Saturday, 29 November 2014
If you go to Kendal, you might meet Anne and Bernard. They're a couple. Anne has the eyes of an owl that are full of tough love and she knows exactly what kind of knee-length skirt she likes to wear. Bernard wears his black polyester trousers high, high up on his waist. In the morning, at breakfast, Bernard will ask you questions about this and that. Afterwards, there might be an early morning silence that lasts for seven or eight seconds. And then Bernard might say, right, I'd better go and help Anne with the toast then. The thing about Anne and Bernard is that once, a man stayed in their house who kept screaming at night and they didn't know what to do about it.
If you go to Carlisle, you might meet Christine. She's got a huge TV in her lounge and she watches Don't Tell the Bride while she does the ironing. When you first meet Christine, you might think she's too tired and angry to talk to you, but that's not true; she's just thinking about her kids, that's all. And as soon as you say, thanks, Christine, she'll make an expression on her face that's embarrassed and teenagery and quite beautiful. The thing about Christine is that the people around her steal her share of the deep breaths and it's not fair.
If you go to Stornoway, you might meet David. David doesn't know where to stand or where to look or who he is. You might mistake his depression for laziness. And you might get cross with him for things like his mumbling voice or his lack of motivation. But then, he might do a really small, human thing. For example, he might want to shake your hand and say sorry with his eyes, and then you'll picture him eating a sandwich on his own and you'll feel the kind of pity for him that you feel towards your parents sometimes. The thing about David is that he's got to remember that what he doesn't do is as much his responsibility as what he does do.
If you go to Stranraer, you might meet Ellen and Fred. Ellen has a lovely smell and likes a chat and Fred is the kind of person whose kindness makes your neck ache. They live with their son and his laptop. Fred is recovering from a bad accident at work and Ellen can't wait to go to Lanzarote. Their house is surrounded by grey concrete and grey sky, and the grey sea is just down the road. The thing about Ellen and Fred is that they've definitely thought about compensation, but, truth be told, they just don't really want to go down that road for the time being and that's that.
If you go to Greenock, you might meet Georgina. If you ask Georgina one small, polite question, all sorts of things will come out of her mouth in response, and you won't be allowed to move. You might be forgiven for thinking that Georgina's tears are fake, even though you know they're not. It's hard to explain. When Georgina's about, you might become a human shield for the other people in the room. The thing about Georgina, is that she probably needed someone to be a human shield for her once but, for one reason or another, it just didn't work.
If you go to Ullapool, you might meet Fran. You might sit down and make her a cup of tea and ask her about herself. And she'll tell you the peripheral things. And then, she might suddenly think of a piece of music, and one of those silences might happen where everything feels delicate and breakable and breath-held. And you might touch her arm and give it a soft squeeze because you know that she's weeping. And she'll be weeping in a way that only a heartbroken mother can weep. The thing about Fran is that she'll always turn up, no matter how painful it might be.
If you go to Findhorn, you might meet Gerry. You'll meet his wife, too, and Gerry will patronise her and lie to her face in front of you. Gerry thinks he's super chilled and super in touch with nature but he is super neither of these things. Gerry is full of information and facts that are, inadvertently, all about him and how good he is at his job. He thinks that his job is the most important job in Findhorn and that he is the boss of all the jobs around including your job. The thing about Gerry is that he doesn't know what his job is or how to do it.
If you go to Inverness, you might meet Hal. He lives in a house full of notices that he's stenciled himself and stuck to the walls, and there's a tiny water feature in his lounge that makes a batteries-about-to-run-out noise. Hal practices classical guitar and talks to the news and goes to church with a cap on. You might imagine Hal standing in front of the mirror in his room, striking the poses of various super heroes and screaming at his mother and feeling incredibly powerful. You might think that he does all of this before he's even had breakfast. The thing about Hal is that he's been on the verge of breaking through it all and smashing the place up since he was nine years old.
If you go to Hawick, you might meet Iris. You might be told all sorts of things about Iris by other people while Iris is sitting right next to you. And then, you might turn to look at Iris and give her a smile and a wink and she might burst into song. And after that, Iris might be very quiet again. And you might look at her again and think who did you used to be, Iris? And, quite soon after you've realised it's none of your business, Iris might tell you a story about her favourite person. The thing about Iris is that she's learned how to sit with her coat on in a really hot room and not make a fuss.
If you go to Ayr, you might meet James. It's difficult to know how old James is because of his flawless complexion. James looks haunted by pain and racked with guilt. Sometimes, James tells you that he's a bad man and that he deserves to be dead. You can imagine him playing a saxophone on a train in America, but not for money. Or, you can imagine him standing by a window, looking out at the woman he loves finally leaving him for good. The thing about James is that he could crush a man to death with fierce, fierce love and not say sorry about it for years.
If you go to Peterlee, you might meet Kelly. At first, she might look at you a bit funny and, actually, it'll be fair enough, because you might be rearranging things in her bar without asking. Kelly drinks a bit too much and doesn't eat properly. She doesn't ask questions very often but if you talk to her about something you've done, you'll notice that she listens with her eyes, and not a lot of people do that. The thing about Kelly is that when you say goodbye to her after having known her for about an hour, she'll give you one of the most honest and unassuming hugs of your life.