Wisdom By The Glass

Normally resident at 37 Bloxham Road; flat 6 for the lovers of detail, Wayne ‘Sagey’ Trollope, no relative of the author, but sharing a similar fondness for his own muse, could be found once more, at his consulting ‘ rooms’ somewhere near the public bar in the “Baffled Ferret,” recognised locally for its hosting of real ales.

One of his cohorts, a current ‘four pinter’ , which is that moment when alcohol can free your sense of humour and give it voice, just before five pints makes that humour indecipherable, and six pints a mere mumble followed by wild laughter and a trip to the toilets, said to the attentive throng, “My watch is stopped, but at least that means its split second accurate at least twice a day,” This observation was considered acute enough to merit a nod of his head and a decent gulp from his glass, necessitating a wave at the bar, and fearless progress towards the ungoverned terrain of the six pinters: there are no maps for seven pinters.

” Time” said Sagey, a current 4.75 pinter, “Is something we should chase constantly.” “Hows that” said one of his chums whose admiration for the Sage was stunted by a lack of respect. The Sage reflected on his statement, which he felt had a pleasing aura of profundity about it. Sadly the meaning of his own sentence had not yet been revealed to him, so he replied, somewhat cannily you might think, “If you don’t understand Docker” (4.1 ), his mate and inquisitor, “I can’t explain it to you: some things are a bit too deep for normal folk”

By chance ‘Noddy’ ( 4.1 ) arrived with a fresh round of drinks, and a pile of pork scratchings, whose taste and texture were sufficiently diverting to arrest serious debate for the moment. His mouth nearly empty, the Sage had another go at establishing himself as a font of bon mode, or whatever that phrase is. “Chance” he said, Is a thing you may stumble on.”

“You mean you might stumble on Chance by Chance Sagey,” said Noddy, his hands now free, and eager to join in the conversation. “”Is “stumbling the same as tripping” asked some pedant, ( 3.85 and a cautious drinker,) drawing baffled glances from those around him. “Profundity and accuracy”, thought the Sage, “do not necessarily belong in the same sentence”, and with that thought, he came up with the title of a book which was to make him celebrated in at least 1.6 continents, “The Flippant Guide to Profundity” which offered wisdom in the time taken to open a second bottle of wine.

It was an unusual item in which the reviews had as much currency as the book. In themselves, they were so confusing, that people bought the book to see what all the fuss was about, in such numbers, that ‘Sagey’ was free to reflect on his brilliance in some isolation on a sun kissed beach, but cheered by the supply of Pina Coladas. Reviews such as “He gets to the point in a split infinitive” or, “He plums a depth of misunderstanding far beyond his own comprehension”, and even ” These pithy statements reveal an imagination untroubled by common sense”

A less appreciated article entitled, “Rubbish at only £1.98″, which appeared in the Dorking Park Clarion ( readership 56o ), failed to cause the stir its jaundiced author dreamed would propel him to Newspaper Stardom, and he was left to mull on the injustices which left him in cramped attic lodgings while the object of his scorn soaked up the benefits of unmerited success. As Sagey might say, ” Life is a fruit of many colours”

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Beer And Definitions

So I’m talking to my friend Greg, the one for whom each new girl was, “Real ” at least for a weekend, although most weekends for him were spent taking a rest from life and romance, until he met his wife Sandra,that is, when the clouds cleared briefly, and he settled down for a life of domestic servitude: I mean who needs too much intensity anyway, and he seemed happy enough living by someone else’s agenda. We all like a little fun but now he looked down in the dumps, even by his humbling standards, and then it got worse.

“Do you believe in Hope?” he asked me, and I’m telling you, there is nothing worse than an introspective depressive, unless you are talking a drunk introspective depressive or, the final challenge, a drunk introspective depressive talking to his oldest friend, which is what I am, about philosophy.

I mean normally what’s not to like: he’s “One of the pack:” good to know, buys his round, loyal to a fault, and that pretty much defines friendship in my book. He has failings: he’s clever, but in that wasted “Off the wall” way that teachers don’t recognise, and girls always seemed to be put off by his outsized chin, till he met Sandra, that is, but then we can’t all be floored by inner beauty can we, and she’s no oil painting herself, and if she were an oil painting, she’d require a pretty big frame if you’re hearing me, but I’m straying from the point. The question he posed was, “Do you believe in hope?” and do you know what kind of people ask that question? The people who don’t feel any.

Let’s talk solid here. You don’t get a guy walking out for the best night ever with a girl who adores him on his arm, clutching a winning lottery ticket saying “Do you believe in hope?” because those people are too busy having fun to talk philosophy. Philosophy is for miserable people making an excuse for not having fun, or being passed over for promotion or just missing out on life: period, and that pretty much defines our Greg.

Still, I don’t want to leave the guy drowning on his own so I ask him, “Are we talking deep- space hope or just “Will I get a holiday?” hope, because, deep-space wise, life’s just a black hole Greg, and I snort a load of beer down my shirt because, lets hang out the truth here, I can be funny.

OK, more truth, Greg wasn’t laughing so I asked him what his problem was and he said, “It’s all deep space to me Fred, and Sandra’s left me” and there you have it. He’s” Clever in a wasted way” and so I raise my glass and give him the only advice I have to give. “While there’s beer there’s hope and I’ll keep drinking as long as you buy the rounds” and he walks off to the bar without a word. After all, what are friends for!

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Anniversary Reflections

“Do you know the worst thing you can do to a woman” my wife asked me on our thirtieth wedding anniversary, and I said “No”. She looked at me, as if I were a stranger, some alien who had entered her life through deceit and replied, “Marry a woman, but only from affection, and watch the love she has for you die from starvation and then cease to be”

Truth, plainly spoken, is a heavy burden to endure and I felt hers:this dear sweet girl, who had rested her child-like hopes upon my shoulder and realised with the passing years that my eyes had always been searching the horizon, seeking a sign that my first love, now deceased, might somehow return to me.
Love is a simple word and some have felt its touch, as I have twice. First when it rose within me and moved me to celebrate the presence of a women who would accept my friendship at any level but not with intimacy:whom I had loved with all my heart and felt honoured to know until her sudden early death removed her from my life, and subsequently with my wife, who I met shortly after her my true love’s passing and lacked the courage to admit her feelings for me were not returned to the extent I married her.

There was nothing you could not admire in my wife: her patience with my failings has been humbling in the thirty years we have spent together but now, grey of head, and sharing our childless home, a darkness has grown over her soul as she realised that I, despite my gentle ministrations, kept the heart of me sacred for my first love snatched from me by an accident.

I, who would not knowingly hurt another, and loved gentleness in all that breathed, had damaged a soul charged to me through years of polite neglect and nurturing indifference until, tired of a life offering selfless ministration to a man who did not celebrate her, she had cried out that I had destroyed her life and left her soulless and without hope.

My eyes rose to the window, where I sensed my first love telling me, “Life is always precious, however we may find it, and your wife has nourished you over all these years as I would never have done.”

I turned to look at my wife who I realised I had grown to love but by then it was too late. She shares my home but her heart has left this place !

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The Wanderer

He was nonchalant about his abilities, background and history. “Done a bit,” was all he said, but when he looked you in the eye his gaze was full of knowledge wrapped in history. “Life’s not personal,” he said to me, “It just feels like it is but it ain’t.”
He seemed to live always in the present bringing life to the tired and making the agèd smile: children laughed in his company but that was it. How and where he came from was not discussed and he apparently lived without agenda.
He knew plants; could quote their Latin names and discuss their history. He might point out a bloom or leaf and dwell upon its significance but more as an aside than as a lecture. He had sat on beaches the world over, and watched the tide come in: seen the sun rise over a thousand landscapes and wildlife ease through unmapped rituals. All this I got from conversations but in no particular order and he always seemed to talk without urgency: he was not interested in age or chronology but just experiencing.

He was a carpenter by trade and clearly experienced but with regard to his history but he was neither secretive nor revealing. When his contract was over he would be walking, job done, out of your life: a prophet without a following. “Nice to have met you” was his goodbye: the world was his neighbour but he lived without intimacy He was not reckless, but seemed uninterested in safeguarding his personal circumstances.

I worked with him for a short while: shared a smoke after our sandwiches and nodded over the music we both loved. “I do not dance”, he said, “but I know how to listen,” and he did: music clearly transported him to some secret garden from which he always returned refreshed. I asked him if he had been in the army and yes he had. “I was a soldier way back when: you do things because there is no choice,because you have to.”

That was all he said, though I sensed a shadow pass through him. Naturally he was the subject of gossip but he neither confirmed nor denied any intrusive questions: he regarded speculation of that sort as unnecessary. “You’re not lending me money, and I’m not dating your daughter so what’s to know” I heard him say to some lady whose flamboyant hat spoke of a disciplined and reflective approach to life.

Home was a camper van: neat and orderly. He parked it in the yard of the plot we worked on. “Don’t you ever want for roots I asked him. “I like a change of view” he replied. That seemed to be the last of it. He had stepped aside from ambition. He used the fruits of his competence for petrol and food. His clothes were always clean but ‘how’ remained a mystery. I never saw or heard him speak of any tending regarding himself.

At the end of the job I asked him, “Have you anywhere to go?” and he replied “Anywhere I want.”
He didn’t do specifics.

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Was that her, it seemed so long ago? Another life lived in another age. A young girl dressed in white, beside the man she’d known since her birth. The son of her dad’s best friend, who played with her in his childhood, watching her back whilst they grew up in school.Her wedding ring, unmarked, on wrinkled hand, sends memories rising from another time. His face, so warm and young . The sense of being home when he was there. The new born baby nestling in her arms. Him working the shop whilst she stood by his side. An ordinary life from any point of view , free of trophies or the cheering crowds, but, full of meaning and rich in small events.

This was her world. Now only memories . A glance across a table top. His finger tapping on the dinner plate. The children squabbling over the last chips while he, exhausted, smiled at their youth. The preparations for some festivity: dressing the children and settling in the car. The pride she felt to be a family and wife to the man who owned and owns her heart. All this is gone, as he is gone, robbed of many years by some freak accident that took his life, and shut down hers in widowhood. Twenty years on and sidelined by her grief she sits alone. Asks God for strength, existing day by day. shaking her head and talking to his photograph. “What would you make of that” she asks out loud, as some news item flashes on the screen.

Her children love her but distractedly. Her unfailing sense of being understood vanished with his final breath . Maintaining her pride in a world now alien and kept at bay by manners and moral rectitude. Knowing that at least she had a time, when, shared with him her whole day seemed alive. In memory she has no aches and pains and runs as though she’s carried by the wind: stands in the rain with him , and feels the water running down her skin. Her daughter interrupts her train of thought, “Do you miss him”. ” Yes” is all she says. “Miss him” is not the phrase she would have used. A fire glows briefly in her tired eyes as she recalls the life she once enjoyed. Sitting in her shapeless widows garb, she briefly ignites her urgent womanhood.

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A Breakfast Conundrum

I am at that age when it is possible to look straight past a lady to the vision of culinary excellence before her: in this case a breakfast of two sausages, a poached egg and a modestly displayed collection of baked beans escorted towards taste heaven by two slices of toasted brown bread: all good and marvellous, I am sure you will agree, and accompanied by a small bowl filled with brown sauce.

Like a man bewitched I saw her assemble her first forkload of food, about a fifth of a sausage, dunked in the egg yoke and then placed under a soothing blanket of beans before being carefully inserted into her waiting mouth.

By the third mouthful I was overwhelmed by curiosity and emotion and could not stop myself walking up to her table and saying, “I’m sorry to bother you but don’t you find a small element of the brown sauce extends the flavours available in the breakfast and adds a touch of music to the experience.”

She looked at me with some alarm and then said, “I find if the mouthful is assembled with the correct ratios then the range of flavours can be quite wonderful on their own without the muddling addition of the brown sauce.” Now I was transfixed because here was another being who used the word “ratios” in relation to food: one of my favourite concepts. My paper on “The time to taste ratio” in evaluating a cooked meal” was submitted to the Royal College of Physics some years ago although I am still awaiting their reply.

To add to the excitement, she then waved to the chair opposite suggesting I might take my considerable weight off my legs for the duration of the conversation. “I’ve never heard anyone else use the word ‘ratio’ in relation to food before” I said, “Apart from myself” and it was obvious my gaze was lurching towards the personal. “It’s a fundamental concept in the science of food evaluation, “ she said, adding “Are you married!?” On a number of occasions but not currently “ I replied. “And yourself?” I asked, “Currently but not permanently” she replied.

I smiled then at a lady with whom a deep kinship might be possible. “Romance is better approached as a Tapas bar rather than a single main course” I suggested and she replied, “It’s all about the conversations between the flavours and we nodded as only those who have discovered a similar approach to the menu of life can do.

Thus it was that I, Wilber Artichoke, met a good lady who might join me in researching the science behind the perfect forkful and who knows what might happen once we begin discussing that immoral landscape so often inhabited by desserts!

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Our first dance together was at ages five and six, the picture is in an album at my mother’s. We, Clara and I,met at junior school and then shared the same senior school: through careful planning we managed to go to the same university. She was always the more sensible one, the careful one: the girl who chided me on my excesses. Even when we were very young, I behaved as I wanted to, but was moderated always by her caring stability and common sense.

She was unadventurous, and crippled by social caution and over influenced by the opinions of others I always thought, and I was always telling her to breath the air and live a little, On some level we irritated each other or stimulated each other: it was hard to decide which, but whatever the situation we always trusted each other. She would scolded me constantly and kept my behaviour somewhere near the acceptable: I would listen to her, if to no one else.

She had a couple of boyfriends of the boring kind and I, of course, was drinking from the trough of opportunity. In our early mid-teen years she might smile at me in a goofy way and I got the unsettling impression she sought more from me than friendship, but I was hooked on adventure and not ready to be harnessed and quite soon the moment passed: she had too much common sense to chase a lost cause and that is what I gradually became.

Over time at university I found myself behaving ever more recklessly in the hope of getting a reaction from her but somehow she had lost interest in managing my behaviour and then there was Nigel. She was always warm, and personal, but in some subtle way she no longer spoke our private language.

Somewhere in our second year his name appeared in her conversation, and then he became a presence at our meetings: nothing was said but I was no longer her first concern; her loyalties had shifted. Had I missed the point? Love had waved to me but I did not understand it’s blessings.

At her wedding to the calm and collected Nigel, with whom a house had already been purchased, I sat half way down the church and somewhere near the aisle. I was gripped by a growing sense of loss and my own stupidity which I concealed within myself because I had always took the role of the man with nothing to lose, and I was a victim of that image.

Time moved on and I saw her less frequently. There is a suspicion in my mind that Nigel viewed me with caution, who can say, but in time, as an antidote to drifting and lost opportunities, I became engaged to a girl named Sarah, whose needs were easy to read. I credited her with keeping me just this side of madness, until a wedding seemed the inescapable conclusion to our courtship.

At the reception, where I smiled for the camera’s, and danced with my new bride to John Lennon’s “Woman,” those who knew me looked on at the wild man brought to safety with some relief.By accident, I met with Clara in a passage by the hallway. It was our first moment alone in many years, and she reached up and touched my arm and told me, “It’s so lovely to see you happy.” Emotion came from somewhere in the shadows and overwhelmed me ” But she isn’t you Clara” I said and bowed my head. There was a sense of wrenching and she moved away. When I looked back, her eyes told me I had betrayed her way back then, and I knew I had.

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