Saturday

stream of consciousness - nanowrimo chapter two

I don’t know what the others are thinking or even if they are. I know I wasn’t until I got back here. The coffee shop was somewhat of a daze and our reasoning for being there, well, that’s probably best not dwelled upon. Since this whole ordeal began I have determined not to think about it for numerous reasons. The main one being fear. I can’t afford to break down or to cry or mourn for those I have lost. I don’t want to lose myself. I am afraid. I feel safe here, I feel safer now than I have for a while. In a perverse way I feel safer than I did before the end of the world. Here right now I feel at home.

This house isn’t exactly home but I have always considered home to be where I am at any particular moment in time. One of us found this place, I don’t know how. It could be a relative of one of those that I hold dear. I can’t quite remember right now and I doubt it is relevant as chances are they are dead now anyway. It’s nice though, much nicer than I could have ever afforded. Probably not to everyone’s taste, there is a definite antiquated feel to the place. On the corner of a roundabout above a bank this flat is full of what an especially imaginative estate agent would probably describe as charm. Would probably have described. There are no estate agents any more. To get in you go through a door within a door. The original door is over eight foot tall and thick heavy oak, to swing it open might prove somewhat of a bastard so at some point a smaller door within the door was added. The same old dark oak with the added bonus of ease of entry. Ease of entry if you have the key of course and if you haven’t dropped the heavy bar behind you. This could be why we ended up here, it’s not easy to get into and isn’t immediately obvious as a place where people live. The staircase to the upstairs is wide and carpeted with an ancient but tasteful thick red and gold carpet. A dusty chandelier provides an amber glow, which cannot be seen from outside as there is neither window nor a gap in the oak door from which it could pour. Photographs from someone else’s life line the stairs, sepia tinged in black frames happy children smiling old couples and two people, young people, in love. They are all quite likely dead I think.

The stairs creak as you ascend which concerned me when we first moved in but doesn’t concern me now. There are less of us to make it creak now which helps I guess. At the top of the stairs an unremarkable door propped open by a brass horse leads into the study. This is a strange entrance really but it suited someone well enough. The study is a small mezzanine which overlooks the main living room. The far wall covered in shelves of books asides the gap made to fit the large walnut desk with its green leather padding. The armchair old and expensive looking, the lighting modest and low lit, the books diverse but obviously on closer inspection someone’s collection of first editions. They are beautiful and they smell like comfort to me. The walls are painted a familiar red and a central painting of a child at a stream in a gilt frame has a small light above it. The light no longer works, the bulb blew three days ago. We see little point in replacing it. A small black iron staircase leads to the lower level that is the living quarters. I was scared of spiral staircases once upon a time, I hated the way they narrowed in the centre and never being the surest of people on my feet I was always convinced I was going to fall. I never fell but that’s the thing with irrational fears, they’re irrational. This living room is split level too, sort of. You step down to the fireplace and the sofas and step up to the windows. The windows are resplendent with black out blinds and thick red velvet drapes that were once held back by gold cord. We’d look out the windows but out here there’s nothing to see. We keep the blinds down and the curtains closed and we feel safe with a little light.

Two sofas and an armchair focus around the ornate fire surround with wood burning stove. This is odd for London but perfect for us. We overcame our fears of the smoke days back now, there’s smoke everywhere so a little more won’t matter.

I light a cigarette, it tastes nice.

Thursday

bucket of ice

Every day Timothy would walk from one end of the city to the other with a bucket of ice. The city wasn’t a small city; it took him near enough to three hours to get from one end to the other. There was public transport available and at seventy years old Timothy had his pensioners bus pass so wasn’t required to pay a fare yet every day he insisted on walking. There were several shops along the way that sold bags of ice for fairly nominal prices, fresh sealed in plastic bags, yet timothy insisted on bringing his bucket from home.

Most people who knew his routine thought Timothy was a little touched in the head. That old age had gotten to him and impaired his mental processes. Some of the kindlier neighbours had called social services to come and assess Timothy on several occasions. Yet always they had scratched their heads as full of tea and with friendly waves the social services people left Timothys house. They could find nothing wrong with him.

One of his neighbours’ sons was a doctor. She asked her doctor son if she would look in on Timothy and test that he was OK. She gave her son a carrot cake for Timothy and asked that he pass it on. The doctor knocked at Timothy’s door and presented him with the cake from mother. With a beaming smile and bright watery eyes behind his thick bottle end glasses Timothy invited the doctor in for tea.

Over the course of an hour and a half the doctor had three cups of tea and two slices of his mother’s carrot cake. He quizzed timothy subtly, dropping in questions about the year, the Prime Minister, the date, the city he lived in. Yet always brightly and merrily Timothy answered rightly and without fuss. The doctor could see nothing wrong and was forced to give this conclusion to his unhappy mother. At 4pm on the dot she drew asides her net curtains and pointed at Timothy beginning his journey. She pointed and asked her son if there was nothing wrong then why does this old man walk across the city every day with his bucket of ice?

The following day his mother made flapjack and insisted the doctor go back again, this time later in the afternoon. See if you can figure out why the ice she said. See if you can make it stops for winter approaches and he is awfully old. The doctor knew his mother was only concerned and he had never been the type to deny her anything so that afternoon he ventured over at three with the flapjack under his arm.

Once more he was greeted with warm smiles and cups of tea. They shared the flapjack and Timothy said to be sure to thank his mother. As three-thirty approached timothy asked to be excused for a moment, ever so politely, and he disappeared to his garage. With stealth and intrigue the doctor crept to spy on Timothy and watched in silence as timothy fetched his bucket and placed it on a workbench. Timothy opened a great chest freezer and with some effort pulled out a large and solid block of ice. With a pick he deftly carved the ice into a flat-ended cone and slipped it into his bucket. The doctor noticed a faint odour, which he could not quite place. With his tasks done and his bucket ready Timothy made his way out, the doctor crept rapidly back to his armchair no more enlightened than he had been before. Timothy made his apologies for ducking out and they carried on with their tea. Four on the dot and timothy made his apologies but explained that he liked his evening constitutional.

The doctor retold this tale to his mother that evening who scratched her head and worried at her apron. She sat quietly for a few minutes absorbing all her son had told her and asked him again if he was sure there was nothing wrong with the old man. The doctor confessed that as puzzling as this behaviour was his faculties were all in order and he could see nothing wrong. Her wide eyes filled with worry she asked him once more if he would go back to Timothy’s house. If he would follow him on his walk. If he would just solve the mystery of the ice. He never could deny his mother anything so reluctantly agreed. He was less than keen to follow an old man across the city, not when the days were cold and the nights were drawing in early. But he had to confess; his interest had been piqued. Why did the old man carry his bucket of ice?

The following day his mother baked scones to take and presented him with home made preserve to take to the house of Timothy. Dutifully the doctor knocked at Timothy’s door and was welcomed in the warmest of manners. Timothy did not question why the doctor had visited him, he was fairly sure he knew why, which made him smile. He was always happy enough for the company and always happy to set minds at rest. Timothy was no fool and he knew he caused his friends worry but he was happy enough with them thinking he was a daft old man.

Tea and scones and Jam they enjoyed until Timothy went to carve his ice once more. They chatted gaily about this and that until four on the dot where timothy once again made his apologies and thanked the doctor for his company before setting out on his walk.

With stealth and intrigue the doctor followed Timothy across the city. Timothy did not take the quickest route or always the quietest route but he moved as if on autopilot, like a rat in his run treading the well trodden path. Initially the doctor undertook some extreme and comical evasive manoeuvres. He pressed himself behind lamp posts much to the amusement of onlookers. He ducked into alleyways; poking his head slowly round to watch his prey. This he abandoned quickly after having his trousers severely bitten at by a small yappy type dog whose front paw he had inadvertently trodden on. Besides, it was soon clear to the doctor that all this ducking and hiding served only to entertain his secret internal private detective fantasy. Timothy never looked back.

Halfway through their journey the doctor noticed the occasional slosh of liquid over the side of the old wooden bucket. As their travels continued the slight spillages turned to larger spillages. The ice was melting and it did not seem to concern Timothy at all. Timothy ambled along merrily in the same way he did at the start of his journey and the doctor trailed him a little more conservatively than he had at the start of his journey.

Their ambles led them to a suburban cul-de-sac at the other side of the city. The doctor was relieved to see Timothy turn into this quiet road because it surely meant an end to their travels although, as tired as the dear doctor was, he had not lost an inch of curiosity as to the reasoning behind this seemingly pointless journey. The doctor lurked near a bend in the road as he watched Timothy approach a modest modern detached house. His eyes widened as Timothy rolled up a sleeve and put his hand into the bucket before tipping away the remaining water and the small remaining block of still frozen ice. Timothy then placed his bucket behind a shrub in the neat well managed garden to this modern modest detached house but not before reaching to retrieve a bottle from the inside. Timothy rang the door bell and straightened his cardigan and flattened his hair the doctor crept a little closer. Positioned strategically behind a large pampas grass the doctor could just make out the word ‘vintage’ on the bottles label. Ducking behind the pampas grass as the door opened still afforded the doctor a view of the recipient of Timothy’s ‘vintage’ bottle. A kindly lady of age welcomed Timothy with a kiss on the cheek and a warm hug. She accepted the bottle as it was offered to her with a broad beaming smile.

“I’ll never figure out how you manage to keep it so cold Timothy!”

As the door closes and the elderly couple go into the warmth of the modest modern home our dear doctor friend with a grin turns back towards the city to hail a taxi home to ease his mothers fears.

Wednesday

children should be seen

The child had never spoken a word. Over the years it had caused many concerns with the parents, pushing them to near to separation at times. The child didn’t scream when it was born, it didn’t cry when it was young. As a toddler he fell over once and not a sound he made. The tears would roll down his chubby little face and his mouth would open wide. It was like watching a child with the mute button on. It was slightly disconcerting.

His parents had him tested with every test the doctors could process. Physically he was capable of speech. Nothing wrong with his vocal cords, his mouth, his voice box, his throat. All were fine and functioning. Psychological the doctors proclaimed. Must be psychological. His parents had him tested by many different doctors and every time the doctor drew their conclusion, every time the cause was put down to psychology the parents would ask the same question. When the doctor could not answer then his parents would have him tested with every process the doctors could process again, with a new doctor. Every time they asked.

“Why would he not cry as a baby?”

The doctors scratched their heads and shrugged their shoulder and another recommendation for another specialist and another batch of tests would start.

The mother blamed the father. Bad genes she said like his mother, his mother was a one, always was a bit slow on the uptake. His father, she scoffed, wasn’t that much better. Gave her the distinct impression of the by-product of cousins marrying. His retarded aunts and criminal uncles, in her mind, only emphasised this suspicion. She must have been an idiot to marry him, she said, let alone have his child. Look at how the child has turned out?

The father blamed the mother. She was a lush, he said, all those years she spent when she was young getting up to no good had obviously warped her body. These excesses had obviously tempered her ability to bear normal healthy children. She drank too much and smoked too much and he always suspected her of drug experimentation. What was he thinking, he said, allowing a broken woman to carry his child. Look at how the child has turned out?

As harsh as their words are they are hollow ones and always they forgave each other with apologies and oh darlings and loving embraces.

They weren’t especially malicious but they were frustrated. They blamed each other often but not as often as they blamed themselves. He wondered if it was his genes and she questioned if her youthful excesses had somehow damaged her. They questioned whether their quiet child was just plain mocking them. They looked at the boy through agonised eyes and wrung their hands together whilst doctor after doctor told them their child could speak but for some reason didn’t.

At four years old they tested the child’s IQ. His hair was a little greyer her eyes boasted more crows feet and still the child had not made a noise. The last doctor they had seen suggested maybe the boy was just plain slow. As unpalatable an option as this was after all the time they had spent worrying over their child they just wanted a reason, any reason, as to why he continued his silence. With a mixture of surprise and disappointment they discovered their baby had a higher than average IQ. They hated themselves for their disappointment but still they yearned for a reason.

At six years old they took the child to the first of many psychologists. They had exhausted their list of doctors and prayed for more luck here. The boy had been attending a special school for two years. Initially they sent him to the local comprehensive as if he was a normal boy but they had to pull him out. The teachers said the children had taunted him and called him names and the parents had received him home on more than one occasion with torn clothes and bruised skin. The school had made no progress with encouraging him to speak but in all other aspects of his education he progressed as any child would. The child could read and the child could write which at first gave the parents hope for communication. However, the boy would not write notes of a personal nature, he would write his homework and he would write in school but could never be encouraged to even sign his name to a mothers day card.

His first psychologist lasted three months and was abandoned because of parental guilt. Having dealt for so long with the matter of fact manner of medics they were susceptible to the gentle coaxing of the psychologists tongue and found themselves confessing more than they could live with. He confessed that he would pinch his child as a baby in the hope of inducing noise. She confessed that she would let him go entire days without food in the hope he would ask for something. They both confessed to times of locking him in his room for days on end until he spoke for his release. They were both very sorry, they both cried and hugged each other and still the child said nothing.

The second psychologist suggested the child learn sign language as this was the correct thing for mutes to do. He lasted one session as the mother did not like his tone.

The third psychologist worked with the child by having him read a series of books she had herself written. This woman lasted a whole year until the day the parents found the child weeping noiselessly into the pages of one of the books. It was at this point they looked at exactly where their hundreds of pounds were going and read the things themselves. Upon realising the writing was telling their child that he was cruel and wicked for his abnormality they resolved to burn the books and find a new psychologist.

Psychologists four, five six and seven were tried and tested over the following year and no progress was seen. Methods varied from stern talking to cuddle therapy, from sensory depravation to sensory overload. Yet still the child did not speak. He looked into the concerned eyes of his parents and smiled and they looked into his friendly eyes and quietly wept inside.

On his ninth birthday at a loss what to do because he had never indicated a preference they took him to the zoo. He seemed delighted at the big cats and enthralled by the wolves. In the gift shop the child stroked a stuffed tiger toy. Seeing he seemed so pleased by the texture and had seemed so happy at the cat enclosure they bought the toy for him and he clutched it happily in his hand as they made their way to the petting zoo. His parents paid for some animal feed and their boy went to pet and feed a white baby goat, He turned and smiled regularly at his parents and they relaxed to see him so content. They loved their quiet child after all.

A friendly keeper in a green uniform came over to the quiet boy and the baby goat. She smiled at his parents who smiled politely back then turned her attention to the boy and goat. She bent over to retrieve what the boy had dropped unnoticed by himself or his parents. She retrieved his tiger toy and handed it to the quiet child with a smile. He looked confused for a second as he held his toy; he couldn’t remember dropping it and was sad that he had because he loved his tiger after all. Upset that he had almost lost his newest and bestest toy his eyes began to fill with tears. He looked up into the kindly face of the keeper and said:

“Thank You”

Tuesday

stream of consciousness - chapter one - a nanowrimo incentive

The end of the world comes not as a sudden realization. It comes as a slow decay, a process we are aware of but powerless to prevent. Observation is all we have left. Well that and memory of course although memory seems less and less reliable. It’s November and I sit in a café on a famous main road in central London with those I hold dearest in the world. I’ve done it thousands of times, many afternoons wasted away with caffeine and company. I sit in this café. It’s my first time in this particular café though. It’s not cosmopolitan or bohemian. There are no real redeeming features. It’s your standard chain store coffee shop with the generic and obligatory brown leather sofas and weak fair trade coffee. Large paintings of coffee beans and coffee plants and coffee paraphernalia adorn the walls as a reminder of what you’re here for.
Wait, the redeeming feature, there is one. I lied.

This is the only coffee shop on this road with its windows intact. It’s the only shop in the road with its windows intact. I sit with those I hold dearest in the world, our coats and scarves slung over the sofa arms, hot white mugs of liquid in our hands. There’s no conversation, no movement. No light either, asides a small red tiffany style lamp sat on a table near the back of the coffee shop which gives us a backlit glow. It’s appropriate. It’s ok like this; it’s still lighter outside than inside so we still can watch. I sit with those I hold dearest in the world, slumped in faux brown leather sofas. The view is not obscured. We watch. I sit with those I hold dearest in the world. All the others are dead. Was this a Saturday afternoon even as little as a month ago this would not be an unusual scene. It is not a Saturday, it is not afternoon and it is not a month ago. The window provides a television, the televisions no longer work. The window is the panel that provides a separation that allows viewing. The window is the TV glass and the street provides the drama.

The scene is set, lit orange by the streetlight, this once busy street provides a backdrop; the all too realistic actors play their role with a fevered finality. This drama is a war, it’s a madness, a bloody tale of death and destruction, of a violence the likes of which Hollywood only wishes it could get past the censors. I sit with those I hold dearest in the world and we barely blink as the few children left spit and snarl and bite out the throats of those they might have played with but a few weeks ago. Those with spirit loot the shops, crawling in and out of windows with objects that were once of value. The high ticket items like televisions went some time ago, when they still had use. The money from the banks is long gone. Now those with spirit like magpies horde the pretty things, the shiny objects, the jewels. And the sharp things of course; the sharp and shiny. Those who are broken do their level best to tear the others limb from limb. They break and cut and destroy as this is all they have left to them. A young man approaches the window, naked and covered in the blood of others mixed with the blood of the wounds he has received along his decline. He holds aloft a glass bottle with a flaming rag in the end, his arm pulls back. I sit with those I hold dearest in the world and we don’t even blink. He tenses to throw when his eyes open wide and he sees us, sat with our coffee behind the only window intact in the street. The shock makes him drop his flaming cocktail at his bare and bloodied feet. I sit with those I hold dearest in the world and we don’t even blink as the man goes up like a torch and runs burning from our vision.

After a time, flickering, the streetlights go out and without speaking we put down our coffee and pull on our coats. There is no hurry in our actions, we wrap up in our scarves and head for the door. In the street we walk through the violence and decay, we walk unhindered to the car. We get in and buckle up, because that is the thing you do. We buckle up and drive home. At home we put on the lamps, fill the coffee machine and sit in the sanctuary of the sofas. We remove our coats and scarves; we hug our cups for warmth.
We wait.
Those I have left in the world and I.

Wednesday

old boys club

Gentlemen of a certain age and social standing are prone to congregate in self-congratulatory packs or herds; in a similar way to big drops of water on windowpanes are prone to congregate into one large drip. It is a long old behavioural trait. It starts in the twenties in exclusive restaurants and bars, which cater to their every whim and expensive need. In middle age the golf course is the hunting ground of choice. In old age, when arthritic hips and failing knees dictate they must abandon their golfing habits, gentlemen of a certain age and social standing find their ways to the clubs.

Every major city hosts at least one of these establishments. Their design is the same wherever they are. This is, one must assume, so that the wandering gentleman of a certain age and social standing will never feel out of place. If on holiday or if relocated the gentleman will still have his club.

It is remarkable how well the new gentleman of a certain age and social standing is assimilated into his club. Whether he is a veteran of clubs or this is his first time the usual awkward social dance of the newbie is not applicable in this environment. As soon as he walks through that door; the gentleman belongs.

The clubs have a uniform, the clubs are uniform, and the clubs must be uniform. In every club you will find oak-panelled walls. In every club you will find green leather high backed armchairs. In every club you will find a green patterned carpet, I’m not entirely sure why. In every club there will be floor lamps and wall lamps and dusty chandeliers. In every club the only dust you will find is on the chandeliers; I think this is an atmosphere thing. In every club a well-dressed and humble old butler will bring to you your drinks and show you to your seat. In every club old oil portraits adorn the walls. In every club the large fireplace will be well lit even in the height of summer. In every club the heavy velvet drapes always remain drawn.

There is no identification required at the door and the butler will always know your name. People get turned away but these people do not belong. Occasionally the kindly old butler will firmly turn away an aggravated wife or a man of means but no social standing. I have never understood how the butlers knew the difference between new money and old money. I suspected they could smell it.

Gentlemen’s clubs are tall imposing buildings of age and formidable architecture. Never more than four storeys high, always with a stone staircase to the large entrance. And always, and most relevantly, a large basement.

The gentlemen come at least once a week to the club and if they only come one day a week it is always a Tuesday. They drink the finest brandies and smoke the finest pipes or cigars and they converse. They talk about the mundane things, they talk about political things, and they talk about the types of details that can only affect the lives of a gentleman of a certain age and social standing. In short, they talk a lot of drivel for many hours. They talk and drink and smoke and never are common enough to draw attention to why they are there.

Never, that is, until ten in the evening for this is the chosen time. If the butler is struggling in the basement then hushed conversations can start about what it is they anticipate. This is the only time the gentlemen get nervous. This is the only time excitement builds over their forbidden little ritual. This is the time when anticipation makes their mouths fill with saliva and their tired old eyes burn brightly.

Sometimes, I think, the wizened old butler delays on purpose to give these gentlemen the time to talk through their weekly ritual. Sometimes though, the delay is genuine, as when those in the basement are fresh, they tend to struggle. Those who have been there longer struggle less but the less they struggle the closer they are to being all used up so delay is inevitable

When the time is right on a silver tray the butler will carry the large expensive crystal wineglasses containing, what looks to all intents and purposes like, red wine. No man will drink before all has their glass, no matter how badly they want to, because this is what tradition and manner dictates. And when all has a glass arms are raised in a toast before they may drink. Careful not to spill a drop they sip and slurp as greedily as they can. Poise is lost as lips are licked and smacked around the crimson liquid. It is precious and none must be wasted. Each man sits in silence as they concentrate on the coursing through their digestive system of their forbidden pleasure whilst in the basement the stolen children nurse their wounds and lie limply with the tired toll the blood loss has caused.

With renewed vigour the gentlemen of a certain age and social standing continue their conversing and smoking and drinking until they return home to bitter wives or widowers empty beds. The women are bitter that their husbands age slower than they do.
The gentleman lives on.
And on.

Sunday

soup in the morning

On Mondays I like to start the day with vegetable soup. It is a very filling soup that is not overly exciting in flavour. This may not sound exactly like a saleable point; however I find these exact characteristics are exactly what is required for a Monday morning. The start of the week can be a very trying time for most people. It certainly is for me. The brief break of the weekend can lapse one into an apathetic lull and when Monday comes around and the working week starts again a gentle nudge is what is required. For some time I worked on the basis that Monday mornings required a kick start so experimented with a variety of more exciting and complicated flavours. This did not work out so well though as it was quite a shock to the system. I still think back on curried parsnip week and get shudders. No, vegetable soup is the perfect start for the week, with enough carbohydrates to provide a steady energy source and the comfort factor roughly equivalent to that of a warm old blanket.

Once Monday had been settled it was much easier to plan for the rest of the week. Each day has it’s own unique traits and you have to be very careful to cater to that. The system is already set in place, all I am doing is working around it. It’s all very sensible you see. Very sensible indeed.

Tuesday follows a similar rationale to Monday, whilst still very early in the week and a certain amount of gentle caution is required, it is time to step it up a little from the traditional vegetables. Tuesday I like to start the day with leek and potato soup. There are various benefits with this. Whilst it sounds like a relatively dull soup along the same vein as vegetable it is also an extremely versatile soup. If still feeling fragile after the Monday morning blues, then leek and potato on its own offers similar qualities to that of vegetable soup, warm and filling with plenty of reassurance. If I am over Monday and ready to walk a little on the wilder side then the addition of plenty of pepper makes the humble leek and potato into a feisty little step up on the soup ladder. I do try to make this soup myself and usually one batch can last several weeks as there is potential to make it in bulk and freeze portions for subsequent weeks. In an emergency situation I find the Covent Garden leek and potato to be an adequate replacement.

Wednesday I like to start the day with a rather expensive but absolutely worth it, mushroom soup. No Campbell cream of mushroom for me. My Wednesday soup comes direct from Marks and Spencer’s and contains no fewer than five different variety of mushroom. This soup is an indulgence really as it means a slight diversion on the way home from work to purchase a carton. It is a very small sacrifice to make; an extra hours journey home for a good start to my Wednesday. It is a relatively watery soup but as opposed to other forms of mushroom soup it contains a generous proportion of shitake mushrooms which are my secret favourite variety. Wednesday is a bit middle of the road as the middle of the week. It’s too far to look forward to the weekend and too late to feel the benefit of the weekend rest. So a little treat is what is required.

Thursday begins with chicken and noodle soup. This is purchased from a Chinese supermarket around the corner from my flat. Whilst still a watery soup it has a lot more taste and substance than the marks and Spencer five variety mushroom soup. This is very much a transition choice; I found it bridges the gap between Wednesday and Friday ideally. Usually, by Thursday, I am flagging a little. The extra protein provided by the chicken as well as the carbohydrate provided by the noodles is an excellent way to keep my energy levels up. It is also a fairly spicy soup as it contains red chillies. Spice is fine this late in the week as the day’s progress towards the weekend. It’s not quite so much a shock as at the start of the week.

Friday I like to start the day with three bean chilli soup. Friday soup is slightly unusual in that I do not have it before I leave the house. It is sold by a man with a little stall just outside the park. The man is called Robert and he makes excellent three bean chilli soup and it is only one pound per cup and comes with a little blue plastic spoon. I first had this soup when I had a day off work and had woken fairly late. I had the soup in the park at one o clock in the afternoon. Robert usually only sells coffee and tea and pastries early in the morning but I have managed to convince him to make sure he has soup for me on my way to work. I sincerely hope Robert never retires. The chilli is perfect for the Friday push to the weekend.

Saturday I like to stay in bed with the newspaper and a large bowl of red lentil and bacon soup. This soup is also home made in bulk. I have to make sure I have this soup always so tend to spend one afternoon a month making it. I have never found an adequate purchasable replacement. If I have been out drinking on a Friday night then this particular soup is a marvellous breakfast meal on account of the bacon. It is also a very heavy soup so replaces all the vital nutrients I may have lost on my Friday night shenanigans. I usually spend Saturday afternoons shopping for books in various small bookstores which are located around the city. It is a fair jaunt so requires a good start to the day. It also has a similar consistency to the three bean chilli soup with less of the spice so provides excellent continuity.

Sundays, well, Sundays I have cereal.

Saturday

be mine

Wide smile, low décolletage heavy on the make up. Elsie turns to camera as bright and excited as she was when she was getting married the first time.

“This isn’t my first wedding of course” she gushes through bared teeth; not her own. “When you’ve reached my age, well, you’re bound to have been round the block more times than you’d care to admit to yourself haven’t you”

She winks directly into the friendly open lens of the camera before erupting into wheezy twenty years of forty a day giggles. The documentary team laugh also, which make Elsie feel very all right indeed because of course they’re laughing with her, of course they are.

“My first husband Eric” She adjusts her neckline a little; TV likes to see a bit of cleavage after all “He worked in a factory making lids”

“What kind of lids, Elsie?”

That’s Annabelle, the filmmaker, Elsie wants so badly to like Annabelle. She’s so young and enthusiastic and always seems very nice, but, Elsie can’t quite shake the feeling that Annabelle might be taking the piss.

“For medicine bottles, you know those child proof screw tops, played havoc with his back though. His wrists too, you know, it’s not like it was back then no one worried about your carly tunnel syndromes”

“You mean carpal tunnel?”

“Yes that ‘n all”

Elsie reaches for her pack of royals and lights one up. She doesn’t much like to be corrected and is trying not to pull a face. TV does not like to see a sour puss. She takes a long draw on her cigarette and focuses on the pink lipstick kiss left on the filter before she exhales. It makes her look deep in thought she thinks.

“He passed away the day before our tenth wedding anniversary. Industrial accident.”

Elsie had been fond of Eric; he wasn’t a bad husband, inoffensive. Her mum had said he was a bit of a drip but he’d treated her OK. She hadn’t been heartbroken when he had died, sad of course, but not heartbroken which she still felt very guilty about.

“That must have been devastating for you Elsie, how old were you at the time?”

Elsie looks up at Annabelle, wishing she hadn’t put it quite like that and decides to avoid admitting to her total lack of devastation. How do you explain that back then getting married was what you did and love didn’t much come into it? Devastation won’t come where there ain’t no love, love.

“I was 26 when he passed; married at 16 you see. We never had no children; not for the want of trying mind. There was one baby but he never made it to full term. I guess we just weren’t blessed that way.”

Elsie definitely does not want to mention the frequent miscarriages; all the poor little babies that left her before they were ready to. Only one had resembled a baby so it’s the only one she ever cares to remember. She was going to call him Terence, after Erics father. Eric would have liked that. Poor little mite only made it six months, and he had been the last one. Doctors told her she was broken inside after that. She was scared about telling Eric but he surprised her when she did, said he was just happy she was OK. No, Eric was not a bad husband at all. Annabelle looks sympathetic. Elsie thinks it’s safe to continue.

“I married again at 29, to a tailor, well he said he was a tailor. That one didn’t last long, he buggered off six months after the wedding.”

But what a six months they were, not to mention the three before the wedding. Clive had been a total cad and she hadn’t seen it, hadn’t wanted to see it. Everyone had told her he was rotten and she knew it at the time but chose to ignore it. She’d been left a fair widows settlement from the factory not to mention her pension, she wasn’t rich but had a bob or two and that’s probably what drew Clive to her. Proper Hollywood swept her off her feet he did. She had been devastated when he left, not because of the money he had taken but because she knew she would miss the way he made her feel. Her mum had never told her about the things Clive had shown her, but then she doubted her mum had ever discovered half the things Clive had shown her. She can’t help but let out another wheezy chuckle when she remembers the time her mum caught her and Clive in the garden shed that one time when she’d bought her a crumble round. Poor mum, thinks Elsie, must have got the shock of her life.

“He was a handsome man” Elsie continues “After he got what he wanted he left. Divorce papers didn’t come through for another six years after that, but I don’t count them six years as married ones.”

Annabelle nods for her to continue Elsie smiles widely and lights another cigarette before continuing. The light of the TV camera is starting to irritate her eyes so she hopes they’ll be done soon. Well, they have to be done here fairly soon.

“My third husband was a butcher. He was a widower of five years and we married when I was 42. He was a few years older than me at 53 and we were married for 15 years before he passed. He was a large man and his heart just gave up on him.”

And not one tear had she shed for this bastard. After being on her own for so long Derek had seemed like the perfect companion. Gentle and good company, too old now to be too much trouble, had his own business and she liked his face well enough. He’d turned on the wedding night. Straight after the reception they went to their hotel room and they’d gotten ready for bed. She wasn’t expecting passion and fireworks, not at his age. There hadn’t been much before there were married so she wasn’t expecting much after. It wasn’t that she didn’t like, well, it. It’s just she didn’t think it was that important at her age. What she definitely wasn’t expecting was the wallop he’d delivered her as soon as she was changed. He said he had to show her the way the power balance was going to be from now on. His last wife had never complained and Elsie wasn’t to either. As long as she did as she was told it’d be OK but now she would know what would happen if she made him unhappy. Her honeymoon had been spent largely with sunglasses on so no one saw. She had a lot of use of these sunglasses over the years. Derek was always a hard man to please.

“And now husband number four Elsie, are you nervous at all?”

Else laughs, before coughing into the tissue she has bunched into her fist.

“No love, I’m not nervous. At my age it’s more like relief. You’re just grateful someone wants to give you the time of day.”

More smiling nods from Annabelle, Elsie tries to like her and again, it’s just not happening.

“I’m 79 now so I’m pretty sure this will be the last time I walk, well, go down the aisle.”

“And Ernie is?”

“Ernie is 85, I always did like the older man.” More breathy giggles more coughing into tissue. “In fact, look at the clock. I think it’s time.”

The documentary team swing back to the corner of the room to get a good view of the bride as she leaves to go get hitched for the fourth and final time. Elsie adjusts the neckline of her wedding dress for the final time and reapply her pink lipstick with the help of the hand mirror in her purse. The two porters in the room help her fix her skirt so it flows prettily around her white slippered feet. One white suit takes hold of the wheelchair and the other holds onto the drip stand as they make their way to the little hospice function room. Elsie motions to the porters to stop as they reach the door; she lifts up her veil and turns to camera with a smile and a wink.

“What’s my line again? It’s ‘I do’ isn’t it?”

Her laughs and coughs are picked up by the camera all the way down the long corridor.

Friday

dark (dark)

In a dark dark room in a dark dark house resides a dark dark man. His neighbours whisper about him, the street kids set dares around him and even his own family likes to pretend he doesn’t exist.

Which suits him fine because he likes to pretend they don’t exist right back at them.

There was no great trauma, no redeeming story of loss or sorrow to explain why this dark man spent so much time in this dark house and especially in the dark room. He just liked the room, he bought the house cheap and he thinks by cultivating the dark image it raises him above his family, his neighbours and the street kids who set their dares about him. He’s just not a very nice man.

If he was honest to himself, which he rarely is, he is vaguely affectionate towards the street kids and their dares. They keep him on his toes. He looks forward to their games and he spends more time than he would like to admit planning ways to raise the bar, to scare them just a little bit more. They show imagination and spark these kids and they only caught him out that one time.

If the street kids were honest with themselves, which as kids they rarely are, life would be boring without the dark dark man. He keeps them on their toes. They love the challenge of the dares and spend a lot of time planning ways to catch him out. He’s very wily that dark dark man and they only managed to catch him out that one time.

The neighbours, he harbours no good feeling towards whatsoever, he took delight in the looks he received when he came to view. He saw the starchy white net curtains twitching, he saw the perms and golfing trousers, he saw the competitively neat lawns and the white fences. He saw spring mornings and competition roses, family sized Volvos parked next to sportier weekend models, he saw potential. He saw the house he came to view was right in the middle of this suburban perfection and he knew it was a steal.

The neighbours, harbour no good feeling towards him whatsoever, they saw him come to view the house. Through parted white nets they saw the dark dark man with his s-shaped spine, his long dark hair in his thin gaunt face, the orthopaedic shoes that didn’t look quite right. They saw the way he ate up the locale, they saw the way he crept through the door, they saw trouble. He was definitely Not Their Type. When the house sold and moving day came they saw the dark dark man, right in the middle of this suburban perfection and they knew it was a crime.

His family, he rarely thinks of anymore, and when he does it is with shudders of disgust. They weren’t a bad family, they didn’t treat him cruelly but the dark dark man likes to believe he was hard done by. It makes him feel unique. He wouldn’t feel right if he didn’t have something to be bitter about.

His family, they rarely think of him anymore, and when they do it is with pangs of regret. They didn’t think they were bad, to the best of their knowledge they had never been cruel, but the dark dark man had never fit in. He was definitely the black sheep. He wouldn’t ever try to accept the love that they offered to him.

It’s the day of Halloween and the dark dark man has been preparing for Halloween is his busiest time. He ventures from his dark dark room and his dark dark house to buy supplies to foil the street kids. He leers at the neighbours, he forgets his family and he watches the street kids plotting in tree houses.

He has nailed shut the letterbox, he has electrified the bell, he’s thrown the neighbours’ tabby into the garden well. He’s hung up pots of fluids, designed to stick in hair, he plans to drop them on the kids when they come to do their dares. He’s set about with trip wire, spilled marbles on the floor. He’s added sticky pads to all the handles of the doors.

He lastly heads to his dark dark room with make up on his face, to fall asleep in his armchair, his usual resting place. He’s dressed up like a corpse, a corpse with rotting flesh, he’s odourfied the dark dark room, he thinks it smells of death.

The street kids in their tree house, set out to do their best, this dark dark man, think the street kids, is really quite the pest. All that keeps them going, is the thought of victory, they know that it is possible, the proof is in the tree. It’s the one time that they caught him out, they have a picture on their wall, of him asleep in his dark dark room, after they shaved him bald. The plan is coming together, and they’ll implement it soon, but the street kids can’t imagine what they’ll find in that dark dark room. You see, all these preparations, put a strain on the dark mans head, he had a massive embolism and the dark man, well he’s quite dead.

Sunday

hunted

The bedroom window light goes on and I write it in my little book. I write 23:26 bedroom light on. I bought this book especially. I got it in a sale, it has very smooth paper and grey lines, not blue or red, grey lines. I am very particular about these things. The lines are faint which I like and there is a margin along the side, also in pale grey, which is useful for me. I often find myself having to try to squeeze words into the gap above another sentence but below the grey line. It makes the book look scrappy when I do this and sometimes it makes both sentences hard to read. With a margin along the side, I find room to make additional notes. The book is bound in very soft cream leather, which is pleasing both on the eye and the hand. I bought this book in the sale with twenty other exactly the same. I feel when they are all filled they will look very nice lined up. They are very thick books but I have already filled five. I must go see if they have any more in that shop, or perhaps another branch. I don’t mind how much they cost, not a book as pleasing as this. I prefer to use ballpoint pens, which many people believe to be the pedestrian choice in pens but as far as I am concerned, the benefits of a ballpoint outweigh the snobbish reasoning behind choosing another style of pen. When documenting, it is important to have everything just right. I like the ink to be black, blue is too bright, almost too vulgar. I need the black line to be fairly faint though, same as the lines of the paper. Nothing too brash. Fountain pens you see, have a tendency to smudge and blot everywhere. This would be unacceptable and would ruin a whole book; just one smudge would cost me a book. Inconceivable that this would be allowed. Sometimes I have to document things pretty fast and I could not afford the time it would take for a page to dry before I turned it over to continue with the documenting.

23.35 bedroom curtains open slightly before closing again within the space of that minute.

A ballpoint pen is a much smoother write; cheaper pens like bics will have a variable thickness, which is also unacceptable. The shade of ink is also just a little too dark. I have found also with the more expensive ballpoint pens that the ink is too dark. My preferred ballpoint pen is the black staedler biro, very inexpensive and very easy to find. I keep a box in my satchel at all times should a pen run out or go bad. I had a near miss a few weeks ago when the ink came out of the wrong end of the pen and got all over my fingers. I feared smudging a page or even worse, getting filthy inky finger marks on the cream cover of my book. It was a dilemma all right, I decided to go home and assess the damage, it is fortunate the incident occurred as late as it did or I would have had to ruin a book. I can’t leave early you see, I might miss something.

23.40 bedroom light goes off.

Wasn’t sure whether or not I should keep two books on me at all times, in case a lot happened one night and I ran out of space. With the soft leather being so light though, I have to keep the book wrapped in a plastic folder in my satchel at all times. If I ruin two books in one evening it would destroy my mood for days. I try to keep the plastic cover on as long as I possibly can because the outside elements are so dirty, and it would certainly be sinful to mark such a beautiful book in an unsympathetic way. Especially where I am located. It is hardly hygienic, but does offer both the best cover and the best possible viewpoint. Hovering down here in the dirt and the shrubbery well, it’s a small sacrifice to make. I do of course wear protective clothing, which is also especially advantageous in providing additional cover. Maybe the books would have been better in a darker colour, less obvious. But also less aesthetically pleasing and more miserable. I must remain positive and sunny, my doctor said so, and hence the cream books. It’s a bright and light and above all clean colour, and so suiting of…

23.45 Bedroom curtains open slightly for the second time this evening, they remain open for three full minutes. The gap between curtains is too small to offer any view of interior. Binoculars little help.

This curtain twitching is a bit suspicious if I am honest, I’ve been very careful. Very careful. I check the wire and there are no outgoing calls from the house phone. I try the aerial for mobile phone calls but I can’t hear anything now but breathing. Sounds deep, sleepy. It is midnight and that does correlate with the normal pattern. I think I’m going to stick around longer tonight though, just in case she’s trying to trick me. She does like to play games, such a funny girl. I know she knows I am here, I know she pretends she doesn’t to keep it exciting, oh she’d miss me if I went. I’ll listen for a while, listen to the breathing, regular breathing. I like to listen to her breathing, of course ideally I’d watch her sleeping but it’s too tricky.

I put my book inside its plastic wrapper and pull out the sketchbook. I’d have liked a larger sketchbook, but it’s harder to carry discreetly. I have to do the smaller drawings whilst portable and then copy them when I get home onto a larger canvas for painting. When I’m lucky I get to paint from photographs, but I worry about the lens, so light reflective. I do have some photographs but I have become more paranoid about taking them. I remember when I started the documenting I bought the most expensive SLR camera I could find and went to a night class to learn how to take the photographs properly. I had to travel very far to class, as to not arouse suspicion. It was a very vulgar community college and the other students were most disagreeable. So many pointless classes as well, landscape photography, still objects. I told them all I was interested in was portraits and people but that wasn’t until nearer the end of the class so I hate to waste my time with taking stupid pointless pictures of road signs and streams and other such idiotic things. I went to a special camera shop to get a lens like all the journalists’ use when shooting celebrities from far away. A different shop from where I bought the camera of course. It was such a big lens and I got such close pictures. It was like I was in the room, which was most pleasing. Initially they were unsatisfactory but after the classes on portraits and people they got much better. I would have liked to finish the last class but that ghastly woman who smelt of spirits, she got so close to me. She said such things, such beastly things, like I would be interested in a liaison with such a hag when I have my angel to watch over. I’m gripping my bag too tight; I’m getting angry my doctor said I shouldn’t get angry. He said when I get angry I should find something to calm me. Her breathing sounds calm me, still and regular and deep. I wonder what she dreams tonight? I know that last week she had a dream about a castle, she wrote it in her diary. I hope it was a nice dream.

I had to abandon the camera though the light reflects off the lens and it makes it so very obvious and I know she likes to keep it secret, what we have. It wouldn’t do to be so vulgar and obvious about it. I like the sketches though; they have such a wistful romantic feel about them, like all the great historical love stories. Nothing blatant and cheap, elegance and purity that’s what she deserves. I kept all the photographs though. I have them up in my room. I’m sure she would approve.
There was no mention of me in her diary. I didn’t like her diary very much, the paper was very course and the penmanship was all over the place. I think there are at least three different types of pens she has used. It is an inferior diary for an angel. I immediately went out and purchased a new, finer one. And a good pen to go with it. The paper was very smooth and unlined. Not having lines is a risk of course, because the writing can start to slope off at the end of the page but I’m sure she has good grasp of the importance of retaining the purity of such a fine book. This was also bound in the same soft leather as my books, but in a very pale pink. I think it brings us closer together. The pen is a fountain pen, she doesn’t have to rush with her writing like I do so I am sure she can get away with it, It is mother of pearl casing with special silver cartridges. I think this will be most pleasing to real, almost ethereal, which is sensible, as an angel should transcend the corporeal. I left it on her pillow, wrapped in a pale pink ribbon. I know she likes pink, so many of her clothes are the same colour.
I hope she liked it. I’ll find out when she goes to work tomorrow, I'l go in and check.
I’m sure she did.

00:15 a deep sigh