moment 10

a town with nothing to do. a weekend free from school but no place to go. so we would meet at the wall in the high street and chat. there was no pre-arranged time. it was just an expected occurrance. i’m not sure how it started. just one day we were in town, opposite Boots, fizzy drinks in hand. there was a wall so we sat. it wasn’t a particularly notable wall rather the result of a town planner’s unimaginative flourish to put walls with planters along the high street. red brick and grey. the type of brick beloved of councils as it is hard wearing and cheap. the plants were not something to look at being a mixture of half-dead greens and littered cigarette butts with a lone ant in search of something sticky. we sat in the sun dressed in black and surplus army greens, trousers made of layers of torn trousers, each one more torn than the first. the heat was no problem. we rolled cigarettes and talked of music, politics and campaigns whilst watching the lesser mortals shop by. the stores would close and we would saunter righteous to our homes for dinner.

moment 9

every time it happens it amazes me. i can be sitting happily at home or lying in bed, nodding off after a tiring day, or even watching tv, or reading a book, then it creeps up. the little nag at first, a small tapping of the needle in a corner of my brain. Tap. Tap. i try to ignore it. refocus on going to sleep, focusing on the programme or the page. TAp. TAp. my stomach begins to clench as it know what is coming. TAP. TAP. then the voices, the cry of what ifs reexamining the day and where i went wrong or think i went wrong. did that person really mean that or were they hiding their true feelings. maybe they secretly despise. you may think that would be enough but not for my mind. it is just getting warmed up. now we top it off with predictive what ifs. what if i do something wrong at work tomorrow? what if my boss sees it? what if they find out i’m not any good? what if – what if – what if. it yells in my ear. my heart beats fast. i begin to sweat. everything around me is reduced to nothing. i just hear the voices. you’re a charlatan! you deserve to fail! you’re no good to anyone. i try to focus on my breathing like i’ve been taught. centre my mind on a single part of my body. focus. come on, focus! the voices laugh and yell at volume. out of control. they jump from cell to cell in my brain. kicking at the positive, knocking it down, crushing it under foot. count to ten, count to ten, count to ten. focus on your breathing. then the disasters tear up as punishment. the abject fears of harm to my family. did i lock the doors? is everyone safe? the voices come back: but if you did lock them, can you be sure? can you be trusted? surely, something so important can’t be trusted to you? count to ten. count to ten. count to ten. breathe in slowly. hold it. breathe out. focus on the toe. the right toe. now follow the toe along the leg. take a journey. one part at a time. the voices quieten to a whisper, not completely gone, just murmuring enough for me to know they are there. i get up, walk to the kitchen, and pour myself a glass of wine.

moment 8

Black and white leather barber chair

i never understood how women could spend so long in a hairdresser. how they could disappear for half a day. half a day! i knew about the colours and potions that had to be applied but could not see the attraction of spending so long on a necessary thing. when i was young, if i was lucky, i got a break from the wonky fringe created by mother and instead went to the Bosun’s. Chair. it was a typical town hairdressers, images of forgotten styles proudly in the windows, chrome chairs and black outlined mirrors. a woman in her forties would listen carefully to my mother’s instructions and produce an approximation. once, when a teen, i took a picture from a magazine of Jon Moss and saidi wanted hair like him. i left disappointed by the outcome. when i grew older, i ventured into the world of gentlemen barbers. there was one called Manns (yes, really) that lay hidden down an alley in Taunton. people would sit waiting, courteously declining their turn if it was the old guy cutting. no one wants a cut from pre-war days. we wanted the latest trend of shaved sides and spikes atop. he just couldn’t cut it. i would leave more satisfied at the price than the result. when i moved to London, i found places that would trim for a tenner. no time wasted. ideal for a frugal me. i would go to the same place and as for the same thing. over the years, we built an understanding. then, overnight, a disaster. it shut. my reassuring friend was no more. so i went on an adventure. entering places i had never before explored. one, we talked fluently in our own language. In vain I tried to sign a style.  I left with something. the worse time i saw a place full of young men with clippers. i thought they must know. Iientered and sat down.  the guy cutting became distracted by a friend and the offer of a cigarette. he continued with fag in hand, clippers in the other, talking, turning to talk to his mate. realising the cutting a hindrance, he handed the clippers to another and walked out to continue his chat.  i left with a disaster on my head. now, i go to the same place as my wife. it is above my usual 10. but i get pampered. coffee is offered, good coffee, and. i lean back and have my hair washed. the massaging releasing the tensions of the week. then the cut. i show a picture and she crafts with scissors a close representation.. i smile at the person in the mirror and leave happy.

moment 7

old men with ghosts in their eyes sit sipping the first of the day. lost friends and family float in the air as carcasses chew on a roasted nut. they remember happier laughter when mates were plenty and pints 50p. now the laughter is full of bitter tears that fall on froth making sad eyes. No Name sits in his usual seat pouring down blackcurrant soda. he looks enviously at the amber glasses. no longer. doctor’s orders. Racist Phil peers angrily over his drink at the diverse staff then takes a sip of his barcadi and coke. they always smile politely. a lone lady with ruddy face and dye streaked silver hair takes a dash of wine then places a beer mat carefully over the rim. she waits for Harold. what’s keeping him? it’s his round. over cooked sausages, too crisp bacon, and soggy hash browns are presented to customers as a culinary delight. even the watered sauce wants to steer clear. businessmen too tight for Costas sit drinking free refill coffee while loudly demanding attention on their mobile phones. charge points are plenty but none are free. the dregs of the morning hang on as the lunchtime crowd are drawn in by special thursday curry with drink. laughter flies up as banter is machine gunned across tables and mobiles are compared. have you seen this photo? are they real? they can’t be. a lost family wanders in search of convenience. a grubby white high chair is offered like a fallen throne and gratefully accepted. a quick wipe down and it’ll be all right. a fruitshoot and chips for the kids, salad and spritzers for the mums. aren’t we being decadent. what would Michael say? thank heavens for colouring sheets and crayons. No Name orders a blackcurrant and starts the sun crossword. the lone lady, cursing Harold, drinks another wine. peppered curry arrives with lone poppadom and too sweet mango chutney. somewhere a cook cries in his grave. the rush comes to an end and the hearty remain. long gone the businessmen and mums – children to collect. Lone lady gives up, sinks her wine and asks for a taxi. she never has a phone. the writer smile’s at the content, sips his beer.