erratum

as he took my order, the tall drink of water behind the counter said he liked my coat. i have to touch it, he continued, and reached out to touch my shoulder. i mean, really? it’s a coat…but anyway. in turn i reached out, holding a two pound coin in my folded hand. but i guess he missed that. he went all pale and the smile froze on his face, and for a heart-stopping second i realised he thought i was about to touch him. to what, feel his bicep? trace my finger along his tattoo? i slowly opened my hand. oh! he said, and giggled, and turned bright red…

life as i currently know it

several blue tits and one rogue robin are congregating in the cherry tree outside my window. it’s near dusk and i guess they have business to discuss, matters to attend to. as do we all. i haven’t felt like writing much at all this year, and it slowly became some kind of internal battle of wills: how many months could i go without posting here. not even two, apparently, because today i feel the need to write…

one of my new year’s resolutions was to travel more. the past year or two were too stationary for my liking, and my tootsies were way past the itchy stage. after a quiet christmas and a quieter new year’s still –just the way i like ’em– i plonked myself down in portugal for a few weeks, in a small fishing village in the south. a time out with my mum, away from our troublesome men and with nothing to do but catch up and reconnect. the place was littered with blossoming almond trees –juicy, big white blossoms against dark wood– and we were camping in the house my brother bought recently, but that wasn’t quite finished yet. amanha de manha, tomorrow’s tomorrow, being the proposed time of completion, my brother had lost the little patience he possesses and left things up to us to oversee. which in itself was entertaining:

the contractor was a burly man named victor who found us, foreign mother-daughter team, quaintly amusing though he couldn’t bring himself to take us seriously. daily discussions in pidgin portuguese ensued. my mum, femininely flamboyant and knee-high to a grasshopper, charmed the pants off him (figuratively speaking, you understand. personally, i wouldn’t have wanted to see the literal version) without bothering to conjugate a single verb. everything came out in the second person, so ‘you open the door’ when she meant ‘i’, and ‘you have the keys’ when she meant the estate agent. i tried to intervene diplomatically but she wouldn’t be told. oh, details, details…there was a lot of smiling, whether with us or at us was unclear, but somehow things got done. more or less, mais o menos.

the rest of the time was spent on the beach –one day stripped down to our underwear because the warm day had surprised us and we were damned if we weren’t going to get some sun. i’m wearing a thong, i told her. you’re dating a brazilian, no? came her reply– and whatever time was left after that along the estuary, sitting on the terrace of the small jazz café and chatting to the locals who were more than willing to engage. they’ve got soul, the portuguese, and it shows in the unabashed display of affection of couples in love (of all ages), in the old man who hobbled to the sea every evening to feed a lame stray cat and, afterwards, held her on his lap while he sang to her. or in the blind man who accidentally pushed against the wing mirror of a parked car, and stopped to ever so carefully put it back. i sat and observed and thought that so many people could learn a lot from how life is lived there. simply, gently, and with such positivity. on the last day victor was in a chatty mood and explained that he had two daughters and, as of the week before, two grandchildren. i haven’t seen my daughter in eight years, he added, but it seems the child has blue eyes. imagine that! oh, my mum blurted, that’s sad. no no, he responded. não é triste, é uma coisa feliz. it’s not sad, it’s a happy thing…

that same night we attended a concert in the jazz café that pretty much blew me away. i wasn’t expecting good jazz from a small café west of the middle of nowhere, but the owners knew their stuff. the band was made up of two brazilians and a bow chica wow wow cuban who clearly captured the imagination of the middle aged chubby french lady sitting next to us. she kept taking pictures of him with her phone, now a close up of his torso, then one of his, ah, legs…the husband was looking more miffed by the second and i thought, ooh, tonight she’ll ask him to pose with a tennis racket! and have you ever thought of growing a goatee, perchance, chéri?

a few days later i found myself at another concert in another small seaside village, back in england this time. the venue was a nondescript loft with wooden floors, old blue velvet cinema seats and bed springs mounted behind the bar to hold the wine glasses. the band was a motley crew : a sweet twenty-something couple, a shy sensitive soul from wichita of around 60 who was, i might add, extremely talented, a tall baldie of polish descent who looked like a truck driver and played the electric guitar and, funnily enough, the squarer-than-thou downstairs neighbour who spends hours practising the same tune on his bass and who was clearly a stand-in for the band’s usual bass player but did his darnest to forget that fact. only in a town like this could those people be on first name basis, let alone part of the same band. i could’t help thinking how surreal it was to be a witness to all of this, in this tiny village i shouldn’t even know the existence of but that i called my semi home or something for a while. their songs were mainly folksy, bluegrass with an irish slant and the whole thing was much more fun than expected. i have to admit bass boy was a big part of the reason for that. way rock and roll in his own head, clearly, he became meatloaf, or santana, or janice from the muppet show. i can’t stop imagining his downstairs flat now. leopard print and furry cushions spring to mind…

and, lastly, i’ve been to biarritz twice in the past couple of weeks. with big plans to move there –because yes, she’s on the move again– i went to do the groundwork, and to look around. i hadn’t actually been there but i thought, sea, sun, south of france, what’s not to like? and i was right about that. i’ll start with the waves, because they made the biggest impact. big and beautiful with the pyrenees as a backdrop, they don’t get more perfect than that. the small town was mid-hibernation, but the people i did meet were lovely. without the parisian attitude and instead smiley and, dare i say it, helpful. maybe not as eager to interact as my portuguese friends –that’s to say i didn’t end up at someone’s house for fried chicken and chips, though i did get hit on a few times in weird ways. i mean, do people still ask for fake directions in order to start a conversation? wherrre arrre you frrromme? pffft. or the one who called after me as i crossed the street in such a forceful way that convinced me i’d dropped something. i actually stopped to look…

so, life is definitely moving again, but that’s all i’ll say for it. i ran into my grumpy pensioner on the way to the beach today and he said i looked like a ray of sun. yes of course, always. and the world is my oyster. though i can’t say i like oysters all that much…

 

train of thought

was it rita hayworth who said that men go to bed with gilda –her most famous character– but wake up with her…but doesn’t every woman feel like that to some extent? famous hollywood characters aside, isn’t there a slightly different (better?) version of all of us that exists only with the luxury of a certain distance? the traits you try that little bit harder to cultivate, the flaws you try to conquer…reality is bound to rear its head the morning after or, if not then, the morning after that. i’m not moody or grumpy as such but i have vulnerable days instead, days where that metal rod i use as a backbone simply won’t stay put. nor should it have to, really. it just comes down to finding someone who loves you warts and all (this expression always gets my back up, by the way: warts, moi? you must be joking), someone who sees who you can be but loves who you are. just as you do for them. when that’s the case, love is a beautiful thing…

speaking of seeing someone for who they can be, i’ve got a new pet. there’s this snail who’s really a slug because he’s got no shell, but he looks more like a snail who’s lost his home to me –a homeless snail!– who’s taken up residence on the inside of my french doors. i spotted him promenading last night and assumed it was unintentional: he must have wandered in through one of the many gaps and lost his way. thinking i’d save him a day or maybe two, trying to slither his way back out into the wild, i opened the doors and set him free. but this morning there he was again, clearly in search of warmer climes. so there. i’m going to have to name him now…(speedy the snail?)

and, speaking of speed, i have a new favourite pensioner. tiny, frail, a beanie pulled down low over his glasses and a pair of sturdy walking shoes, i see him at my local café, shuffling back home after buying his dinner at the corner shop. he’s very unsteady on his feet and walks at the proverbial snail’s pace, but refuses a walker or even a cane. instead he makes his way to the café and then stops whoever happens to be leaving right that minute, and gets them to help him cross the road. this procedure takes about 5 minutes and you can just see his victims getting tetchy but trying to hide it because, after all, they’re doing their good deed for the day. it’s an enormous reality check, actually: how fast we move through our days…when they finally reach the other side of the road –stopping traffic as they go, victims nearly at their wits’ end– the old man looks up at them, points in the general direction of a building halfway down the road and says, i live just there…priceless.

straight shooter 

you could come up with a convoluted line, or you could just walk up to a woman ambling along the promenade and go, excuse me, would you like to go on a date? that seemed to be the general line of thinking this morning. now, i’m not a fan of chat up lines –except for the entertainment factor. in fact, i’m wondering if i should reinstate that category on this blog, because i do get to hear some corkers. the most notable one of late being: your parents must be from mars…because you’re out of this world (cue uncontrollable laughter). that kind of line just feels like a bad knock knock joke where they’re waiting for you to play along and say, who’s there? just no. when it comes to being approached by a man, i’m of the use your words and talk school of thought. and, granted, that’s pretty much what this guy was trying to do –considering i was a moving target and he had little opportunity to actually use his words, he gave it his best shot. but, no. mm, you’ve got to feel sorry for the poor bastards though. can’t be easy…

creatures small and medium

i lay in bed in that twilight moment between waking up ridiculously early and drifting off again, listening to the birds saying their good mornings. it never ceases to amaze me that such tiny creatures can produce such decibels. seriously, think about it. they must have the equivalent of pavarotti’s lungs in those tiny little chests. they’re at it even now, perched on the branches of the cherry tree, seemingly unfazed by the rain…it’s grotty out there. like, ugh, honestly. november has kicked in. i treated myself to three bright yellow gerberas yesterday, to cheer things up a bit. aren’t they just the happiest flowers?

when i drifted off again, i dreamed about a covered market and helping a woman who looked familiar to me (possibly a crazy cat lady i know in brussels, but i can’t be sure) sell vintage cotton nightgowns while all sorts of woodland creatures like foxes, ferrets and raccoons crawled around our legs. but not in a scary way, the whole scene had a magical feel to it, in washed out colours. as for why the hell i’d be dreaming something like that, mm, i don’t know either but it’s an improvement to last week, when i dreamed i was a suicide bomber (really). when i woke up, my toe was itchy and for a moment i thought one of the ferrets was in my bed (it wasn’t). that would have felt a tad less magical…

leaves

today is a day for coloured leaves, i can feel it. and a day for being out…not that the weather agrees with me. we had sideways rain in the early morning. but right now a stray beam of sunlight is hitting the few yellow leaves left on my tiny apple tree, and i feel like being outdoors suddenly. i think i’ll go to the park.

autumn, hopes and dreams

do you know that feeling when an old person makes you look like a total wimp? the leaves are turning and the sea is getting that glazy fuck, it’s cold look, and you’re walking along in your hoodie and leather jacket, contemplating thicker socks, when suddenly you see a flash of bare skin out of the corner of your eye and you realise people are still going swimming. old people, that is. a sprightly grandpa without an ounce of body fat practically ran to the water’s edge this morning, adjusting the elasticated waistband of his swimming shorts in that determined, right, here we go sort of way before diving in. and the other day i watched a curvaceous grandma wrapped in a grass green towel hobble across the pebbles, leaning heavily on a walking stick. surely not, i wondered, and my thought was voiced by a man sitting on the beach. oh yes, she replied enthusiastically, i swim practically all year round. they chatted a bit more and then she probably made his day (i know she made mine) by dropping her towel by his feet and yelling, tadaa!, showing off a floral patterned bathing suit before continuing on her way. respect girl, seriously…
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i’m loving autumn though. especially when the sun shines, like this morning, and you can still sit on a terrace with a friend and have your chat and coffee outdoors. yesterday we (that’s me and meu amorzinho) went for a drive to a nearby village. we investigated the local antique shops –we antiqued, in other words. as in i antique, she has been antiquing all her life and you would antique too, wouldn’t you, if given half a chance?– and came out with a low chinese opium/coffee table (why decide now?), a black wedgwood tea and sugar pot from the 20s, i think, and an old military compass that neither of us actually knows how to work (we only found that out back home, by the way. but hey, the sea is south and land is north, what else do you need to know?). a bit of lunch and a sunny drive back to the sea, and i was perfectly happy really…
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it’s odd, this relaxing business. i haven’t done it in a while and realise my mind/body/both go looking for that adrenalin shot at regular intervals, and i keep having to remind myself there’s been a ceasefire and i can go back to being myself again. really weird. i’ve been thinking a lot about that, being myself –not that the me under fire wasn’t me. in fact, in ways i probably became more me than i ever was…the difference is having the courage (the confidence? both?) to dream, i think. which is different from hoping, do you know this? hope is when you don’t have anything, or what you have is shit. it’s flinging yourself, regardless of the odds. dreaming is building on something nice…dreaming is fiction, come to think of it. which would explain why i write best when i’m relatively happy. ooh, i hope that theory holds!