle, me with my pen and paper; both passing time amongst the post-Christmas throngs in one of the many coffee shops seemingly growing on every empty street front. He speaks “It’s an interesting place isn’t it?” and I can only agree as we both acknowledge how often we just set biding time, reading, watching.

The girl on the next table, one of four, must take breath some time if she is to keep up the incessant, just-a-little-too-loud, babble that has not stopped, even when her friends are speaking, for the last 20 minutes.

The young child who, randomly to me, breaks into distressed screams – then I notice this five or six-year-old seems to have no verbal commune with his mother. He has that look of the mentally disabled, perhaps the scream it is the only channel through which he can make his needs and his feelings known. Who knows what is going on behind that facade? Is there a fully functioning and frustrated cortex unable to communicate, or does he not even know how different he is? I have seen, and being awestruck by, the love and attention that the parents and carers can offer; I remain humbled by those who make it their life’s work to teach those we used to label Educationally Sub-Normal, perhaps a more accurate description than today’s Special Needs, for those of the upper end of the ability range also have special needs but the system offers them far less than their mirror opposites.

Yesterday’s papers in the rack, how irritating, someone has already walked off with the shop copy of today’s Times.

The Christmas-new jumpers, coats, scarves, handbags etc all on view.

The impatient queuer who, having spent 5 minutes looking irritatedly at his watch, decides that he does not need anything after all and promotes those behind him in the queue as he walks out.

She has stopped. The half-hour long, finger wagging, searing rant is over and her smile spreads throughout the group.

Yes, an interesting place. Made all the more interesting by my own fantasies – I wonder if any are true? Thank you, anonymous table-sharer, for today’s inspiration. Enjoy your coffee.