the things they leave behind.

Wednesday, August 29

I thought I'd post another one of my columns for the Strathclyde Telegraph. This is one of the last ones I wrote for the paper before the summer... but, for a number of reasons, the paper-version of this issue never actually ended up going to print (which was a pity, because I was quite pleased with it). So here it is: a kind of exclusive! (*wink*)

Something I've Noticed: discarded.
(from the Strathclyde Telegraph. Issue 7. April 2012.) 

It started with a handkerchief.

I was waiting at the bus stop when I spotted it by my feet: a crumpled, green, tartan handkerchief. 'What can it be doing there?' I wondered.

‘The erstwhile-owner of this handkerchief,’ I decided, after a bit of thought, ‘was most likely a tweed-clad gentleman with a slight curvature of the spine. He had probably been the victim of a violent sneeze, a sneeze which exploded from his nostrils with such force that this, his favourite handkerchief, was blown from his fingers straight into a puddle. Because his bus must have arrived at just that moment, the tweedy gentleman was, no doubt, forced to abandon the hankie in favour of alighting as, in all likelihood, he had an important appointment with his lady-friend to keep.’

Satisfied with this reasonable explanation, I put all thoughts of stray handkerchiefs out of my mind for the day. But ho! Little did I know this was only the beginning...

Throughout the following weeks I stumbled upon other stray items scattered about the streets: a purple glove perched on a fence, a woolly scarf draped over a wall, a body warmer lying among fallen leaves. I found a pair of chunky black boots just sitting in the middle of the pavement, and a mangled umbrella stuffed inside a bush; I found two full bags of groceries from Morrisons, forsaken, in a ditch.  

'How curious,' I thought. 'Perhaps the people in my village are just particularly forgetful.' Leaving your shoes behind is an easy mistake to make, I suppose. Just imagine that you were walking home one day and felt your toes wiggling against two stones. It would be quite understandable if, after unfastening your laces and shaking the stones out, you were to resume your walk without remembering to put the shoes back on. Perfectly understandable. I’ve even done it myself a few times.

After a few train journeys to and from Glasgow, however, it became increasingly apparent that this ‘discarding of random objects’ is not something specific to where I live. Quite the contrary. As my train hurtled past woods overrun with neglected buggies, kitchen sinks and perfectly intact-looking leather sofas, I began to suspect that something other than mere forgetfulness lurked behind these cast-offs. My suspicions were confirmed when, just last week, I looked out the window and there, smashed to pieces at the bottom of a gully, was (I kid you not) an enormous grand piano!
People of Strathclyde, I believe there is a gap in the collective knowledge of this country. Good citizens up and down the land are forced into lives of littering because they are helplessly unaware of the other options available. But fear not, dear friends! Be in the dark no longer! I have taken it upon myself to show you the light!

To those of you inclined towards abandoning groceries: I know that putting the shopping away can be a bit of a grind – all those tins! All that cheese you’ll have to rearrange in the fridge! But! I have a solution: if you’re not going to take your food home with you, why not give it to a friend? (Or why not save yourself some money and, y'know, don’t buy it at all?)
To shedders of random garments: isn’t the charity shop a more suitable place for unloading your old clothes? How about a car-boot sale? Have you ever heard of eBay?
And to those of you who are tired of grand pianos cluttering up your living rooms: hold off from those destructive we’ll-lug-it-up-a-hill-then-chuck-it-over-the-edge type plans that you are currently formulating. Hear me out! Would it not be better, would it not be kinder, to sell the piano (or even gift it) to an aspiring young musician? Think of the talent you might help to unlock. (Think of the pain you will spare your back!)

Don’t throw away your undesirables like used banana skins (which, by the way, should go in a bin). It might start today with discarding a handkerchief, but what will it be tomorrow...? Beware the slippery slope!

(Pictures taken over the past few years: a glove in Glasgow, the handkerchief itself, a baby's hat on a bench, a scarf on a wall, some socks at the bus-stop, a bear by a bin, an origami bird on a train, a seat on the street, a couch by the road. I haven't managed to get a picture of the piano yet, because the train is too fast. But it's still there, as far as I'm aware. I'll keep trying.) 

customers cracking jokes.

Monday, August 13

Busy cafe. Afternoon. Customers at table in the corner put down their menus. I walk over to them, pad and pen at the ready.

ME: Hi there.*

Customers look up. Two ladies, two men (old enough to qualify for the 'seniors choice' fish tea.)

ME: Do you know what you'd like?

One of the men winks at his friends. Looks at me. A wry smile.

MAN: Well... a pension increase ... an all inclusive holiday to Spain ... a full tank of petrol for my mini ...?

Other customers give tittering laughs. I smile, still holding up the pad and pen. 

(...ah yes. I see what you did there. Very funny...)

Pictures by: Mark Johns. (And here's one more, because I like them...!)

harrogate sightings.

Saturday, August 11

Last week I took a trip to Harrogate with my family. We stayed on Strawberrydale Avenue, in a skinny four-story house(quaintly named 'Stawberry House').

There were many paintings of strawberries all around the house, and strawberry-red rugs on the floor, and, just to keep the theme going, we ate a number of strawberries while we were there. Delicious.

Here are a couple of pictures from the week:

Patches of falling sunlight in the park. We wandered round here on our first day, past flowers and fountains and squirrels with feathery tails. We followed the sound of music until we came to a bandstand where a burgundy-clad brass band were playing.

Three wee boys (not really) listening to the music in the park. They kept nudging each other and whispering ...and then they gave up the pretence and started chasing each other during the band's rendition of the 'Out of Africa' theme tune (a beautiful film which I only just watched this week!)

The sun stayed out for a while, then it started to rain (on and off) in showers. I liked this couple. They were sitting close together before the rain came on, and then, when it started to rain quite heavily, the husband tucked his arm around his wife's shoulder, popped open his umbrella, and then and pulled her close to keep her dry. She kept smiling at him, and they looked genuinely happy in each other's company (a rarity).

Confetti in the grass. Hearts and flowers and horse-shoes. There must have been a wedding before we came.

Emilie (my sister) trying to blend in with the manikins in a shop window. They were a bit paler than her. And a bit without-bodies.

A rather sad-looking statue in a doorway. Amazing how such a simple shape can covey such strong emotion.

Windows in York (I liked their curtains).

I love how bunting is strung almost everywhere in England (or at least, everywhere that we drove through). It's so jolly. I took this particular picture (from an open-top York tour bus) because I noticed on the window that 'jacket potatoes' was a plural, but 'panini' was not. (Or so I thought!) Turns out (according to google) that panini is actually the plural form for the Italian word 'panino' (meaning 'small bread roll' ...apparently). So there you go! 

Another set of windows spied from the bus. I liked the love heart, and the little notes they had pinned up at the window. I might borrow this idea. 

Evan (my 'little' brother, who the next week found out that he got into university!) and me having lunch (with Emilie) in a quirky restaurant/bar called 'The Pitcher and Piano'.

Quite possibly the best sandwich I have ever had the privilege of tasting. (Pan-fried halloumi, grilled flat mushroom and roasted peppers in a toasted ciabatta. I must try and make this at home!)

Flowers in Strawberry House garden (and my new ballet-style shoes).

'Oh look, this is a shiny teapot. I can see myself in it. I wonder if I can take a picture of myself in it  --- oh, it would seem that everyone else wants to get their picture taken in it too -- budge up -- big grins -- ready? -- cheeeeeese!' (from left: my dad, Andrew; my mum, Lorna; me, Melissa; and Evan, Evan.)

I fell in love (although I was lost to them already) with the bunting that kept popping up everywhere, and with the patchwork-style landscape of England. Hills and hills of fields and hedges. Didn't manage to get a picture of them, though. I was too engrossed in my book  to remember (I was reading 'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith - beautiful).
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