Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Irene Mooney January 2009


At last I feel as if progress is being made in my life. Sitting here in Starbucks with my latte and my magazine and an hour to waste seems like heaven to me after the turmoil of the last few weeks. . I breathe out a sigh of relaxation and survey the Starbuck groupies….a couple of mums with their kids…a teenager waiting for a date I think….an elderly man with his newspaper ..I felt I fitted in as the token single female.. Looking out over the supermarket I could see the late Saturday afternoon shoppers scurrying from aisle to aisle looking for the last minute reduced stickers and bargains.

As my eyes settled on the cashier nearest to me my heart missed a beat…Tom is there unloading a trolley .I let my eyes rest on him…almost feasting on the delight of seeing him again after so many weeks. He concentrates on unloading the trolley and seems lost in thought and I wonder if he is thinking of me. I slide myself lower in my seat just in case he looks over to the café and catches my eye, yet I watch his every move .

I tear my eyes away from his face and look at the conveyer belt …Actimel must be for her…Tom never drank it…Ice cream must be her secret eating ..Tom never ate that…Salad bag…she must be lazy..Tom always made his own salad….Full cream milk…silly woman..Tom wont use that for his coffee…Tom casually runs his hand through his greying hair and touches his earlobe in an oh so familiar way as he concentrates on the shopping. He is wearing brown cord trousers and I wonder if they are the pair we bought together at the January sales. I notice he isn’t wearing a tie but an open neck casual shirt that I didn’t recognise. He looks tired as if he hasn’t slept well for several days and I also notice he hasn’t shaved. I smile and wonder if he is trying to be “cool” I allow myself a moment to hold a memory of my teasing him about his designer stubble. The cashier is waiting for him to catch up with packing and begins to help him with the last few items. Tom thanks her and again I allow myself a memory of his almost insane politeness to everyone he met in the course of his day. He is a good man. I loved him. He hurt me.

I try to regain some semblance of normality to concentrate again on my magazine and to drink my now cold latte. But I am fighting a losing battle as all I can think about is what will he be doing now?..Where is he going?. Will he be going home to the house I once lived in.?.Will he be going to cook a meal in the kitchen I once cooked in..? Will he be watching a DVD in the living room where once we both watched DVDs .? As I try to quieten all these thoughts the one I am hoping will never surface breaks through..Will he be making love with her in the same bed where once we made love in? I am undone by this thought and lose the fight to stop the tears falling.

Tom is no longer mine…no longer can I lay claim to anything we once shared . He belongs to her , everything about him is now in her possession and I am alone . I am once more taken back to the day when Tom confessed to me that he no longer loved me All the progress I feel I have made in coming to terms with it is snatched away and I am once again bereft…laid bare…desperate…… If I could comfort myself with the cliché that men leave their wives for younger women all the time perhaps I could begin to rebuild my life and mend my heart. This small consolation is not for me. I am at odds with normality. No-one has done studies or published statistics or written magazine articles about my heart break. Tom has left the young woman…me…to return to his wife…. I have been left for an older woman one who laid claim to him even before I was born. I became the butt of so many jokes and teasing that I made light of it and no-one knew how deeply I was hurt. Today I had felt strong enough to venture into my life to begin again the rituals that make life bearable. Saturday Starbucks was one of the rituals that Tom and I never shared and I had felt confident that with this one small step I would be proving to myself that I could and would survive a broken heart.

I wipe my eyes…blow my nose…and ignoring any glances that come my way. I stand, somewhat unsteady, aware that the Starbuck groupies are watching me and wondering if they would be drawn into my small drama.. I walk towards the exit doors carefully avoiding eye contact with anyone. Saturday afternoon at Starbucks will never be the same for me again.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

People Watching

Cradling a large sweet latte in my very cold hands, I inhaled the reviving aroma of coffee with a hint of caramel, and settled back into the armchair to engage in the elicit pleasure of people watching. The coffee shop was half full of a mixture of young mums meeting up for a slot of sanity, work colleagues talking over business strategies, or sharing the inside track and the latest gossip, and I guess a few lonely people eking out a large coffee, so that for a while they could be part of something with a dynamic for more than one.

As I scanned the room my mind wandered from person to person and table to table, I noticed a colourful slightly eccentric jacket a woman my age was wearing, and became absorbed in meaningless speculation over where it had come from. I was interrupted in my cosy contemplations by the jarring noise of china and metal clattering on a ceramic floor. There was a sudden suspension in everything, the pause lasting for a second, before the wave of conversation moved on again, leaving the tired looking waitress to clear up in obscurity, free from the momentary unwanted attention.

I started watching the only person who had carried on uninterrupted by the mini drama, a young woman completely absorbed by the content of her laptop. I studied her face, not at all concerned that she may notice because she was so fixed on her screen. She had bright intelligent eyes, and although she was lost to her task, her expression relayed a pleasure in what she was doing. As her hands occasionally flitted across the keys, there seemed an urgency in her work. I realised there was a partial reflection of the screen in the window to her left, and I found myself squinting and fiddling with my glasses, trying to glean anything that might tell me more about what was so important to her. After about thirty seconds, I realised she was running PowerPoint, and was so instantly pleased with myself I grinned. She has a presentation I thought triumphantly, so enjoying that I had managed to work out this detail of her life.

With unexpected abruptness she closed the laptop and looked up. I lowered my eyes to my shoes, and started sipping coffee. Feeling caught out in my scrutinizing, I slowly looked up making ready to grab for the paper on the next table if I felt I needed the cover. She was looking straight at me, and before I could look away she gave a broad engaging smile. “I have a big presentation this afternoon” she announced, as she stood and straightened her suit. “I’m venturing into strictly male territory, but I’m going fully armed, all weapons locked and loaded!” I felt my eyebrows rise towards my hairline and my eyes widen in slight alarm. Not just caught out in my snooping, but now a semi-accomplice in some kind of hi-tech wholesale massacre of men.

“Take it easy on them” I offered “I’m sure they have no idea what’s coming through the door!” “Oh I think your right” she almost giggled, “and I’m going to savour every moment. Destruction in my wake; Triumph in my hand!” She tossed her car keys in the air and grabbed them back to emphasis the point as she swept passed my table. “Well you go girl!” I quipped (In a semi-instructional way, this girl was clearly dangerous to know!) She flashed a parting grin in my direction and sailed out the door into the sunlight.

I cast my eyes cautiously around the room again – this could clearly be a dangerous occupation.
Karen Mehta 03-02-08

Friday, 6 February 2009

There was nothing remarkable about her, nothing that would make you notice her among other shoppers. Her clothes were a non-descript mixture of beige and black; not even a colourful scarf to break into the dullness of her appearance. Of average height and average build, with mousey brown hair and nothing interesting about her face she never stood out in a crowd. Even the way she moved with lethargic slowness spoke of nothing.
And then, there was her name: Brenda Smith. You can’t get much more unremarkable than that. She often wondered why her parents chose it for her. It was not a romantic name nor an adventurous one. You just do not fall dramatically in love with a girl call Brenda, not in her experience anyway.
Brendas do not change the world either.
Was it the name that dictated the course of her life?
Perhaps if she was named Clarissa, she might have married a rich banker or an artist. She might have been living a life of parties in a luxurious apartment somewhere in London. Shopping in Harrods and having lunches in those exclusive and terribly expensive restaurants.
Or, with a serious name like Janet, she might have been researching how to prevent the disappearing of bees. She would have been travelling giving lectures and awakening the awareness of scientists and politicians around the world. Important people would listen and respect her. She would have been given recognition and awards for her work.
But, no, she was named Brenda and she had been spending her life working in the local Council Offices without glamour or recognition.
It used to trouble her very much but now it does not seem to matter quite so much.
So, she boarded the bus home with her shopping of three pairs of black trousers and two beige cardigans. She won’t keep them all, of course. That’s the good thing about M&S: you can try clothes at home and take them back for a refund or exchange later.
For one mad moment she toyed with the idea of exchanging one of the cardigans for the emerald green top that caught her eye. But it was only for a very brief moment. Beige is so much more practical.
Yes, there was nothing remarkable about her, except….her unfulfilled dreams.

Exposition: Our first assignments

This is now month two of the Unique Exposition writing group and at our first meeting we were given a writing assignment. The challenge was to go to a coffee shop or a public place where we could observe someone incognito for five minutes, and then write about them and imagine something of the cicumstances of the next hour of their lives. During our meeting tonight we spent time reviewing and sharing our thoughts about each other's writing.

I encouraged the group to follow this simple acronym: WRITE.
To be warm, respectful, inquisitive, tentative and encouraging.

We were not "marking" each other's "work". We recognise that writing can evoke different responses from different people. We understand that our words and stories are part of us and yet separate from us. This reminds us to be rigorous with ourselves but gentle with others. As a wise man in my house says-if you have nothing positive to say....smile.

We read through the cameos and read out a favourite sentence, we reflected on our response to the way the author had drawn the character, the setting, the narrative, and our emotional response to the piece.

This is a scary experience to share our first attempts so over the next few days hopefully members of the group will venture forth and post their writing. So I will go first and introduce you to 'Tom' who I observed in a M1 motorway service cafe somewhere in the Leicestershire area on a return trip at the end of a long day.

As this is a blog with comment boxes we welcome you to follow our guidance and share your responses.

Tom sat comfortably in his world of rest. The headlines of the Independent were scrutinised then read. After a few minutes the paper was carefully folded and the next section deftly selected. Like a heat seeking missile Tom leafed through each section until he detected the sports pages. The cricket reviews were found and then read in depth.

Tom was sitting upright in the plastic motorway café chair. His dark donkey jacket was open revealing a red scarf warm over loosened shirt and tie. His dark, crumpled, three day worn end of Wednesday trousers bore the marks of long days spent on motorways and up and down office stairs. Legs are crossed; feet wear soft, black moccasins wide and worn, moulded by miles of steps. His cropped dark hair has strands of silver illuminated by the harsh fluorescent tubes of the service station lighting.

Latte in tall china cup is sipped over long intervals. The brown bag of crisps is slowly and steadily eaten without compulsion, all attention on the paper. Eyes remain locked on the report all distractions averted, Tom is oblivious as people scrape back chairs and sit in jovial groups with burgers and chips. The report is processed by diligent intelligent eyes; all actions are precise and measured with no excess.

A small white chocolate bar is opened. Snap as a slice is broken; chocolate, coffee, crisps, chocolate, coffee, crisps consumed as eyes remain on the paper. The chocolate is finished and the paper folded. Tom rises; he abandons the detritus of his motorway snack leaving half and inch of coffee in the white china cup.

Tom visits the toilets and washes his hands, a slim man in his mid forties who lives in a world of precision and ordered routines. As he walks towards his car he flicks the electronic key to the bleep as the car jumps like a loyal attentive servant. A quick glance at the windscreen and fuel as Tom slides into the seat. He estimates the time to get home and makes a mental note to turn on the news headlines in ten minutes time.

The car carefully navigates the exit route past the garage with overly inflated fuel, and slips into the stream of red and white snakes eyes and accelerates smoothly to seventy. Tom starts to think of home as he anticipates the enticing aroma of dinner with his wife and children. He will savour mundane details of everyday activities and the mini dramas that his sixteen year old daughter seems to constantly provide. He has already accumulated all the latest cricket scores and he will enjoy the post mortem of each innings with his son who is growing a love of the game to rival his own.

Jacqui Webber-Gant. January 2009