Monday, 2 March 2009

Glancing in the Street

SEEKING A BETTER VIBE, some positive energy, an improvement in my state of being, a more pleasant outlook, greater creative forces to work with, I could have hired the village Feng Shui team to come and rearrange my flat, change my textures and enhance my colours at home. However, I pictured the consultation ending with a report reading simply: "You should change your locks. Your flat is twinned with hell. There is no other hope or help that we can offer."

I have another way of getting myself feeling in the pink and perky and it does not involve astronomy or geography or pleasing aesthetics: I hitch Cailean up in his harness and head out into the weather. Luckily, that weather has improved a good deal in the last fortnight and we've been able to return to the River without risking being stuck in mud or a sudden snowstorm. Walks in town are nicer too without the rain, hail, sleet and snow falling off the overhanging rooftops carrying all manner of last summer's birdshit down like glacial deposits onto the passers-by and their dogs.

Suddenly there are young lads wearing shorts and t-shirts and goose-flesh, and the Geordie girls will have bulging, bare midriffs before the month is out. The hell with that: I can wear my sunglasses and do some serious people watching.

I get to sit in the sun in the Town Square, sheltered from the wind off the North Sea by some prickly bushes and my corduroy jacket. Cailean stretches out on the concrete bench beside me; he loves any sunshine and sprawls about to maximize the exposed skin on his little body. I rest my head back and watch the first tourists of the year. I'm guessing they are from the Continent: The Euro currency is strong against the Pound and people can come over from Amsterdam on the ferries to examine our castles and eat our national dishes (curries and kebabs). Certainly the folks I see trying to puzzle their way through the historical plaques on the Square are past middle-age and hardly fashionably dressed. Polish or Romanian, perhaps. I wonder what they think of our homeless waifs selling "The Big Issue" outside the minimart: Youngsters dressed in their national clothes from Eastern Europe and not particularly fluent in English. Except to call out "Big Issue! Big Issue!" It seems curious to me that our homeless folks have to commute here.

With the sun on my face I watch the skateboarders and roller-bladers on the cobbles; they have not so much a slide or a glide as an obstacle course. It must loosen one's teeth over time. And I compose songs with promising and catchy titles like "Angels are just Birds of Pray" and "Love is a Mindfield" and make plans to write a murder mystery featuring Agatha Christie's Parrot (a Herculean feat, by the way).

I also get annoyed at things I hear over and over on the telly, read in the papers, or just come across. For example, how often today have I heard someone state: "This comes at a time of heightened tensions between…" You can fill in the dots, North and South Korea, India and Pakistan, Israel and Anyone. For Pete's sake, I think heightened is normal anywhere east of Calais, and in Croydon or Liverpool or Glasgow.

And how about all those bloody "Holy City of…" places? I stew over those. A Holy City is one that we should not bomb, but a site where the locals feel free to wreak havoc on each other and so many golden shrines. Martyrs require fresh blood like so many sacred vampires. Holy Toledo, Batman!

And, as the sun gets me almost warm, I think of all that flaming global warming business. Did you read this morning in all the papers "glaciers are melting faster than previously thought". Who did the thinking in the first place? Who is thinking now? The sea level is rising, Holland's fucked, and there will be palm trees in the Cairngorms. If not next year ... then this.

The ordinary people of England, not just the seasoned newscasters (whatever that means, take 'em with a pinch of salt, perhaps?), can say and do some pretty amazing things too. I heard this conversation between two little old ladies on the street by the Town Square:

"I tell you, Vera, the pill my doctor prescribed was too small and plain white, and it couldn't possibly help my trouble."
"A big coloured one would probably be much better for you. I'd go round to his office and demand one, Hilda."
"Think I will."

Well, that's the National Health Service sorted out!

Today was the limit, however, as poor Cailean and I, and quite a few others, were startled, horrified, disgusted, when two slovenly women smoking cigarettes walked down the main street dressed in fuzzy pyjamas and open, raggedy dressing gowns, and worn slippers. They stopped outside the frozen foods shop, dropped their fags on the pavement and wandered in.

I have seen women dressed like that in public places before: Tackier casinos in Las Vegas. I'm not sure that the expression "slag" even covers those ghastly women on Queen Street. It was after noon, by the way. Our homeless people are better presented in every way.

The day was not a complete loss: When I was ready to leave the Town Square I left Cailean on the bench for a second and picked up two empty plastic Ribena drink bottles that blew across the cobbles near us. When I returned to lift Cailean down I saw something shiny on the seat next to him. It was a 5P coin. I think that would be called Instant Karma. It did not end there. Outside our little Post Office I spotted two more coins on the pavement, a pound and another 5P. I took my Karma, totalling £1.10, added another 40P, and with the £1.50 bought a "Big Issue". Doing my bit for the homeless problem.

There was no note from Feng Shui on the door of my flat suggesting I move, and just the pleasant fragrance of citrus blossoms inside.


sarah corbett morgan said...

Oh, Ross. This one was fabulous. I could definitely see the Feng Shui team clucking and shaking their heads as they perused your flat. And I loved the jaunt into town and all the sights. I so enjoy these ramblings of yours. I love to come visit your blog and feel I have just had a brief visit with you and Mr. cailean.

I have never heard the term slag before (or not that I remember), but I am immediately putting it into my literary archives for future use. No need for a definition here; its meaning clear as daylight. Loved it!

It has been raining here and the mud in the potrero is sucky and sticks to my shoes. What with house training two puppies (soon to be three--more about that later) I am spending a lot of time walking out there. The pups prefer to shit on the porch or any other place out of the rain, and they can crap faster than I can run. I think I’ve lost weight this last week. But they are cheerful and full of life and that is a needed commodity here. I feel my heart lifting and.... perhaps soon I will be able to sing with Bob:

"I can see clearly now; the rain is gone. It's gonna' be a bright, bright sunshiny day...

Tiene un bien dia, seƱor. s

Unknown said...

I enjoyed visiting Amble this morning, my friend. My wife Belinda teaches an occasional class here at college level, and she's remarked about (mostly) girls dragging in wearing pajamas.

We're still cloudy, cloudy, cloudy here in the Ozarks, but we're promised shirt-sleeve weather at week's end. None too soon for me.

Perhaps I'll hitch up Kitty to the chair and get some sun myself.

I suppose we'll both smile more with that extra Vitamin D.


suz said...

dear gods!
my slag (love it!) younger son loves to schlep about in pajama pants, but he's contrarily so dapper that he tends to pair them with kewl t-shirts and a fedora. the effect is disconcerting, but not REALLY slaggy.
i too am looking forward to bare midriff, and boyz with 6-packs. viva la summer!
:) khairete