Friday, June 15, 2012

Death and the Weather

My father is more or less blind now. I asked him what he could see on the screen as we watched the Irish football team leak goals to the Spanish.

‘I can see white shapes. I think it’s their shorts moving about.’

He can still, nonetheless, hear very well. He monitors all communication in the house.

Mother came in from the kitchen. Jocasta had insisted on a long bedtime story and mother was very ready for a cup of tea. She was carrying a plum and apple lattice pie that we had bought earlier in the day. We had been to a Morrison’s somewhere in North Manchester. I had been very surprised to find that the sandwich included in the children’s lunchbox in the supermarket ‘restaurant’ – along with a piece of fruit and an organic fruit bar – was filled with jam. A jam sandwich this side of the 1970’s seemed very odd. I contemplated a complaint, but the boy on the till didn’t look up to it. I made a mental note to send an email.

Me: ‘Should I put it in the oven?’

Father: ‘Is the little one asleep now?’

Mother: ‘Yes, she is asleep.’

Father: ‘Put what in the oven?’

Mother: ‘Never you mind. Couldn’t we just have it cold?’

Father: ‘What do you mean: ‘Never you mind’? I still live here.’

Me: ‘It’d be nicer warmed up….’

Father: ‘What is it?’

Mother: ‘That’ll take ages. I‘ve the kettle on already.’

Mother paused at this point to put on her glasses and more closely inspect the pie and its packaging – as though that might help her make a decision.

Mother: ‘Couldn’t we microwave it?’

Father: ‘Oh, it’s a terrible thing to lose your sight!’

Me: ‘Wouldn’t be the same: pastry. Let’s just have it cold.’

Father: ‘I might as well be dead for all the attention I get. Is it still raining? Is that rain I can hear?’

Mother: ‘No it isn’t and no, that isn’t.’

Me: ‘I’ll make the tea.’

Mother: ‘It’s all they think about the Irish: death and the weather. They’re obsessed.’

My mother, herself Irish, has a charming habit of referring to the whole race from afar in the third person.

Father: ‘What are you putting in the oven?’

Me: ‘My head.’

Monday, June 04, 2012

'Don't go Changing...'

I created a tableau of rocks on the kitchen windowsill from the contents of Aurora's backpack after a trip to the local reservoir. Maude interpreted this as a cry for help and decided that I needed some adult society. She texted Larry and asked him to spontaneously invite me out for a coffee. An arrangement was made for Thursday and Larry insisted that Tyneside was our oyster as he could ride his bike anywhere to meet me.

 Thursday morning came.

‘The rain looks quite heavy,’ read Larry’s text, ‘could you swing by and pick me up.’

The house looked uninhabited. The downstairs windows were covered with faded newspapers on the inside, weeds dominated the garden path and the door lacked a bell or a knocker. I rapped on the wood and heard the sound echo in an empty hall. I was reminded of a business trip to Liverpool when all the houses I could see from the bus window looked like this and I suspected (hoped) that Liverpool was shut and that I could return home.

Larry opened an upstairs window and assured me that he would be down right away – adding:

‘Bit of an early start, mind..’

A minute or two later the unlocking of the door sent another echo through the empty hall. I stepped in to see that Other Larry’s renovations had stalled as they were about 6 years ago.

‘The police think it’s a drugs den,’ laughed Larry. ‘I’ll just brush my teeth.’

You can pick up with certain friends quite easily after a lengthy period of non-contact. Larry is one such friend. Most of the major details of Larry’s life remain unchanged. Larry is:
  • still Other Larry’s lodger
  • still earns a frugal living from teaching the ukulele
  • still considers noon an ‘early start’
Dink is no longer in Larry’s life. His new partner is Yasmin, who lives in Jesmond, has a ‘strategic’ job and wants to marry Larry. Yasmin also sits in with Larry when he drives his car. This was a new detail and came as something of a surprise. Larry now drives the automatic Hillman Imp left to him by his late grandmother.

‘I can do a different test – just for automatics. It’s easier.’

We went for coffee and a light lunch at the nearby library and updated each other on what we knew of people of our mutual acquaintance: Miles and his return to Albion Windows, Lucien and his move to Rowlands Gill, Jez and Joolz and their performance art collective. I told him that I’d been stuck in a lift with Joolz not so long ago, but the journey was a mercifully short 2 floors. I asked if he knew anything of Archie. I hadn’t seen Archie at his usual bus stop for some time.

‘You’ve been very mean about little Archie.’

I was surprised by this.

‘I have only ever referred to Archie with great fondness.’

Larry persisted.

‘He’s a lovely little fella and you’ve made him out to be a feckless little fool.’

I suggested that I merely quoted Archie’s own words and reported true events.

‘I didn’t know,’ I ventured, ‘that you and little Archie were so close’.

‘Well, we’re not ‘close’ as such….’

I raised an eyebrow in anticipation of some elaboration’

‘…..but we do go for a pint....’

I raised the other eyebrow…

‘…..every couple of years.’’

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