This winter is going to be competitive.
It was a simple cafe, one of those we call, in all innocence, a ‘greasy spoon’. You know the sort, all-day breakfasts, exercise thwarting ‘gut busters.’
In fact, when I was a postman, I used to deliver to one such cafe that was actually named Gut Busters. “They’ve got your name wrong again,” I said one morning, waving the letter before depositing it on their counter.
“Who are we now?” the proprietor asked.
“Ghostbusters! You could complain, but who you gonna call?”
Anyway, this was a similar cafe to that one, but located in the heart of Manchester rather than one of its northern suburbs. Being early morning, there were only three customers in the place, myself and two other guys who were sat at a table against the far wall. I don’t think they were homeless, but they looked like they’d seen better days. A bit dishevelled, maybe coming off a five day bender.
I was drinking coffee as they tucked into a fry-up each, and first became aware of them when one called to the waitress who was cleaning the counter.
“Hey love, who sings this song, d’ya know?”
She cocked an ear to the song coming from the radio. “Erm, . . . oh, I do know this one . . . who is it now?”
I couldn’t place the singer, but knew the song: A Night To Remember.
“Is it Diana Ross?” the man asked.
“Is it bleedin’ hell,” his mate replied for her. “It’s a man.”
“You can’t tell the difference with some of those funky singers. Is it Luther Vandross?” he persisted.
“Get ready,” the waitress sang along as she searched her memory, “tonight!”
Outside the window, in the dirty grey light, my fellow Mancunians were falling into their daily routines. I bet most of them could navigate their route blindfolded, scattering the pigeons and beggars as they go.
The waitress brought my plate over, now humming along to a new and easily identifiable song. Abba, that Swedish superpower of airplay.
As I picked up my knife and fork I caught the eye of the man who’d asked the question. “That song, it was Shalamar.”
“Shalamar!” they both exclaimed.
“And friends!” the one that had posed the question, added.
“Yes,” his accomplice agreed, “Shalamar and friends.”
“You’ll sleep tonight now,” I said. But then felt the need for confession. I held up my phone. “I cheated.”
“You didn’t know it either!” they grinned.
Brought briefly together by a thirty-odd year-old song, we then retreated back to our respective worlds, those two sketching vague plans for the day and I catching last night’s match report.
I was draining the last of my coffee by the time they’d finished and paid their bill. I nodded to them as they made their way to the door, and the guy leading the way shook his head reflectively. “That damn Shalamar,” he said, before joining the parade on the Manchester streets.
While a friend of mine was in New York tonight, I was taking my son to his football training.
He might have got the skyscrapers
but we got the sky
from my poetry blog
Dead Bird The kids are fascinated by the varying states of putrefaction. Every morning we pause, compare it to yesterday's studied image. "Where have it's eyes gone? Have they sunk into its skull?" Half-covered by an overnight shroud of autumn leaves, provoking a conflict of opinion. The girl thinks it should be buried out of decency, the boy eager to glimpse its surfacing skeleton. Every day its stomach is drawn in, the ribs rising. Then this morning, stunned: the bird is gone, perhaps removed by a conscientious council worker. The boy thinks that it's been dragged off to be devoured by a fox, or a cat, but whatever it was it must have been really down on its luck, falling on that desiccated morsel for a feast. ©AndrewJamesMurray
Apologies are winging your way if I’ve not replied to your comments or visited your blogs recently. I’ve had a little fly in the ointment, so to speak, which is non-technical jargon for I’ve been having problems with WordPress recently and I haven’t a clue why.
I’m writing this post in the hope that it has now been rectified, and if it hasn’t, well, there’s only me reading this and you guys are none the wiser. Please let me know.
A couple of days ago, at a motorway service station, I was walking down a corridor, flanked the whole way by a glass window, whilst seeking out the Gents. At the end of the corridor a little girl was loudly banging on the glass. “Look, Daddy, pigeons!”
Her father, wearing the forlorn look of one waiting for his wife to come out of the toilet, a look I knew only too well, replied: “They aren’t pigeons, darling, they’re crows.”
As I passed them both I too glanced out at the birds.
Actually, they are not crows, I thought to myself, they are jackdaws.
And, with a certain smugness:
And I should know, being, unknown to you, the anonymous author of the City Jackdaw blog.
I didn’t say this, of course, for who was I to destroy the little child’s fantasy of her all-knowing father.
And besides, at that moment in time, I couldn’t even get City Jackdaw to work.
from my poetry blog
there are hinge moments
the before and after
beneath the blustering larches
we make them visible
on crowded carriages
the fingers that brushed briefly
in causal static
an eidetic clarity
take off your shoes
this is sacred ground
this is the place where we first met