Sunday, 15 February 2009

Comic Relief 6 - for Judith

This one comes from my sick bed but more exciting, it comes from my brand new netbook:

She'd been sporty when she was younger, for about a month, but it was long enough that she could regale her friends with tales of pulled ligaments, going for the burn eighties-style, thus providing an explanation for her creaky knees. Now, at forty-five, any hint of a weekend sporting event and she would be found either in the local supermarket or the coffee shop. The former she found rather depressing as even the displays for pizzas and barbecue food were were studded with flags, the latter a welcome relief from the national frenzy which on this particular occasion was directed towards the Olympics.

That Sunday, she almost turned around and walked straight back out of the shop. It was as though all the local mothers had decided to bring their offspring here. It was an Italian shop, well established in the town and one of its appeals for her was that the d├ęcor was brown and dingy. For her, it had the air of a proper continental cafe, the sort where you could drop in, read the paper, write a bestseller and not be under any obligation to leave before you were ready. The ban had seen to it that the umbrella of Galoises smoke was in her imagination as was the bohemian customer base. The reality was that the small middle-class population flocked there competing for window seats, ignoring their wayward, sugar-fueled children whilst they gossiped at ever-increasing volume to drown out the next table, a mirror of their own except that the children scattering in different directions would shatter the illusion of glass existing between them. Sometimes this unhappy fact intruded upon her ruminations but today, the coffee was especially good and she was able to shut them out and slip through the door into her imagination.

She was already on her second latte. The last square of her complimentary bitter, dark chocolate was melting on her tongue. She watched the brown sugar flow from its little tubular wrapper into the centre of the surface, its edges darkening as they became saturated and finally sinking, dissolving in a spiral, still swirling as she sipped it, lifting her up, up so that she could take a deep inhalation of the Galoises whilst ignoring the clattering below. What she breathed out onto the paper would be a mystery until it emerged; a plan for a story, a few notes, observations of the way the barista danced to the rhythm of the coffee machine, the way his black apron was tied as if he had been giftwrapped that morning, but no, today her plans were skipping sideways and then forwards rather than dwelling on the here and now.

Four years from now, she would be sitting here, slightly more grey, skin fading and the children snapping around the wooden tables would have moved to the doorways of the burger restaurant or the fountain. Four years from now, her husband would be sitting in their lounge in front of the latest technology (a necessary purchase for such a big occasion) watching the Olympics again.

Four years from now, there would be at least two major conflicts in the world, troops would still be somewhere foreign, at risk from insurgents, politicians from opposing parties would be battling over tax and expenditure and we would still be fighting climate change. All this much was certain. What was also certain was that the rift between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, the hungry and the overfed would remain. She knew that the flags would come out again and she would take herself off to the coffee shop to hide with her fellow sport-avoiders. Absentmindedly, she had written down two words: coffee and olympics.

The barista with the bow-tied bottom had just been dismissed from her thoughts as the solution of caffeine and sugar deluded her into thinking she had found a solution of a different kind. Her tangential plan was one of pure and simple and genius. Even the traditional Olympic motto: "Citius, Altius, Fortius" - "Faster, Higher, Stronger" could be reused in 2012.

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