Near The Real World

Characters on the silver screen, living their unlikely lives, seemed more real to him than ordinary folk, clinging to unsought routines. No different to the rest of us, he would sit silently nodding his head in some complex out of town, willing the changing character’s on to a happier time, because that is where we want to be. Am I right? Perhaps you know ?

He knew those people on the screen, but that unpolished flesh he saw pass by him on the street once the theatre closed its doors, and the sound of drunks yelling abuse, or  people frowning impatiently at him because he had lost  his point , was not the world he wished to know.  He longed to leave his mundane life, and climb the Pyrenees with friends, or escape some inferno dodging flames, holding a gentle heroine in his arms who rewarded his bravery with undying love. He would accept it modestly.

He worked as a Librarian, and on the book shelves were his friends, walking streets where heroes walk,  speaking with profound clarity. His  age was an embarrassment, and progress in real life was small. His address drew no envious glance, but in the pages of books he read, or unfolding on the silver screen, as he sat wrapped in gentle dark, were tales he knew and understood. Sitting in his single room, unencumbered by romance, and pecking at some ready meal, Thai was what he liked I’m told, his mind was free to roam once more, and leave those walls on which hung nothing of artistic note.

One day at the library, checking out some books, and watching the impassive face of  a stranger who did not know his name, he saw, over his shoulder, a girl spill her drink, and drinks were not allowed he knew. As he walked over to tell her this, he saw her close to tears and clinging to her privacy. His heart was moved by this harrowing scene: a heroine trapped by her distress. He found the love within us is often damped by lack of hope.

But now, woken by the sight of a life more wretched than his own, he found compassion for a figure, not sprung from fiction but real life who, it was clear, did not regard him with the normal censure. He took her to the office and gave her another drink  Moving to help her, clumsily it must be said, he saw her raise her eyes to his, and something in that forlorn gaze, more lost it seemed any than he had met, made him calm and brave and willing to chase her ghosts.

He found in the unlikeliest circumstances,as some men do, that dignity lies in loving something larger than ourselves: a faith, a night sky or call to ancient chivalry. Heroes, he found, are not always in uniform and so this poor unrecognised knight found compassion, and in protecting her weakness discovered his own strength. She was beautiful, but not for him he understood: chivalry must have no personal agenda. Her name was Laura, and she had lost her home.


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A Fragment Of Understanding

I am old enough to know that the voyage of life is something I will never understand. Most of the things which happened to me are becoming sensible only in retrospect and clearer with the passage of time. I am one of those men who raise their arm in the street or shake their heads as they finally realise what they should have said or done some years before, while they still had the opportunity to do so.

You left as silently as you came, and it was only later in the day, or year, or maybe the decade that I realised you had offered yourself to me in a manner which was all but unknown to one not used to being noted by others. Those words of yours. “Could you love me” speak to me now. Perhaps you saw in me something I did not notice in myself, but my unconscious rejection of your offer, sparked by shock and embarrassment, was enough to make you leave the room and then my life.

You never came to work again, our place of meeting, and I was left only with the sense of what might have been and my own stupidity. Life offers few friendships which survive our changing circumstances, and I, who have never felt that “Living Life” is a metaphor for surviving it, have thrust myself  into each new lane and experience without thought, until there is no one I can raise my eyes to and say, “We were there” because moving on, for me, is a way of life, and friendships which grow over time require some stability of ground in which to flourish: I never offered that.

I am tired now, a pauper in fact and reputation, and reflect on what I left behind, and wonder about that girl who smiled at me without guile and spoke my name with a warmth few others have mustered. Your name escapes me, and only a sense of your shape and the colour of your hair recall your presence in my life. Love means caring about others more than yourself, or so I’ve heard: I’ve little personal experience of it. It touches many lives perhaps, but passed by mine. I have attracted little more than a glance from that emotion apart from that moment when you touched my face and frightened me with your powerful understanding.

Perhaps you were its messenger. A suggestion, sadly ignored out of my clumsy awkwardness. You told me that life might offer more to me than routine and the preparation of solitary meals but I failed to believe you.  No doubt you moved on as I did, but hopefully to a more rewarding pasture. To be recognised is a rare pleasure. I mean to be really recognised and understood, and then be loved for what another sees, and, for that brief instant you offered  me that. I had lived for so long in emotional darkness that your light blinded me, and then you were gone before I could explain myself, and now I can’t recall your name.

That glance you gave me is what I live on now, sitting awkwardly in cafe’s scratching at crosswords in the daily papers: I do not bother with the news.  A clerk in shapeless clothes I may be, but for that instant, a girl offered me her love: a chance to be extraordinary and now I cannot recall her name. That gentle touch and my cowardice in its presence define me but still I get comfort from you after all this time. That is extraordinary is it not. The glance you gave me was extraordinary.


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The Narcissist

He always opened doors for ladies. and thanked you if you made him tea: in all the facile worlds he entered, he defined life’s mannered courtesies, but something in his bearing told you his instincts were all predatory. He swam through life’s corralled regions, assessed you as he passed you by: were you worth him impressing, or merely getting in his way.

Could you help him with his progress, or briefly slake his thirst for pleasures?  Or were you flotsam, low in value, barely worth the air you breathed? Always courteous, that’s a given, he sought only for short-term pleasures while talking of the larger game, indicating past successes but modestly kept the details vague. New women brought out the laughter, he bought them cocktails by the yard, dazzled them with his connections, who they might meet in time perhaps.

But if he were to meet your daughter, your heart would fill with tragedy, because, shielded by polished bravado, you knew the man was all at sea. The only thing which made him sober was a life more tragic than his own. With men who drank to find composure, or ladies careless with their dress, he might drop his guard a little, and admit his life was full of mess. Moving on was his solution, he kept the conversation light, but ghosts, we know, are famed for patience, waiting out the daylight hours, rising out of your subconscious, to prod those wounds you keep from sight.

We all need love and recognition, but first you must believe them real. Feel a look filled with compassion is not a plan to make you ill. Care beyond his comprehension  might heal him, if he learned to trust.  Faith is all God asked of him because without it we are lost.

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What You Want I Am

The single truth which fed and clothed her every day since dropping out of university to embrace her new calling was to do with men. Inspired by the welcome and then depressing attentions of her classics professor, she realised she could earn enough in a decade to live the life she wanted rather than wade through a lifetime of dressing respectfully and becoming the polite and resourceful cypher her mother had become.

Most men over fifty, he had revealed, are quietly ignored and then taken for granted. They pull the cart of responsibility up and down the field of life while, over the years, the look they receive  from their wives fills with dissapointment. At night, and before sleep grips them in its anonymous grasp, they might day-dream about another world and explore those fantasies which must not be disclosed. Secret identities eat at your composure and fan the wish to be free for a day or just an hour. Just one hour of being real and honest and open about who you are and that, she understood, was her calling.

For one hour and £ 250.00 she would be your co-conspirator, your recognition-oasis and soul-mate. Her composure would never be challenged or conventions shocked by any revelation. You would see in her practised eyes that whatever you were was who she wished to meet and kiss and hold and feel herself released with.

She was the practised mirror, reflecting your inner thoughts until you believed they were her own. ” Truth and fantasy are close friends ” she once said. Such was your hunger you dared to believe this was here and real. In this barren and god-forsaken landscape called a life, where beauty looks the other way, she laughed like a conspirator until you were, for that one single hour, the boy who would have dazzled in the lecture hall, or on the sports field or anywhere at all if people had only understood your worth.

With her I thought, I had found that fresh spring which flows into the stagnant pond I had become and allowing me to flourish once again in beautiful secrecy. However outlandish my requests, she always smiled and touched my arm and said, “Oh Derek, I feared no one would ask me that. You’ve bring me happy” and we shared a glimpse of this warped paradise until, so taken was she by the image I created, that it was I who had to remind her that my session was at an end.

“Come again soon my darling” she would say, and being with her was all I wished. Somehow we would find a way to be together always and forever until that is, my wife asked why I kept making these cash withdrawals every fortnight. There was a squalid argument after which I left at her request, suitcase in hand and of no fixed address.  For the first and only time I knocked on my ladies door with out a prior appointment.

She stood there without makeup or pretence and asked me what I was doing. “My wife has thrown me out” I told her and she looked remarkably unimpressed. “I am just a mermaid Derek and your thoughts are the rocks on which you foundered”  “But I love you” I said, my heart filling with panic, but again she was unimpressed. “No one is interested Derek. That is all you need to know” and with that she shut the door. She taught me something I will not forget: the truth is seldom comforting.

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A Holiday Romance: The Final Evening

You could call it a meeting of minds: a moment  for two souls who found in each other’s company that,briefly, the world made sense, but that was all it was and everything. It was a holiday romance, a trick of circumstance where a lady taking a solitary vacation , “She needed a break to catch her breath,” and I, a cynical journalist who was trying to regain belief, collided through my enduring clumsiness. I spilled my coffee on her dress.  Away from here, we both had busy lives, lived out on different continents, and yet for much of the holiday, this paradise seemed all there was and needed to be, and the noise of daily life was lost in our wonder of the present.

After our last evening meal and a couple of soothing drinks, as had become our habit, we  moved to the front of the boat, stretching out beside each other so we could stare up at the sky and the amazing blanket of stars visible above us: everything was pristine, clear and deep. Like the sea beneath us, the sky above seemed infinite, and we, like innocents, lay beneath its stillness. News had ceased to matter and only the rocking of the boat spoke of a moving world. Beyond the reach of gossip we lay wrapped in this velvet and wondrous infinity and she moved and touched my hand. She shone for me then and I dared to think she might love me more openly, but she let the moment pass and soon the warmth coaxed us to sleep awhile on the deck: our fingers played together like children, bonded by unwritten code. It was the nearest I would get to being at peace with myself and the world .

We were two people, free to explore the whimsies of life in a place secret to ourselves and our daily anxieties and shielded from life’s concerns by bonds of unspoken intensity. We talked of nothing and then she said, “Do you have a photograph of yourself?” and I said “No”  “OK. Let me take one then” she said and lifted up her phone and took my picture.

Against the rules I asked her “Nothing to worry about is there. Nothing I can help you with  and she said “No.”  We drank some more in silence, tonic water mainly, she didn’t much like alcohol. and then she said. “Off to bed.”

“Before you go” I said, “May I take your picture. Sometime in the future I might want company” and some light came on within her as she waited for me to capture her image. Then we went our separate ways. It was a romance built on the denial of intimacy, and yet for all that, as my head lay on the pillow, I fell into that special sleep which only happiness bestows. Even now she remains the spring of the simplest and most noble emotion I have ever experienced.

Shortly after breakfast with the ship now moored back in harbour, and as we finished a snack of toast and eggs a waiter arrived to say her taxi was waiting. She rose to leave, I knew she disliked drama and suppressed it as much as possible, and so as she stepped back from the table she smiled and said, “Don’t break anything” which was our secret joke.  She walked off then, as if it was an average day. I never saw or heard from her again.

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Technical Interface And The Older Brain

My brain is largely empty, because I have always disliked clutter, and I sieve changes in the world using a complex set of reflexes commonly known as “Lack of Interest.”  Never the less, on regular occasions we enjoy the company of my “Ambassador to Youth” who imports a range of items, all powered by that popular commodity otherwise known as “Electricity.”

Thus it was that I saw him planted in front of the television yesterday, playing some game with a name like “Catering Arguments,” in partnership with other friends of his who were also on line, ( which means not in the room but in the room if you follow me). As my Ambassador rushed around , dodging flying meringues and other potential dangers I could hear him shouting at some chum that a tank pumping out lethal amounts of custard could be seen moving in rattling manner past the ladies underwear shop, which had a sign saying “Discrete January Sale” plastered across its window. Sure enough, his friend, represented by a figure dressed in khaki who boasted a casual attitude to shaving, and who was armed with a range of lethal cooking implements, dived to the left and avoided being drenched in what I consider to be yellow heaven .

I am a man who can use a telephone, walks with some confidence towards the kettle and can demonstrate expertise with the TV remote using either hand.  I am pretty up to speed with the  latest in plant-watering techniques, but there is no chance of my being able to organise such a computer game with a couple of chums from “The Cheerful Parrot” while simultaneously doing a bit of homework and refining my social options for the coming weekend.

I cannot use my mobile phone to lower or raise the volume on said television while flicking through a range of essential “Apps” to ensure I am familiar with all developments to do with global warming and its effect on the football season. I try and add a modern note to my conversations with my Ambassador by saying that my soon to be published books are written in a manner which avoids glorifying unnecessary use of the car and suggest a limited use of central heating, but something in his manner implies I have failed to engage his interest.

Now, fired up by his technical expertise, and the appearance in my life of two grandchildren, I am thinking of penning a valuable guide-book called, “Talking to Another Generation Without The Need For Interpreters” but my publisher tells me the title is too long to put on any cover they would consider putting out on my behalf. Help me please, by suggesting a shorter title for my book in the comment box below or to an address of your choice.

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Offering Advice

In fairness to myself, I recognise my advice is not always welcome, and though I strive to improve myself, and offer a range of “Life-tips” to those around me, I am aware that even these tips may be flawed, or so precise in their nature as to be relevant only in most particular of circumstances.

Let me explain. I might suggest to some man of the world, currently experiencing the severe after-effects of a night’s celebrations, that trying to open a tin of beans with a fork  risks a failure to achieve the desired objective. While this advice is valid,  the observation is only relevant in the rarest of circumstances.

“How come you write a Blog then?” I hear someone ask, or  was that just the sound of a broom falling over in a cupboard at the back of the room. Sometimes, when I’m sipping a   character building liquid down at “The Cheerful Parrot,” where I and  a group of local sages, walking almanacs, and exercise gurus gather to share  wisdoms and the cost of a pint, we might offer our responses to the newspaper headlines of the day in the belief that we are less incompetent than those rash gentlemen who seek to run our countries or show a bit of sporting prowess.  As we crow about our own achievements, we are luckily unaware that every fact and boast we make can now be double checked by reference to school reports, facebook gaffs or the contradictions of childhood friends.

Never the less, I am always in awe of those of who are self-deluded enough to rise in triumph above the masses and produce some new plan or wheeze which will give their country greater prominence in the eyes of the world. A recent example of this was offered at a press conference by the President of Austria, who announced at some important international meeting that his country was to build six new aircraft carriers “To defend the maritime interests of the Austrian republic.”

“What maritime interests are those?” some brave reporter enquired, and was told in a firm and direct manner, that, apart from the movement of vital shipping supplies, Austrians could be found bathing on beaches all over the world and it was a matter of grave importance, despite the recent recession, that their interests and prestige were safeguarded.

“And where will these Aircraft carriers be anchored?” continued the bold investigator, whose life-expectancy was decreasing by the glance. “Iceland” said our astute President, ably demonstrating that every detail of the scheme had been thoroughly researched. “Is Iceland a beach-rich country?” asked our valiant friend but his chirruping interruptions  were curtailed by two gentlemen packed into well-filled suits.

To be fair, this incident has not yet taken place, but it might do if my recent letter to that head of state, signed “Well-wisher from just south of London in England near Europe but just below Scotland on the map” prompts him to order some aircraft carriers and thus make a bit of a splash on the world stage. I have not received a reply as yet, but the presence of a black car outside my house, with a man using a camera vigorously from the back seat as I take my morning walk suggest that certain important people are thinking of visiting me to discuss tin-opening technique and their relationship to the development of the modern navy. Now that would be something to tell my chums down the pub eh.    eh.


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