The market, Salonica

The market, Salonica
The market, Salonica

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Susan and the donut

It’s exam time.  Until mid-May, I had a private student called Susan.   I went to her house every Saturday to tutor her in English.  She attended a Catholic girls’ school from Monday to Friday, and church on Sunday with her family.   She had a friend called Bethlehem. 

The Lord giveth…

Susan’s mother always spoke to me warmly, ending with the phrase God bless.  They gave me a box of chocolates for Christmas.  I don’t get many presents these days.  It all harked back to another time, when the world was nicer.  Susan is itself an old-fashioned name.  This child will be dependable and well-behaved.  I thought she might be shy.  She was certainly quiet, answering little and volunteering even less.  But don’t forget why I was there.  She wasn’t very good at English.

She had a different name which only her family used.  Suzanne.  I remembered the Old Testament story.  Susanna, a young virgin, is set upon by two lascivious old men.   I mentioned it to her.  No answer.  I called her Suzy.  No answer either. 

Arriving for tuition was like stepping into a filthy cave.  The dining room curtain was always drawn and the windows shut.  The place stank of bad air and old food.  On the table, chairs and floor I could see what the past week’s snacks had been, and the week before.  It was impressive in a way, like those modern sculptures which are real heaps of rubbish.  An art gallery cleaner threw out one of these sculptures.  He thought it was some rubble left by builders.  These are finished works, however, like a painting.  Susan’s piece evolved.

She started poking at the rubbish when I came.  Not before I came.  Maybe I wouldn’t come.  She didn’t want to tidy up for nothing.  In cleaning terms, she was a virgin, hesitating with each prod and wipe as if it was new to her, something which she didn’t normally do, or didn’t want to do, or both.  If there had been a way for her to clean up all the different kinds of trash without touching anything, she would have embraced it with both arms. 

Unsure about the cleaning, she didn’t trust the old man either.  My jokes are sometimes funny, sometimes not, but they usually make girls laugh.  At times, I suppose, the giggles are just polite.  I do annoy some people.  Susan was one of them.  She never laughed.  She just looked uncomfortable, or else replied, “That’s a weird thing to say.” 

When she turned sixteen, I asked her if she had a boyfriend, an admirer on the bus to school, someone.  She gave me a coy smile and shook her head.  OK.  She might not have broken the Seventh Commandment, but number eight is showing cracks, along with number nine. 

…and the Lord taketh away

In our final lesson, Susan said she didn’t have the money to pay me.  Could I come back some other time and get it?  I said I wasn’t leaving without the money.  She rang her mother, who wasn’t home, repeated what I'd said, and listened to the reply.  Then she pulled the cash out of her pocket.

Of all the garbage piled on Susan’s table, the donut container was my favourite.  A big, plastic box for thirty-two donuts.  Only one was left, sitting there for weeks,  looking like a failure.  A sweet little thing with a hole at the centre. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Bi guy, 62, very open-minded dog

I saw this dating ad on TV and I thought, how nice, a fellow creature who won’t look down on you.  Pets can be picky, but one dog at least won’t snarl.  Then I was disappointed.  On the next line, the word lover was waiting to pounce.  The bi guy, 62, was an open-minded dog lover. 

It was meant to be reassuring.  You can trust someone who keeps a pet.  Daters, like everybody else, are looking for people they can trust.  They often specify genuine.  I’ve even seen Status no problem, just be genuine.  It doesn’t matter if your intended mate is married, as long as you can trust them.  But however genuine another man’s wife turns out to be with you, she is not being very genuine with him.

Lover and love are two words that don’t often appear on dating sites, unless they relate to a pet.  You don’t want to put people off, especially if you’re looking for love.  Of course, it’s usually more to do with fun.  It’s also pretty mercenary.  I like Must have own house and car.  It does make physical meetings easier, so it’s partly practical, but whoever posts this could sound like a money-grubber.  To tell the truth, on-line daters count pennies as much as penises.  They don’t write own house and car.  They put ohac instead.  And gen, not genuine.  No tws = don’t reply if you don’t want sex.  They abbreviate to save the credits on their account.   Think about it, though.  If you have your ohac and want to impress an f, m, cd, xd, tv, tg or ts, too many abbreviations might just look stingy. 

There must be people out there who are looking for love.  OK, it was just a thought. But there are people, apparently, who believe in ‘forever.’  What else can ltr mbm mean?  I saw this the other day.  Usually, the ad will run: text chat mbm (maybe more).  That’s where the ohac come in.  But what more is there after an ltr (long-term relationship)?  Marriage?  Exchanging smutty videos till we die?  One day, hopefully quite soon, I will stop having thoughts.

Before I leave you – no, I’m not dumping you today, or dying – a final word on pets.  There are people who let their dog, or hamster, watch them make love.  Watch, not join in.  Perhaps some people insist.  Sit!  I expect a dog would show more interest than a hamster.  A pet could also help if things went wrong.   I read in the news that a couple got stuck during sex.  

Thursday, 15 May 2014

There’s an ant on your tit

A five-year-old had an interview for admission to a private school.  That’s right, five-year-olds have to do an interview.   It was a lovely day.  The school had plenty of lawns.  The kind lady suggested that they sit on one.  She probably thought it would help put the little chap at ease.  She knew how stressful interviews could be. 

They sat on the grass in the shade of a nice tree.  While she was talking to the boy, an ant crawled onto her hand.  She didn’t notice.  He watched the little chap as it hurried up her arm, moving with purpose as ants seem to do.  He didn’t say anything.  He didn’t want to interrupt.  The ant stopped; the lady stopped and smiled at the boy. 

He saw his chance.  “There’s an ant on your tit.”

She didn’t blame the ant.  You can’t blame ants for much that’s wrong with the world.  They behave inappropriately without even knowing it.  But she terminated the interview.

In fact, the little chap, our little chap, was too young to be nervous about getting into school.  He didn’t know what an interview was.  If the weather had been cold or wet, he would probably be studying there today.  If the kind lady had stopped talking when the ant was on her arm, he would probably be studying there today.  If she understood children, he would probably be studying there today.

Why do ants hurry?  Not like snails.  A survey has revealed that 30% of London gardeners throw snails over the fence into their neighbour's property.  Try doing that to an ant. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Offending your fan base

Offending your fan base presupposes fans.  Once you’ve got them, don’t let them go.

In Adelaide, there was a well-known journalist on a leading daily paper. This is a long time ago.  He had his own column where he commented on all sorts of things.  He could do what he liked.  He’d been popular for decades, especially with middle-aged women.  To tell the truth, what he wrote seemed pretty bland to me.  Maybe that was why he was popular.   

His admirers tended to be the old girls along the foothills, where the polite people lived.  In their letters to the paper, they regularly agreed that he wrote beautiful prose.  Whether he did or not is beside the point.  They said he did.  Most of what he wrote had some resonance with the older generation.  This was natural.  He was getting on himself.  He wasn’t just courting the older reader.  He wasn’t 19, flirting with Aunt. 

Still, I’m not sure why the old girls liked him so much.  Perhaps he reassured them.  They thought someone understood them.  Perhaps they just liked him because everyone else did.  He was very easy to read.  Anyway, his articles were the main reason they opened their newspaper in the morning.

For me, the most interesting thing about him was the manner in which he folded.  It was a kind of literary suicide, if not a conscious one.  He may have been complacent.  He didn’t see it coming. 

The old girls of Adelaide were picking up their paper, as they usually did, from the driveway or the garden, where the lad had thrown it; they were looking at the headlines, as they usually did, before turning to their favourite column.  What was it about today?  The shape of women’s bodies.  

He hadn’t done that before.  Something didn’t feel right.  Again, it all seemed pretty bland to me.  He had just set down, in his beautiful prose, the opinion that women of a certain age should not wear jeans, in particular the tight sort that teenagers wear.  They should show a bit of leg.  The naked leg, or even one in stockings, was better for an older woman.  He himself preferred the actual leg.

We will never know what triggered that article.  He probably saw an old girl in tight jeans on the bus into town or just popping around to the shops, and then wished he hadn’t.  We’ve all done that.  It’s not something you would imagine, is it, like a poet?  His mistake was to put his thoughts down in print.  He never said that middle-aged women have lumpy bodies.  He didn’t need to.  And now ladies knew that he looked at their legs.  He was suddenly a kind of pervert or at least someone who had grown a bit senile, a writer who had gone on writing too long.  None of his old fans were flattered that he noticed what they wore, at least not the ones who wrote in to complain.  No one defended him.

He retired, or the paper pushed him.