Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Clover and Bay Leaves

or 'Go visit Jeppedo'

A title by Kendle Sargeant

A story by j. f. hawkins.

Fussing around in her Kitchen, she was a tyrant, but a comforting sight. You knew you were home when you were sitting at the dining room table, awkwardly awaiting the arrival of a full English Breakfast – the one you told her she didn’t have to make, but she did anyway. She always had to make a big fuss over you. It was as though, somewhere in time, years ago, she’d convinced herself that it’s all she’s good for. Like you’d pick up and leave if she didn’t make you a hot meal. She was always scared you’d stop loving her.

Her house was amazingly clean. Old women tend to have to cleanest houses. It’s like they become obsessed. Always shifting dirt from one place to another, but it never really goes away. It’s just not where it was anymore.

There was a clear plastic run covering the carpet on the stairs; she had it custom made for her because she was paranoid that the carpet on the stairs would wear out faster than the rest of the carpet in the house. She called the stairs “An area of High Volume traffic”.
I hadn’t seen this woman since I was fifteen, a real kid, ya know. Dad sent me across the road to see her every other Saturday. She became a sort of Aunty. We hadn’t spoken in years, not since I left.

“And your brother, young Jeppedo? How is he going? You still see him don’t you? More often than you see me hope! You boys were such lovely kids. Though chalk and cheese the pair of you. With your looks and personalities compared – grounds for infidelity on your mother’s part I think. Don’t tell your father I said that. How is young Jeppedo?”

She was a particularly cantankerous woman and very happy to air her opinion; A quality which lent itself to her aptitude for ranting and rattling on. Her thoughts were so rapid and flippant that there was no point trying to conduct a real conversation with her. The only thing to do in such a case is smile, nod & wait for a direct question with a very precise answer. I didn’t mind very much though. You were never really visiting for your purposes anyway, more for her sanity. The nature of the conversation was inconsequential.

She was old when I was a kid, now she’s really getting along. She’d spent her youth as a nurse and was married to her job. She was a nurse in 2 world wars. She never got around to the whole ‘husband and kids’ thing in her youth, and when she was ready to, her time had passed. She really was very alone.

Dad did his bit for her; suffering tea and scones every afternoon for the last 20 years. I didn’t mind the visits so much, but they really were very uncomfortable.

She was sitting in the kitchen, yelling across the room and through the service window. She was very conscious about any lag in conversation; though I'll admit, I found them a relief. She had what I used to call lethal old lady syndrome; a motor mouth and partial deafness in both ears. She’d ask questions and talk over the top of your answers, then get cranky at you for not participating in the “nice and civilized conversation I’m trying to have with you”. I used to think she was just a crazy old lady, but now I realize, she’s just tired of the silence of living alone.

Finally, she came out of the kitchen with a tray full of food. She was still using the same serving dishes she always had, at least, since I can remember.

“It’s good to have visitors every now and then, of cause, I see your father all the time, but I enjoy seeing other people from time-to-time. Your old man can really harp on sometimes, not his fault though. You can’t blame and person for poor-social skills, you blame the parent and their upbringing. That being said, you turned out alright. Even though you’re so often absent. Jeppedo doesn’t visit me either. I can’t believe you don’t see him anymore. Shame. He’s your own flesh and blood, you know that.

“ Careful! The tea is hot. It’s not English-Breakfast Tea either; your parents gave it to me. Some sort of token to repay me for the years of scones and beverage I’ve served them I suppose. It’s a herbal tea, I don’t go much on it. I figured you would, seeing as it’s your parents who gave it to me. Some god-awful concoction of obscure herbs. How’s your trip been? Good?”

My brother, the one she calls Jeppedo, he’s been dead for years. Dad told her when he passed away, but I think she pretended like it never happened. Finally, one day, I think she bought her own lie. I wonder how much of what she believes she made up one day to comfort herself. It’s like I was saying before – with the cleaning. Nothing is ever really free from dirt; it doesn’t ever leave it just moves. I moved away, but I was never gone and my brother was gone, but to her, he never left. I guess she would rather the idea of him being alive, even if she never got to see him.

She was wearing a dress; it had a purple floral print on it and a lacy-fill type neck on it. I hated that dress, but like that she was wearing it. It never changed. She still wore the same clothes.
“What’s wrong? You seam disappointed. It’s the tea isn’t it. Oriental tea, I’d never buy it. I think it’s clover and bay leaves – I don’t know. Anyway, next time you see your brother give him the tea, he’ll like it and then tell him to call in when he’s got a chance. Don’t tell your father I don’t like the tea. Now go visit Jeppedo

jf. x

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Some things are more perfect for what they're not.

I've been doing temp work in a nice office. By all means, it's exactly as an office should be. It's clean, and smells clean; each night a small troop of (allegedly) legal immigrants sweep through the building restoring order- like gnomes of the world 'mise en place'. It has air-conditioning (literally set to 'Office Temp'). Its lights are not so bright as to offend, nor dim enough to give a headache, illuminated exactly as the utopian industrial park would recommend. The desks and other work-type-units are as practical as they are rigid. The insulated glass keeps the noise outside and the quiet in; I can hear nothing but the sounds of my college and me typing. Nothing is out of place.

I hate it.

I think it's true to say that romance and fondness are formed in blemishes. How disappointing life would be without disappointment! Consider a road trip without adversity. Would it have been an adventure at all? What would it have been without the hilarious story about that time when your car broke down and an unforgettably unsavoury truck driver lent you a hand- your friend does an impression of him later.

Think of glistening memories attached to camping trips you went on as a kid; now remember how it rained the whole time, you slept in a puddle and got pneumonia, in the few hours there was sun, you got ridiculously sun burnt and went home covered in mosquito bites. Your mum blamed your father for being irresponsible and it was the best time of your life.

How tragic would a pirate map be if it was perfectly presented on a crisp white, clean cut piece of A4 paper? It has got to be stained and worn, burnt on the edges and a little torn, or else it's not a pirate map at all. It'd just be some terrible children's drawing with a big red 'x' and a bit that says "here be Monsters".

I've never understood people who take photos and then have them printed on a canvas; they've taken the canvas, blank risk, pure potential, artistic adrenalin, a surface destined for the next Egon Schiele and then safe-guarded it with some massive print of a photo they already knew they liked. To me, it lacks luster. Does anyone else agree that we need to leave photos in frames?

I like good coffee, but for some reason, I love drinking bad coffee; the sort of coffee that an American-diner would serve. Black Coffee. I'm picturing one of those rounded glass pots that the waiter keeps pouring and the coffee is never-ending. I'm in love with that place. Understand though, it's got nothing to do with the coffee, but all to do with the scene in which I'm drinking it – Sitting in the company of none but me and my moleskin, clinging onto that cup to keep me awake, fueling thought and discussion. A tragic, romantic and self indulgent setting (see earlier post 'Untitled').

If it were good coffee, I'd be in a terribly civilized environment trying to fit in, but in my 'dream' diner, I'm no different to the 5-O'clock-Shadow-hobo sitting opposite me. He and I aren't trying to be distinguished anymore. We've been brought together by the ideals of our bad coffee and all of a sudden, we have a perfect understanding. We're connected because of what we're not, where we're not.

Houses that are too clean make me nervous. Times New Roman, blue ink and excel sheets make me feel sick. I never want to be the person who has to organize everything in advance to feel secure; the person who would be stressed on planning, rather than giddy with not knowing. I never want to forget how much fun getting dirty is.

Perhaps my distain for this 'perfect' work-space stems from an underpinned love for humanity. I want it and everything else to be as imperfect as you and I, both loveable characters.

jf. x

Untitled 2#

Tell me of the world and time gone by,
Ever so slowly,
but densely important,
More than just space and time,

I want to hear the thoughts you set into orbit,
Flying through the air you occupy,
The sights and memories,
Captured by the lens of your eye,
The shapes in the clouds & the story of the sky,

The writings on the wall,
The ideas that float in a coffee cup,
Shared with a friend,
Destined to listen to each other's ramblings,
From beginning to end,

So if I cannot sleep tonight,
For fear of dreams from home,
Please give me sweet reminders,
That make me feel less alone.

jf. x