The view from the gilded throne


Maybe I should get out more.

I have been incarcerated now, well with a few exceptions, since coming out of hospital in November.

House arrest they call it in some countries. It used to sound quite pleasant to me.

House arrest – with all your home comforts and no need to rush out to catch your train. The trouble was always the policemen outside your door. Can you talk on the phone? Chat on the internet? Not without people listening in I suspect.

Any way, it doesn’t sound so easy to me now.

I have had to be “watched” in case I show any more symptoms of having brain seizures or, I assume, in case I collapse with another brain haemorrhage.

Less fun for the watchers than it is for me, definitely, but it is still a wearisome process.

Why am I scratching my head? Is it a symptom? Why have I gone quiet? Why am I fidgeting? Why did I forget the name of the President of Sierra Leone? Why have I not climbed up the wall?

I have to be “careful” – that old phrase. Well, if I am careful for the next three months then I could recover completely, or completely enough. I guess it is worth it.
It could take up to two years. Well, if I don’t climb up that wall, that would be worth it too.

So I went out yesterday…just for sanity’s sake.

Out into town.

Such a big deal, you think.

It was a sunny day, the sap was rising – not just in the plants either.

There is a restaurant on the High Street that sells excellent coffee. At the back you can have lunch, dinner, breakfast even, in formal surroundings. At the front, by the window, are a scattering of miscellaneous chairs and tables – miscellaneous for miscellaneous purposes, miscellaneous people.

It is where I like to go.

It is run by a married couple. He is the invisible one, in the kitchen at the back in a steamy male world preparing the food with his trendy young assistants, shaven heads and piercings, all dressed in white, looking like they are having one very long engaging conversation but probably talking about fillets of halibut or whiskey porridge.

Out front is a different world.

The wife, Polish, I think, or possibly from somewhere in Eastern Europe, is queen of all she surveys. Impossibly thin-waisted, attractive,in a crisp, menthol-flavoured way, immaculately smart with her blonde hair tightly “up,” she is efficiency personified.

Her team, all female, all young, all beautiful, all sharing exotic European accents, but less buttoned up than their boss, perhaps. They must have been chosen for their looks – or maybe they are all relations from the same talented gene pool.

They are reason enough to visit this energetic and enthusiastically run establishment where the customer can linger, be pampered and indulged even if he is only ordering a black coffee.

There is a table in the window with two gilded chairs.

Seated there, it is possible to watch the whole population of this small market town walking by.

It is Saturday morning, gradually turning into afternoon, several coffees later, I have seen them all.

Our town, dressed up, self-checked in the mirror, and out shopping.

A woman, in her seventies, grey hair, tightly pinned up, black coat, well you can’t be too careful in February, long bright purple scarf – is it a pashmena? – flowing out behind her, black court shoes and – why, did you do it madam? – matching purple tights….burning my retina. Her husband, not wanting to be seen as the matching consort,no doubt, has chosen a bright red turtle neck jumper under his black suit. Where are they going? To Hell?

Another couple, I hope they aren’t going to the same party as the couple in purple and crimson. They too are in their seventies. Oh no, they are coming in.

She has had a her “done,” she was beautiful, or pert, in the 1950s, if the look worked then well, why change it?

Blonde, like Munroe, a long bright pink coat and Baby Jane face-make-up. They sit down, near my throne. Off comes the coat, yes, of course, pink and purple stripes, what else? Her husband, partial to the hair dryer, no doubt, has silver fox hair lying perfectly in position. Off comes his grey overcoat and underneath, yes, you guessed, a powder pink jumper. Who dressed him this morning? I wonder.

A very old lady leaves with the aid of a silver zimmer frame and a caring but plain middle-aged daughter in black. The old lady, is all silver. Hair, coat, shoes and shiny, silken handbag. Her old lady hands, grip the frame but carefully show the world her diamond bedecked fingers. Best of all, she is smiling, to me, to everyone, she is on a state visit.

A male voice dominates the restaurant.

“It is quite simple.” he bellows with all the confidence of a narrow mind.

“I will give him a choice.”

Oh God! Not another over-caring parent of a university-aged son.

“Tell him, his father will support him in his gap year, if it is structured.”

A divorcee, having coffee with his estranged wife who has brought her, quietly embarrassed mother along for support.

“I bet the next thing he will do is marry the girl.It makes me so angry.”

Can you taste arsenic in coffee?

A lad with his girlfriend stop outside, looking at the menu, thinking of other things no doubt. She is pretending not to notice his hand cheekily resting on her buttocks, as she scrutinizes the lunch options. We all know what he wants.

She is young enough to look attractive in anything…..Robin Hood tights and boots, a little brown tunic and she’s a star. Well done miss. Watch out for him though.

Long black hair, week old beard, striped blazer and flared trousers. Oh, and that hand is still there.

They move off, now arm in arm. Have a nice day!

Weirdly, hauntingly, they are followed at the menu by a man in his early sixties. Long grey hair, a week old beard, striped jacket and old jeans. There is a wicked look on his face, a twinkle in his eye, and just a flicker of a grin when a woman joins him. In her forties, sorry madam, but I have to be honest, mini-skirted in dark tights and boots with newly, optimistically but excessively applied lipstick.

You have a nice day too! The times never really change.

A man in his seventies, long black overcoat, black beret, jauntily placed and that long bright green scarf. Well done, sir. Why not make an effort? We are a long time dead.

A man, in his fifties with a long grey haired pony tail, pushing a large black bike, with a big smile on his bearded face. A Saturday morning dad? One son, 13 I would guess, withdrawn, walking at his side, the other son, younger, ginger haired and lively, runs on ahead and swings round a lamppost. Why only one bike? Not for the kids, so it must be his. He rode here for his day with his sons. Make the most of it my friend, they need you, remember that.

A friend walks passed, sees me on my throne and comes in for a coffee. Another friend waves as he walks on by.

Outside the procession continues, an unending parade of humanity.

This is why I moved away from the country. People, my fellow human beings.

Let’s stay for lunch.

4 Comments

  1. Can you taste the arsenic in the coffee? Maybe it tastes like there is almond syrup in it – or is it not that kind of place?

    I love sitting in places watching the world go by – it’s one of the greatest pleasures in life. Of course, it’s free – apart from the cost of the coffee. I was people watching in the Treasurer’s House in York (there was a bloody good row going on!) and realised that there was a woman watching the same argument. We were pulling faces at each other as the row – very restrained – got better. As she left, she smiled/winked and made a comment about ‘not getting caught’.

    I’m less aware of when I am being watched – which is probably okay if it entertains other people.

    With some of my friends, we make up the stories that go with the people we see – or hear. “I think he’ll either be a doctor – or maybe a painter and decorator.” – you just have to try and work out what leads up to that comment.

    Good to see that you are getting out, and that you have interesting places to go to. You never know, you might overhear the start of an Agatha Christie-type mystery.

  2. “Murder in the Coffee Shop.” Perfect–somebody should write it–and what a list of suspects!

    Thanks, Wolf. I loved sharing that coffee with you.

  3. I’m reminded of Suzanne Vega’s ‘Tom’s Diner’.
    That sounds like such a precious place and having time to watch and sit is a gift, even if it isn’t one you asked for especially.
    I adore ‘the public’, one of my favourite things is watching people have a go at something, like ice skating or performing somehow.The fact that people will risk injury or indignity simply for the joy of living and taking part is wonderful to me.

  4. Thanks everyone for your comments, It feels like we were all there together having our coffee….actually that would have been really good fun.

    It is a good place and it was sad but true that being out and about in town was a real treat for the brain damaged wolf.

    It was good to know that I am not the only nosy sod out there.

    Same time, same place tomorrow then! See you there.

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