They never get it right. The tea pot was huge but there was no extra water. We thought that someone wanted weak tea, said the waiter with a grim face, two tea bags in that pot is going to be really weak. Can you bring some more? I asked, and some hot water? Why is it so difficult to explain what we mean? he said, when the waiter had gone. Who knows? It was lovely anyway. And I talked and talked. Talking it out and coming up with a plan, a way to keep going, to fire up my work. The other guests dozed in the sunshine that flooded the lounge. We spoke quietly in our corner while he munched on shortbread. Afterwards we too sat in the sun. My back’s tightness eased and I felt almost high. He had celebrated me, cherished me and anything felt possible. Coming home to a text and having to rush off an email in response and my bubble was soon burst. But that’s OK, one can’t float for long, that’s gravity. And now I have to put it all into place, make it manifest. I send off emails and messages. Might you be interested? Can you help? Are you still out there? We shall see. He is proud of me. I am not used to it. It is a lovely feeling. That inkling of limelight.
He told me he found it excruciating. I didn’t know. I hadn’t seen – too wrapped up in myself. I honour. I take it on board. I will not ask it of him. Not any more.
I waited in the car while he went to buy the papers. A man came along the street. A figure from antiquity. A ragged man, hunched, his hair in dreadlocks, a dirty anorak on his back and his feet in too-big boots that curled up at the toes and no socks. He carried a carrier bag, that looked too-modern, too incongruous for this nineteenth-century figure. Spying a piece of paper on the road he suddenly dashed out and snatched it up. Scanning it briefly he shoved it into the pocket of his coat and shuffled on. Where was he going? How does he live? Was he old or made aged by destitution? Who was looking out for him? How can people be so alone, so bereft in our modern age, in this first world country?
What can we do?
Halfway down North Road and there is a distinct smell of TCP. A smell of my childhood. A cure-all, a clean-all, the smell was insidious, once opened and applied it never went. And yet, it is comforting, a smell of caring, of fastidious motherhood and bathroom cabinets.
My work is my life.
Why do you paint? Manet asks Berthe Morisot in the radio programme aired this morning (and I paraphrase them). I love it but you don’t appear to, he continues, why do you do it?
Because I have to, she replies.