Fleeting springtime


Copyright: freeimages.com

Speckles of green against the dreary greyness herald the arrival of spring,

A weight taken from your shoulders as you walk down the street in a light jacket,

Planning to give your trusty woollen winter shield a cleansing before it hibernates.

Then, at the corner before the metro entrance, you see a single blossom on a tree,

It sneers at you with its unabashedly exotic fleshy petals and heady scent,

Destroying your sentimental daydreaming of gentle spring days in temperate climes.

Instead, it’s a brutal harbinger of the sweaty days and nights that are to come,

Mosquito bites, incessant cricket chirps drilling into your brain,

Sheltering from the heat instead of the cold,

In a country where the spring and autumn last as long

As the single half of a luscious sweet strawberry adorning your slice of bland sponge cake.


A Story to be Told



Image: Copyright Vijay Kate

They were sitting right in front of the stage, but had been oblivious to everything around them for the past half hour. They’d been sitting so long she had little red creases on the back of her calves from the way she crossed her legs.

And it was all his fault…

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On my way to the shops to buy the most mundane of groceries, I encountered a woman walking backward down the street. I immediately assumed it was a temporary measure on her part: she had dropped something and was returning to get it, or maybe she was dragging something heavy. But she just kept coming. Her head was twisted back over her right shoulder, with a look of glee and pride on her face. She took each step with deliberation, but with an attempt to inject speed. I began to worry about her. She walked smoothly enough, but she was an old woman. There was a stiffness to her gait. She needed to be careful ‘at her age’; any tumble backwards could cause serious damage to her brittle bones.

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I did nothing


Adults myopically view all groups of children at play as something sweet and innocent. They do wish to see that cruelty, spitefulness and bullying tendencies can be fully formed even in a half-grown child.

I made the same mistake myself while working my stand at the market. It was a quiet period for me, as most punters were milling around the dog show circle. I was passing the time by people and dog watching, the queues for the toilets alone providing enough entertainment for an entire season’s worth of TV shows.

I had registered the group of four young boys playing intently in a circle directly in front of me, but only in a ‘aww, look, isn’t it great to be young’ sort of way. I had seen them all separately at various times during the day with their parents: two brothers, each with a mop of bouncy curls crowning their heads and matching their personalities; a quieter cousin with straight, mousey-brown fly-away hair; and the outsider, an only child with a sleek helmet of thick black hair. All were the same general size, except for the younger brother who was an inch or two shorter.

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Broken home


I come from a broken home. Nothing worked properly in it. The wind blew in the windows through the gaps between the panes and the frames even when they were shut tight. Some were shut so tight they couldn’t be opened any more, so the breeze through the frames was often a blessing.

The gas oven had to be lit with a match, an exercise that had to be done at just the right time. Too early, and the ring would flare out as soon as the gas hit the match, scorching fingers. Any absentmindedness in lighting meant the gas had to be turned off again and the room aired out before it was safe to strike that match.

It was not wise to plop onto any of the couches or armchairs, or a bottom could hit the floor instead of being comfortable suspended in a soft cushion. Armrests collapsed easily too under elbows, particularly when a scalding mug of tea was in the hand.

The bath was forgotten about once the shower was installed, until a new puppy arrived that needed a wash. Then it was discovered that the taps had corroded from misuse and the bath really was just the storage bin it had been used as over the past few years. The shower was the only option then, with its weak water pressure and moody temperature gauge that seemed to take pleasure in alternately burning and freezing any users under the pathetic dribble of water from the shower-head.

Even the chimney didn’t work properly – going on fire three times before a guard was fitted on top to stop crows dropping twigs down the chute. Though, as a child, the short-term excitement provided by the arrival of a fire engine and the potential drama in ending up homeless rather made this little inconvenience rather appealing.

As an adult, I was determined to never live like that again. In my home, everything is brand new. Everything sparkles and shines. No gadget is older than five years old. The windows and doors hermetically seal the building to such a degree that we had to keep a budgie as an early warning. On walking out in the morning, the sensation of air flowing over the body can be quite unnerving.

Ripped or damaged clothes are destroyed in a furnace before they can bring shame on the family. A broken plate sends reverberations of horror and panic through my children – they wince and shrink into themselves, knowing what punishment is coming their way. I almost enjoy watching them squirm in terror.

But my family shall never experience the degradation of growing up in a broken home, I can promise you that.

The flowers in the bin


Courtesy of johnnyberg on freeimages.com

A host of golden daffodils poked their head out of a black bin at the exit to the park. From a distance, they still seemed healthy, and as full of glee as Wordsworth’s. But there was no immediately discernible reason for the ignoble end they had been sentenced with. It’s unlikely the groundsman would have done it; he had his own bucket on his cart for weeds and fallen foliage. IT must have been a visitor to the park. But who? And why?

Was it a jilted lover, who eagerly ran to the park to meet his new love interest, only stopping to pick up a bunch of flowers at the supermarket? Was his woman nervously sitting straight-backed on a bench, feeling guilty at the pain she would cause him but remaining firm in her resolve? How long did the conversation take? Did he argue with her and try to make her stay with him, or did he accept it quietly because he knew himself they weren’t going to work together. Did he storm off, and plunge the flowers stems first into the bin opening in a semi-sub-conscious act of violent penetration? Or did she hurriedly walk off first as he sat in bewilderment, still clutching the bunch of flowers, which he would continue to do until he was brought back to reality by the slipstream of a latex-clad cyclist hurtling past?

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The limo ride


black limo


The first time I ever rode in a limousine was the day of my husband’s funeral. I felt it was a fitting send-off for the most miserly, dried-up scrounge in the country.

Our daughter didn’t join me. I rang her the day he died and told her “Marie, your father has died.” “Good”, she said, and hung up. I did not press the matter.

But I do think she would have relished the plushness of the limo. It was so warm inside, and the seat was so cushiony! I stretched my legs out in front of me as far as I could reach without falling off the seat, and settled back into its softness. The town looked so different through the tinted windows, exotic or glamorous, almost.

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