Thursday, 12 March 2009

Recession and a death

The little town of W turns a touch more ghostly each week. Woolworths is shut, the Cross Keys Pub is shut, the expensive dress shop is shut, the flower shop is shut, the small fancy furniture shop up the street from us is shut, the riding wear-saddlery shop is shut. Town is emptier, quieter. There even seems to be less traffic.

And M the butcher is dead. P, the table tennis master, the master butcher, the proprietor of the shop, is there still, cheerful as ever, making ping-pong style hand movements when he sees me in the street. M, who looked a little dour at times but was friendly when you got into conversation, had been ill for many years. His heart had gone, his immune system had gone, then cancer pounced and got him. He was often in great pain, says P. I buy half a pound of mince from him. It is very good mince, far superior to that from the supermarket. C turns it into stuffed cabbage, wrapping the cabbage leaves around the mince, adding some hot paprika and a touch of cream on top. I daren't make a list of the dead we have known because all such lists are too long. And it would be a long list even without thinking so.


Next week I am in Newcastle the whole time delivering the three Bloodaxe Lectures and doing a reading. I shall have to think of what to do with my days. Rewrite the lectures? It is going to be a continuous temptation. They are written now. Titles?

1. Cold, dark, deep and absolutely clear
2. Life is Elsewhere
3. Flowing and Flown

They are not all exactly the same length, the third being the longest, but I can cut it and might do so tomorrow. In the meantime, translating, writing references, answering questionnaires, and trying to contact my internet provider which is impossible as they are engaged the whole day. Meanwhile son T, the international DJ, composer, producer, and occasional keyboard performer with The Bays, is just back from Croatia and is heading off to Kazakhstan tomorrow.

C and I go out for a walk by the river which is in frisky mood, not so much high as fast, silver-leaden coloured, twittering and snickering. Few ducks on it - there used to be a whole rabble of them. Rooks, collared doves, blackbirds. A big huddle of sheep. over the field. A kingfisher has been seen flitting across the river- C has seen it.

Past the back of the newish estate, children playing football. On the walk back another way, it's almost dusk. We cross over the railway bridge and see the lights on here and there. Just opposite us, a woman naked, wrapped in a towel, obviously fresh from the bath, is cooking in her kitchen. Upstairs we can see the light in the bathroom, the glass faintly steamed. Rear Window stuff. Thinking around a poem but not ready. Mind too much of a flitter.


Gwil W said...

Will the last one to leave the town please switch off the lights.
Perhaps that'll be your job George.
It's so very sad that communities are quickly going the way of all flesh. The era of mini-tudor and estates with a patch of grassed mud and a vandaliised toilet block in the middle and gormless kids in bedrooms watching shoot-ups and drinking canned chemicals whilst their couch potatoes argue about the crumbs down the settee, the cost of central heating and the who will take the poodle round the block past the boarded-up shops in the cold dark rain waiting for the pizza delivery man with his 4-seasons special offer.
Enjoy Bloodaxe and mind your neck.

Gwil W said...

If and when you ever retire from poetry George, or as a sideline, on the evidence of those last two paras I reckon you could try your hand at ghost stories. I think it's in your blood. Obviously you'd need a pen name for this new ghostly venture - may I suggest Gabriel Klooj as a tribute to your dear ancestor.
By the way, it appears that female vampires may have existed in the Venice Lagoon in 1450 or thereabouts. Seems to be some archeological evidence emerging for this. It's a new one one on me, but it wouldn't surprise me. It's an ideal spot. All mists and red sunsets.

dana said...

Vampires in Venice? Good gravy. Sounds like a pop tune.

I love walking around twilight when lights come on but before blinds go down. It's like Our Town. I try to peer in the houses, Gary comments on the state of the property drainage or tree trimming, etc. The kids just run amok.

George S said...

When mother was a vampire back in Venice
Shortly before decamping to the land between the woods,
She shimmered in satin, radiating menace
And terrorising pious neighbourhoods.

When she was hanging upside down beneath
The Rialto, or flitting zig-zag past the Accademia
Visitors noted the sharpness of her teeth
And muttered about the crags of Transylvania.

Back in Budapest she shook her leathern wings
Before she bore me to my father, a mortal and a Jew.
Believe me, I have dabbled in such things.
My wings are hers. My teeth are pointed too.

Only in an orthopaedic manner of speaking, of course.

And what do you know! The Cross Keys is re-opening tonight under new management. The pub of the undead. The recession must be over.

Gwil W said...

There goes a man with teeth as sharp as his pencils! To rhyme Accademia with Transylvannia must be a world first! And the pub of the undead is re-opening!

Hanging around the re-opening bar
Supping gaily the bitter jar
Home before sunrise
And back to bed
Tomorrow another pint of best red.

dana said...

How funny! I work in academia, and my father's father's father came over from Transylvania (eastern Romania). And my husband's Jewish.

I think the bars (pubs) actually do better in a recession. There may be the only current safe business venture. Hope the food's decent, and you can support your local economy with pleasure!

George S said...

Glasses raised to both PiR and Dana. My mother was, of course, Transylvanian, Jewish like my father, only I didn't know it. And I see you are Sagittarian, like me, Dana. Not that I know exactly what that means, or even if it means anything. But here's another glass to November (or it may be in your case, December.) Down at the pub of the undead.

dana said...

Cheers! and to birth years ending in 8. Such fun, these zero-ending birthdays. Yes, December (18).

Twins fighting, must run.

Thanks for indulging my absolutely un-thought-out comments (as I should either be working or parenting) whenever I'm online.

Gwil W said...

I'm here when I should be eating a chicken. That's the hold you have George.
dana, 8 is a number with qualities when it's turned on its side, or so they say whoever they are. But in reality it's only a symbol. It's meaningless out of context. It's like saying that the ancient symbol + is your place&time in the universe at this very moment. The truth is we're all at sea. I tend to Darwin.

dana said...

@pir, yes sir, and amen. I'm neither an astrologer nor a poet. Just a mom and office worker.

Gwil W said...

I'm only an old age pensioner with strange ideas. Now I'm off for my bedtime cocoa.

George S said...

And so to bed...