26 June 2012

Pirlo v. Pints

The table is full of used crisp packets which have been folded into triangles and wedged inside empty pint glasses. The half a dozen men leaning on the table have had nearly three hours ahead of kick off to get to know this carefully selected spot; coats have crept down the backs of the chairs, six different mobile phones are splayed about the table among dirty napkins and salty bowls have long since parted from their fries.
I’ve walked right into their territory. 

They’re wearing the colours of the tribe; red and white. They glance briefly at my bottle green jeans and faded black T-shirt and rather begrudgingly offer up a spare seat, their eyes hardly leaving the large plasma screen fixed to one wall. 

One of them stands up and grunts. 
They all grunt back.
I raise an eyebrow and as I do, he turns to me and mutters; "drink?"
“Ooh… rum and lemonade, please.” I reply politely.
He slides backwards to the bar. 

I sit and stare at the screen, just like the others. My concentration begins to wander and I lose all focus of the picture, transforming it into little blobs of colour. I think it looks almost pretty this way; just blue and white specks bobbing about in a sea of lime green.  I’d like to ask a question, but I hold it in. I fiddle with the straw on my drink which has just been placed in front of me, swirling the bubbles and letting the ice clink around the glass. I get a look, so I stop. 

A white speck suddenly darts away from a mass of blue. The whole room lifts half an inch off their seats and a collective gasp rises from the table. All arms are raised in elated anticipation- but then they pause. 
Eyebrows knitted tightly together, their bums fall down with a thud to their seats and six arms reach instinctively for the consolation of a pint. 

There’s a commotion involving a leg, a face and a yellow card; and it doesn’t look good for the small white specks. 
“Outrageous!” I say, as a blue blob wriggles in pain.
Six mean, squinty looks are thrown my way. There’s a clack, clack, clack from the one behind me chewing his gum. The one opposite me bangs his fist hard on the table and shakes his head. 

A whistle blows, and all heads are in hands. I know it’s got a lot more serious, because someone’s gone to stand in the corner of the pub, his eyes closed, his head propped up on a picture frame. He can’t look. 

It’s these bloody penalties, apparently

I bite my bottom lip. I try very hard not to make a sound. After all, (I tell myself), I’m wearing bottle green, this is their territory, and I just don’t get it.


18 June 2012


As I push the dark oak door, a breeze of snuffed out candles and warm spices brushes past me. It’s a reassuring smell that reminds me of Christmas and I know instantly I’m somewhere safe. I stand in the doorway for a moment to compose myself as the rain drips off my coat, making little puddles on the hard stone floor.  

A vast energy stirs. 

It’s as if my entering has woken a large sleeping beast and I sense the whole church shift and sigh before falling softly back to sleep as the door shuts slowly behind me.
I look up instinctively, into the belly of the beast. My eyes trace the ancient stone beams that scoop and rise into a formidable ribcage. A thousand tiles glitter a deep gold in the shadows of the triforium, their colour reminding me of old kings and pirate’s gold. The rows and rows of polished pews span out ahead, like two great ladders leading to the altar. 
I take a few steps forward and slip apologetically into the pew closest to me, shuffling along until I reach the very end, so I am tucked away safely in the corner. Those dark corners of the church hold statues of saints with the soft glow of tea lights littered at their feet. I stare at the flames, watching them flicker and splutter as each breath transcribes a prayer into the mind of God. 

There’s a bible in front of me, a pen and some slips of white paper. I take a piece of paper, and resting the paper on my knee, I begin to write down words. 
Taking me wholly by surprise, the church is suddenly saturated with a copper-coloured glow. Impulsive sunlight breaks the rain and streams through the tiny stained glass windows at the very top of the four walls. Beaming down beyond the pews, the warmth kisses the tips of the saint’s stony toes, as if He, himself has caught those prayers and laid down glimmering pathways from heaven. 
I take a soft, deep breath and close my eyes. I’m aware of my breathing and how loud it sounds in such a quiet space. 


7 June 2012

The Viewing

The front door has many different keys, all looped together with a bit of ruffled string. The estate agent fumbles around for longer than feels comfortable, prodding each key into the door and muttering about the keyhole being upside down. I start to wonder if it's a sign. The various couples lining up behind her at the front door sigh and shift their weight from foot to foot, sun heating up the back of their necks. I stare blankly at the dandelions poking between the crack under the doorstep and wait for her to let us in. On account of the fact I haven’t eyed up our competition yet, I’m guessing I’m not fussed either way about this one. 

The estate agent is a large woman with jangly gold earrings that clatter rudely as she talks. She’s decided upon a loud flowery summer dress, complete with hessian flip flops that slap the back of her heels, which I take to be a less than obvious hint that she doesn’t like viewing empty properties on a Saturday morning either. As she pushes the front door open, we each have to squeeze (nose to wall) past her enormous bosoms, to escape into the cool, dark hallway of the ground floor flat. The side wall is painted a hospital ward yellow and I immediately feel claustrophobic.  Breaking off from the others, who are nodding in unison as if worshiping those jangly gold earrings, I creep off into the living room.  It doesn't look like mine- it’s very cool. Vintage LPs scatter the coffee table, square clocks with curved edges and bold numerates tick on the mantelpiece, and hundreds of hardback books stake their claim of the bookcase.  The sofa could look comfier, but I imagine it’s because of the two different bottom-sized holes dented in the fabric that it doesn’t look quite right to me. I run my toe along the gap between the polished wooden floor boards. 

It’s a grown-up apartment.

Photos with thick mounts and sharp black frames hang along the hallway. As I walk through, I sneak a peek, not daring to stare too long in case I get caught snooping. The couple are attractive, and a bit older than us. His hand drapes across her shoulders, her nose just tucks under his chin; both look into the camera and grin like idiots. I hover in the doorway to their breezy bedroom, with crisp white bed sheets, and tall Edwardian windows. Gleaming copper pots and pans hang abstract from the kitchen ceiling, fresh herbs in terracotta pots dot the window sill. The place is small, but cosy. The fridge is decorated with gig tickets, restaurant cards and even more of their photographic memories. My heart leaps as I spy a cat flap in the back door for Bess, leading out into a leafy private garden.  Just down the hall I hear Liam discussing storage space and meter readings, and I’m glad one of us remembered to do so. I look over my shoulder, but am not really worried if anyone is watching, because I have a question I felt ready to ask. I gingerly walk up to the kitchen sink and stand on my tiptoes to peer out of the window, brushing aside the pot plants gently. I gaze through the trees, allowing Liam’s voice to carry into a background whisper, until I see Bess rolling in the sun, warming her black furry belly on the patio, knowing I like to dream as I’m doing the washing up.