the sun has got his hat on.

Friday, 30 March 2012

I had my last class of third year today. Somewhat surreal. I'm not finished quite yet, there are still essays, stories, columns, exams. But no more classes. It's been a pretty exhausting week though. So, for now, here are just three things:


[one.] The past few days have been bursting with sun. A little taste of summer. It's been so warm that I've even been able to walk about without a cardigan on (a rarity indeed). I've spent a few hours each day in the sun, having tea and conversations (about writing, and the beauty of ordinary things, and poetry, and academic sobbery, and post-modernism, and Carol Shields, and bees) with the interesting lady who is my mother.


[two.] The internet in the house has been down for a few days... which has been both a pest and a bit of a relief. When the first thing you do every morning is check Facebook, you know something is wrong. I don't want to spend my life staring at screens. (And yes, I recognise the irony...)


[three.] Exciting, exciting, exciting news! One of my short stories is going to be published in the debut issue of Octavius Magazine (a new literary magazine). I got the news after a busy, sticky, warm day at work. Quite a treat to come home and find in my inbox.


(Pictures are from a trip to Bath last summer.)

doodles and deafness.

Friday, 16 March 2012

I thought I'd post my latest column for the Strathclyde Telegraph on here. The columns are all around the theme of 'something I've noticed' as well... so it ties in quite nicely with this blog!


I've mixed up the writing with pictures of tea from various cafes ...partly because the article is about a cafe (my work), but mainly because when I see huge blocks of text on a blog, it kind of puts me off. (Probably a shocking confession for someone who is studying literature - i.e. the study of very, very long texts - to make, but hey!). So don't be off-put, friend. Enjoy the pictures and happy reading to you!)


Something I've Noticed: Brian was Here
(from the Strathclyde Telegraph. Issue 6. March 2012)


As I walked to their table, the old man was pulling a pen out of his shirt pocket.
Hi there,’ I said. They looked up from their menus. ‘Are you ready to order?’

It seemed like some sort of family event. One by one, they called out their orders – cheese toasties, minestrone soup, ginger beer. The old man at the end didn’t say a word. He had taken out a tiny black notebook and was now scribbling something in it.
I always feel an affinity with fellow notebook-keepers, and couldn’t help wishing I was closer so I could see what he was writing.

‘And a bowl of chips to share,’ said the lady in blue, ‘and I think that’s it.’
I collected together their menus but just before turning to leave, I noticed the old man had stopped scribbling. He was adjusting his glasses, and then he ripped the page from his notebook and slipped it under the sugar bowl.
My curiosity began to hum.
About two hours later, the family paid their bill and bustled out the door. As usual the table was strewn with napkins and dirty dishes but – yes! – there it was! That mysterious piece of paper! It was a little drawing: a long-nosed man peeking over a wall. Underneath were the words: Brian was here.

Customers often leave things behind: seashells, reading glasses, broaches, keys. Someone left a walking stick once; we kept it for weeks, but I don’t think anyone ever came back to claim it. All these forgotten objects – they whisper at stories.
What is the story behind this drawing?

I imagine that it starts with something quite banal, like the old man was just trying to pass the time. I don’t remember seeing him talking much. Maybe his hearing aid was playing up – it was picking up too much background noise and his ears were full of rattling cutlery, and the rumble of hundreds of voices speaking at once, and tinkling piano music, and teaspoons clinking against china. Maybe he had just switched it off, and sat quiet.
Maybe this doodling has become something of a regular occurrence for Brian, if that is his name; maybe it’s a way of coping with this new age of silence. He’s aware that he has become something of a nuisance at family gatherings. No one knows what to do with him. He can’t hear what they’re saying so they avoid sitting beside him because ‘it’s awkward’ – yes, he heard his granddaughter say that at Christmas. He pretended not to, but he heard it. Maybe this doodling is an attempt to reconnect with them again, to try and make them laugh.
Because he slipped it under the sugar bowl, and because he left it there, I almost think he put it there for us, the waitresses. I think he wanted us to find it.
Sometimes, on rainy, wistful days, I’ve wondered what it would be like for a customer to look back and see me clearing their table. They might glance through the window and catch me crumpling their empty sugar packets, catch me stacking their teacups, sweeping away their scone crumbs, wiping away their spilt coffee and sticky fingerprints, catch me wiping and wiping until every last trace of them is gone. I wonder if they would feel a slight tug of – not quite sadness, not as concrete as that – but a creeping impression that they had just witnessed themselves being rubbed out.

I wonder if Brian has felt like this. Maybe that is why he left the picture. He was leaving behind a piece of himself, a remnant. Of course there was the risk that it might get thrown away with the rest of the rubbish. But then, there was also the possibility, the hope, that someone might find it. Someone might find it, and then someone would know, he wanted someone to know: Brian was here.

prophets and lovers don't always hold true...

Saturday, 3 March 2012

I thought I'd share a song on here which I've been listening to quite a lot recently: 'Wherever You Go' by Audrey Assad (my sister discovered this last week. She is often the Finder of Good Music.)
  
In other news*, I've mostly just been reading books for university, writing assignments for university, and, well, going to university. It's quite all-consuming this being a student business. How lucky, though, to be able to spend four years of my life (which are going by far too quickly) reading and discussing literature, and learning how to fashion words into stories!
A proper post should, all being well, follow soon.
(*Yes, yes. That wasn't technically "news". But it's a saying. Gosh!)
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