Tuesday February 8, 2005
The sunlight flooded through the gap between two buildings, splashed over the pavement and provided a perfect setting for a backlit photograph of a group of people, perhaps standing in conversation, positioned on the pavement between two cast-iron pillars. So I sat there, camera in hand, waiting. And waiting. Growing colder and colder. And no-one came to the centre of my designated stage, far less a group of people. All the people I saw were far too much concerned with bundling from the warmth of one shop to the next as quickly as possible.
I pressed the button on the camera anyway, just to record the setting. No joy. Either the battery had run out or the tiny device was feeling the cold. By this time my finger joints were feeling the cold, too, so a sketch was out of the question. Falling back to my last resort I pulled my PDA from my inside pocket where it was sitting, all snug and warm, and made a rapid Pocket Painter sketch, to fasten the idea in my head.
And then, shivering slightly, I wandered into the bookstore to find Graham poring over the lastest delivery of SF novels. It was warm in there, at least.
“Are you done yet?” I asked.
“Why, are you wanting to move on?”
“Yeah. Boston’s cold today and I’m ready for a caffeine fix.”
“Right. Why don’t you go look at poetry books while I finish up?”
And off I went to the far corner of Ottakar’s, where there’s a strange lift to the upper floor, one of those claustrophobic things where you stand on a platform, press the button, and you’re taken up one level, the walls moving down as you ascend. Above you is a ceiling, which grows closer and closer and, on a day when the neurosis runs high, you wonder if… Or perhaps not.
The poetry section was dire, as always. If there was a new volume of poems by a single poet rather than the endless selection of popular anthologies they seem to think is an adequate poetry library then I couldn’t find it. Graham came up the stairs to find me going all gooey over a bookshop novelty from America, containing a small garden gnome, a patch of artificial grass and a stand depicting a cottage garden. Awfully cute, even if the gnome had more of the Disney about it than I think entirely appropriate for an English country cottage garden.
“Why don’t you buy it?” he asked.
“Nah. It’d soon stop being funny and then I’d have to sell it on eBay.”
“And that’s wrong, how?”
“Dunno. Perhaps it’s because it’s a cold, windy day and I’m not enjoying myself too much.”
“Ah. Get the hint. Let’s troll over to Costa Coffee then, and see what we can find to cheer you up.”
I had a double espresso and an individual chocolate pannetone cake. The sugar and caffeine surged into my system and I brightened up immediately.
“Yeah, thanks. I’d still like to go home, though.”
And that’s what we did. Dolly the Mega-Cat, all snug and curled up in her favourite armchair, gave me the most enormous yawn, stretched, and pottered out to sit companionably in the kitchen while I prepared lunch.
“Do you know what, Dolly?” I asked, grunting slightly at the effort of squashing as much salad stuff as possible into our sandwiches.
“I think you had the better of it today, staying home in the warm.”
I took that to mean something along the lines of “Too right, monkey face.”