Bluebells

Mass bluebell carpet

Upright spring-green trees

Heart leaps in spring time

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Rain drenches the wood

Bluebells fade to the earth

Passing redolence

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A very short story

The rain dribbles from the neo-Victorian overhang of the railway station. No-one else is on the platform although a light shines from under the door of the ticket office on Platform One. Dawn is an hour away, as is the first train. Robin, sitting on the bench, hugs himself – his fingers cold, sniffs and rubs his sleep filled eyes.

He stands up and starts to walk down the platform, turns before the awning ends and walks back. Twice he does this, banging his hands on his sides to try and bring back the circulation. Then he goes out into the drizzle and looks at the sleeping town. Street lights reflected in damp roads; hills beyond the common, where he likes to walk the dog, are a dark mass in the distance.

He hadn’t been able to sleep last night. He believes that he has to get away to think, to be by himself; he feels sure, if there is such a thing as sure, that if he goes away it will help dull the feelings that sweep over him. Even now standing in the rain on the deserted platform he feels better, as if the rain has begun to wash away his dark thoughts.

He notices the flowers by the station notice board. Someone has cared enough to try and add a bit of colour to this drab place. That’s what he needs, colour in his life so that he can dispel the monochrome thoughts that go round and round inside his head. He removes his glasses to wipe the rain from them, but they just smear. Being unable to see clearly makes him take notice of the guilty ache in his heart. Why has he done it?

The light under the door of the ticket office spreads onto the platform as the door opens. Robin goes towards it as a man comes out.

“Single for Paddington, please,” Robin mumbles.

The man goes into his kiosk and hands over the ticket. Robin notices dawn arriving along with the swishing sound of the train on the rails in the distance, he stands back as it approaches noisily.

Doors open and close. A whistle sounds, the train draws out of the station leaving a solitary figure in the damp morning.

March 26th, 2011

 

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Mrs McClusky’s Café

The café by the side of the small road was made of wood, with a veranda and a sign which simply said “Mrs McClusky’s Café. The wood was weathered grey overlapping boards, some of which had seen better days and a menu board at an angle hung on a nail with smudged, unreadable chalk. Up the steps of the veranda, minding the handrail which wobbled well, the glass-fronted door lead into a bright interior. Floodlit through the further windows through which the sparkles of a lake threw wonderful movement into the room and rushes danced in a line afore the water.

 There were a few tables scattered about with colapsable picnic chairs of wood and metal and a bar, behind which Mrs McClusky stood one hand on her hip, the other holding a small pad and a pencil while a bubbling tea urn spluttered to the side. She was tall, dark hair tied in a ponytail and cared for eyebrows. Those and the pink sweater she was wearing, as well as the nonchalant way she had tied a further pink cardigan around her waist, and the smile she had gave me the idea that she was not just any old café owner, but a woman of imagination and friendliness.

I asked for a cup of tea and a tea cake, paid my money and found a table where I could both look out of the windows onto the lake as well as taking in the interior of the café. Objects hung on the walls, an old wooden hayfork, a sieve, a silage knife. Pictures included one of the Buddha, a print of a young girl holding a bunch of spring flowers and an enormous oil painting of a family standing around a piano, probably painted in the early 20th century. I noticed a likeness in Mrs McClusky to one of the girls at the piano.

 My fellow customers were made up of a couple at a small table near me, a family with 3 young children and a woman sitting by herself reading a book. They all looked as if they had hiked to the café, or at least around the lake. Of course, the woman sitting by herself reading interested me the most for she was wearing a fox fur hat and had a short, pale coloured fur coat draped over a chair. She wore a fur waistcoat and a long black skirt with walking boots. Unusual clothes to hike in, save the boots. I squinted at her book and saw the title was in a foreign alphabet I did not recognise. She was perhaps in her late twenties. Her face was pale, her hands small and elegant with tapering fingers. The whole atmosphere she gave off was one of specialness and mystery. She must have felt my gaze on her for she looked up and I smiled at her, she did not return my smile but shifted in her chair and returned to reading her book.

I looked out of the window and was delighted and amazed at the sunlight on the water, the birds ducking and bobbing and the rushes pushed this way and that by the breeze. My attention was suddenly drawn back into the room when the man of the couple sitting near me sneezed. I reacted and wished him good health, and he and his partner acknowledged me. He had the wide apart brown eyes and high cheek bones of a Slav and a good crop of brown curls. His friend was fair haired and small she sat very straight and moved in quick bursts, taking some food here, a drink there. Generally they talked animatedly. I did not want to intrude into their world, but rather be an observer. I had a feeling that this was a state of mind I often had and I wished at that moment that I was more outspoken, gregarious. I wondered to myself why, what was in my psyche that made me always be the observer. A sort of sadness welled up in me, a feeling of hopelessness so rather than dwell on my feelings I drank some tea and chewed somewhat violently on the tea cake which sadly caused me to splutter and choke slightly so that all conversation in the room stopped and everyone seemed to look at me. I smiled, red faced and took control of the situation shrugging slightly. The buzz of the café started again and I returned to looking out of the window until I felt or rather smelled Mrs McClusky next me. She smiled down at me in a most kind way so that I felt a warm glow calm me and when she asked me if there was anything else I required, I felt myself blushing for surely there was, but it was unspoken and again I was embarrassed. However, she touched my arm and as she did so the café seemed to dissolve, the customers and tables vanish, the sounds turn into bird song as the sun on the water became morning sunlight streaming through my bedroom window and I awoke, rather sadly, from my dream of Mrs McClusky’s café.

 

 

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The Gathering

He thought to himself that today he would like to stroke the dog and watch the butterflies flutter in the dove-cooed morning sunshine, but sadly realised that it was the day of the reunion and he had to go to his old school and meet with people he hadn’t seen for 50 years and who, even 50 years ago, he hadn’t thought much of. Absentmindedly he stroked the dogs soft ears.!
!
He disliked the memory of the austerity, the big old pile of rocks, the rain, the mud, the roughness, the cruel things they said to each other, the fleeting ‘love’ under the damp trees or in crumbling temples which always left him with a longing that could never be satisfied. Temples dedicated to Greek gods and goddesses by 18th century english warriors who made too much money out of wars. Then he remembered a school dance when the girls from the next door school came over and teenage testosterone flowed freely, especially with Madeleine as they hid under the big holly tree on the south front. But even she, whom he imagined to be the most beautiful and wonderful girl in his 16 year old life had grown fat and floury at twenty when he met her again in London and she boldly told him she had become a witch.! ! He had been such a loner. Antisocial. Sport enabled him to be a hero and acknowledged him in the eyes of the others. Funnily enough, he thought, he liked team games, the rough and tumble. And chess. And the teachers and boys the others didn’t like. He remembered Colin Wilson’s book the outsider and felt he was ok in himself. ! ! His thoughts ran rampant. He had a bath and changed into something respectable, but not too respectable. He tried a tie and tore it off, the dog looking up at him wagged its tail. Always the rebel: leather jacket, blue shirt, jeans, trainers. He’d show them that he was still a rebel, they’d probably all be wearing suits and ties.! ! He packed the dog into the Morris, filled up with petrol and set off the odd 60 miles to Buckingham. Arriving later he got the dog out of the car, using a piece of binder twine rather than her lead, smiling to himself at this iconoclastic ritual. ! ! The room was as he remembered it. Oval shaped, 4 doors one in each quarter and red marble columns with golden tops and bottoms. Much cleaner and well preserved than he remembered. As he entered the room the people stopped talking and looked towards him and the dog. They cheered as he was ushered onto a podium in the middle of the room and the headmaster introduced him.! ! “As you know Malcolm Arnold attended our school in the 1950’s and we are so pleased to welcome him back to talk to us about his interesting, exciting and inspirational life”. He blushed inwardly, little did they know. The people clapped and the dog looked at him and whispered, ” shall I speak now or will you start?”! ! “Go on,” he replied, “sock it to them. They’ve never heard a talking dog”!

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Get a Life!

Ok, so I got one. In fact approximately 68 years ago unless we are to consider life starting at conception in which case make that 69 years, in the Manor House Hotel in Meppershall probably about July 8th, and probably after a good meal. In the war? Well, you see, mother, bless her cotton socks, was a farmer and I can fantasise that she brought some good, no doubt organic beef, to the hotel to impress my father, who, as may be discernable from my name was Italian and always enjoyed food. Seduction comes in many forms.

In my hippie days I used to wonder if each of us had the opportunity to choose who we will be before we are born. Were there long filing cabinets of available bodies with profiles attached to the outside? Did I wander down the isles quite fancying the idea of being a mixture, not too much of a mixture, of course, it wasn’t ever in my soul’s nature to be over the top, so perhaps I chose to go to the area marked “Italian X Yorkshire”. Of course, I realized that if I selected this section I might end up in a chip shop in Pickering, North Yorkshire. Or as a Yorkshire pudding, spaghetti eating mamma loving son of the soil. Or maybe even a cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and an Italian Greyhound if things went wrong.

So being a self-absorbed character I made my choice and have been coming to terms with being me all my life. To confirm my choice I noticed later, when such things interested me, that in my natal astrological chart I have Saturn in conjunction with Jupiter on my ascendant, which, seems to be translated as being someone whose personality is both withdrawn and extrovert. So there I am; Yorkshire introvert and Italian extrovert, and often totally confused unless something externally pushes me in one direction or the other.

Oh! All this stuff. I think I had better go outside to clip the goats feet and take the dog for a walk. In other words, go, get a life.

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