Survey

We went for a coffee before doing the bi-weekly shop in the supermarket. I am always a little edgy, uncomfortable with taking time out of working but at the same time I like to sit there, across from him, being part of the world awhile. He prefers to sit in the back section of the coffee shop, in the ‘comfy’ seats, whereas I opt for the stools, liking to sit high and amidst the bustle of the coming and going. He knows most of customers and gives a running commentary on what they do, where they sit and whether they irritate him or not. ‘We’re sitting in their seat’, he says, when the plumber and his girlfriend come in. He doesn’t like the stools, finding them hard and uncomfortable. They’re not their seats, I say, knowing full well what he means. They don’t seem too put out however, greeting us with smiles as they take the table and stools behind us. He wants to maintain the status quo, and feels responsible for denying them their usual habits. I get him a cushion. I shall have to do this for Dulcie later, he says. Dulcie is a tiny  bird of woman who comes in daily for a coffee and to read the paper. He has got into the habit of collecting cushions for her. While he is ordering our drinks I watch a woman in a black shiny mid-length puffa coat returning from the loo to resume her place on the sofa. Taking up her cup in her hand, a large cup, probably a cappuccino she proceeds to stick her finger inside scooping out the remaining foam and licking it off. She stares at the cup while she does this, a concentrated fixed stare. I try to gauge her age. Her hair has been dyed brown but is thinning. Her face, drawn and severe, has a thick layer of now rather clagged foundation. She is nattily dressed, the coat, a  black pencil skirt and ankle-length little boots with ankle socks peeking over the rims. She must have felt my staring and turns to me and smiles.

We were both a little out of sorts yesterday. He is still getting bouts of anxiety, flickers that sometimes take root. It’s the disappointment that gets him. Why is it still happening? he asks. Keep steady, I say, it is a blip. And me? Three things, no four things did it. The first an email from a friend that was sharp and curt and made me feel foolish. The second was the way-too-early arrival of a guest, and his and the journalist’s accusatory stares as I came through the door. The third was another email telling me that the corset and crinoline will be arriving today not Friday. And the fourth? A survey. You know the kind – we want you to confirm, for the record, that we are great. It was the negativity of my responses that brought me down. I just couldn’t bring myself to toe the line but at the same time I don’t like to whinge. It is an OK job, that’s all. It will do. It isn’t my career. It is a means to an end it buys me time to think, to read, to write and to make work.

A silver saloon car is driving towards me along the Prom down to the harbour. I can see two men inside. It makes me wary. I take a mental note of the number plate, saying it over and over again in my head. Just in case. Just in case. I see them again near Pier Pressure, driving at the same pace, slow, steady, a crawling pace. In the space under the castle, the same space I have sometimes seen two men dancing, students from the college have painted a mural. They were commissioned to do so by the council. It is evolving day by day, along with the sunflowers and the waves there is now a second starling. They appear to be pulling a canvas of the water and flowers, stretching it between their beaks. The idea of the mural was to dissuade the graffiti-ists. A nice idea. It must be fun doing it.

The pair of taupe canvas shoes that had been left abandoned on a bench on South Prom were still there this morning. Still neatly placed, laces tidy. No doubt soaked through from the storm, that wasn’t really a storm. A no show. I could still walk. One shower, that’s all, and all that dread in my gut.

Sewing feels safe. It that it’s attraction? So much in my life at present isn’t. Like Jane, I think I’ve been frightened all my life.

A radio documentary about Matisse and illustrating Mallarme – ‘He took the (his) oxygen from the poems’.

My outer life has shrunk. While my inner life is…well, immense.