Monday, January 29, 2007

Cherry scones

A friend invited me for coffee this morning. As we arrived, she was still rubbing her fingers free of doughy gloves and the smell of baking cherry scones hung about her busy kitchen, spilling fragrant through the open door into a wintered garden. "Drop by for coffee, I'll make scones," I say it out loud to see how it sounds. Unconvincing, in my case. She, on the other hand, knocks out a warm batch of home baked treats with the same nonchalance as I swill a crystal glass of cool and gooseberry-tanged chablis.

Some friendships you keep for a life. Others for only a train-ride. Some friends you lose and never know why and when you are old, you think: "Whatever happened to?" or "What did I do?". Some friends you mourn; some walk away and you do not notice. This friendship is spring green and sweetly brief, lasting weeks. Now my new friend is about to move somewhere bouncing hot and sandy to feed oily egg and cigarette thin chips to fat Englishmen who would prefer to eat their egg and chips at home. I want to say to her: "Don't go out of my life. You have only just arrived there." But in her head, she has already quit this place for a different tomorrow.

As I drink the coffee and graze on blossom-coloured cake, I gaze at the bonfire of trucks and old jeans piled up on her dining room carpet, salvaged from the rooms upstairs. Each of her four boys is allowed one black plastic bag of toys to tote with him into his new and sunnier life. One final boy is missing - her oldest. Seven years ago, she lost him. Just 13, he slipped through her floury fingers in one of those "Dear God" disasters that make you catch your breath. Mowing early summer grass and daisies, he cut the lead. Zap. A boy-child. I have seen his face smiling out of a sharp school photograph and in his mother's eyes, you can see him yet.

They are packing for the sun and a fresh start. I admire her determination that the four remaining boys will run from school bench straight into a warm and salty sea, nylon homework bags, spray-wet and abandoned on the beach. But I will miss her. She is a new friend and no one else will make me pastries and froth my coffee. While she was packing, she found bed treasures her missing boy once slept with, his teddy bear and a keepsake velvet cushion. In a suitcase at the top of a wardrobe, she found his summer coat, its pocket packet rustling, the crisps long gone. Prawn cocktail. She slipped the packet back into the coat and the coat into a bag to carry with her.


Anonymous said...

You were worrying about bears in Northumberland ? Be grateful you don't live in New Jersey...or get a cat...

Anonymous said...

This roughty-toughty Northern Lad has something in his eye.

That's... extraordinary. :-(

ChrisJ said...

Do I detect a hint of Gerard Manley-Hopkins or is it T.S. Elliot?

I love to read your writing. Take heart. I too, moved from the south and city life to North Yorkshire. Now, 60 years later it is still my favourite place to be. But I was only 9 years old then, -- different generations, different fears.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, sitting at my desk in eminent institution blubbing at this. Poor woman. Sometimes, in an idle moment, awful thoughts of this nature intrude on my day - the ghastly "what if".

Anonymous said...

Dear Wife in the North

"Cherry scones."


I read today's blog. Then I went back and back-read all the rest.

I have a theory about human community and felloship. You know how the great apes like chimpanzees and gorillas pass their time together, grooming each other? They sit together peacefully, for hours, and pick all the nits and dirt out of each other's fur. I think that is what human beings do when they get together to socialize--to exchange gossip or to watch tv, or a move--we are doing like the great apes, grooming each other. So, if you wind up doing it in the city, or the country, it is basically not so awfully very different.

Of course there is a rural temperment and an urban temperment, but you will find people of both temperaments interchanged, both in the city and the country.

I do not think you are telling us about your life in the grim North lands. To be honest, how could there be any place "grim" in England? Isn't it sort of Merry there? And old?

To me you are telling an exotic story of life in a faraway land, and how you come to grips with the difficulties and joys that we all find along the way, in all our many journeys through life.
Daniel from Merry Maryland

Meredith Jones said...

What a lovely blog. Thank you, you're on my list of favourites now.

Anonymous said...

>>daniel - I think that's what blogging is all about.

"The man who writes about himself, and his own time, is the only man who writes about all people, and all time" George Bernard Shaw

Anonymous said...

I don't think I can say you would enjoy reading 'Dear Charlie' by Reg Thompson - it is too heart-rending for that. But it is a book that will teach you an awful lot about what is really precious in life.

Anonymous said...

I have to say your write beautifully and clearly about death, loss and old age in a way that is more moving for its simplicty. My mother died at the realtively young age of 65 three years ago and you capture the longing and the loss exactly.