have been getting younger. The years that shaped me haven't, it
seems, gone away after all. The old attitudes, values – as they
were first inculcated into me have started to bloom again in time
with the spring flowers. I am started to fill the shoes of those who
have long gone before me. This is not a self-conscious thing. There
is no striving involved. It just happens with every move I make,
every thought: even the ones that get voiced.
are lengthening now. A friend of
mine wrote those words and sent them across the Atlantic (Pacific?).
take my pen for a spin. After all, it seems to me, I have to put my
money where my mouth is. Feel compelled to walk the high wire and
everything that involves.
silver flask. I tell them that the flask is my best friend. Take it
with me everywhere. A constant supply of spiced tea to burn the
throat. What I see is a kitchen which is three flights down. To get
to it you have to walk along a corridor of red carpet tiles. No
daylight ever finds its way into this corridor. K says when the
building's empty she won't go down there. Especially when it's
getting dark. Says it feels like someone is down there: someone
always just out of view on the periphery of things. Someone who is
always waiting down there, always watching her on the few times she
has had no choice but to go down there.
this city of bones and excavations there is a logic to what she is
try the handle and the door opens easily enough. And yes, I can feel
it too, the eyes watching me as I stand on the threshold. But with
upstairs only a minute or two away, I don't give in to full scale
panic. Truth to tell, I like the idea on this mundane working
afternoon of finally meeting this particular ghost.
kitchen window is at street-level and it's a strange thing to look up
and see people going by from the knees down, their shoes at eye
level. Across the street there is an old flint wall. Endless
varieties and variations of blues, browns and greys forming stony
constellations. But the ghost makes no move to betray itself.
turn around quickly.
Just the shadowy corridor and the red carpet tiles.
upstairs, a TV monitor on a filing cabinet wired to a camera that
watches the doorstep. Nothing to see. Just the flagstones of the
walk away, but something in the TV seems to be watching me.
around quickly. Shadow on the step where it is too dark for shadows
even though the days are lengthening.
was an old countryman through and through. With his nose pointing
towards the ceiling, Sunday afternoons he gave up the ghost with his
slack mouth invitingly agape for
the errant children who dared themselves to see what things they
could get away with dropping
into it without waking him.
we were kids - and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, going to the pub
was the best thing ever. But when I say going to the pub, what I
really mean is being left in the car with a bottle of Coke, two
straws and a bag of crisps. In those days the bottles were always
made of glass that had an ultramarine tinge to them. The straws were
made of paper and striped like a barber's pole. Crisps came in
cellophane bags and only two flavours were available: salted or
unsalted. And if you wanted salt it came in a deep blue sachet that
you had to sprinkle on yourself. Periodically, an increasingly
beer-happy adult would stagger out to check that we hadn't died or
set the car on fire - cousin Dave had once achieved this spectacular
feat after experimenting with the cigar lighter. I don't know what
made Uncle Bill angrier - seeing his car go up in smoke or not having
anything to light his cigars with any more.
summer came around, it brought with it the glory of the beer garden.
Somewhere, not far from here, there was, and probably still is, a
thatched inn that claimed to be the world's smallest pub. With its
wattle and daubed walls and conical roof it could also claim to be
the last surviving prehistoric pub that served pints of foaming ale
to the labourers who erected Stonehenge. Archaeological evidence also
indicates that these particular Neanderthals were very good darts
was in the beer garden of this, the most sacred of sites, that we
were finally let loose from the car. The prehistoric beer garden
which almost certainly had a ley line connecting the jukebox and pool
table had the usual array of metal tables with a hole cut through the
middle to support the flowering of umbrellas emblazoned with mythical
beasts and woodland creatures used by the brewing companies to
signify their beer. The barman, forgetting himself and the time shift
wandered among the tables wearing a Druidic robe and talked some
heathenish nonsense with a group of wizened old men who had drunk
themselves into a parallel universe. Occasionally, the High-Priest
barman would make some kind of effort to pull himself together and
joke with the tourists about football and the unusual weather we'd
been having lately. But by now the sun was draining from the sky. The
Coke bottles were empty and the straws gone soggy. The cellophane
bags held nothing but golden crumbs and a few precious grains of
salt. It was time to be going - back into the twentieth-century and
onwards into the twenty first.
some of us only pretended to leave. We had everyone fooled. Bits of
us are still propping up the megalithic bar, supping draughts of
stone age beer. Darts at the ready for anyone who decides otherwise.