Archive for February, 2015

February 22nd 2015

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

“Prince!”

The escalators rise through a freshly laid concrete shaft to land by the brand new ticket hall and entrance to Tottenham Court Road Station.
This part of Oxford Street’s state of a seemingly forever expanding building site continues; vast empty spaces now occupy the former ground for stores, fast food cafes and those “bargain” shops where the naive in our midst would believe the man with microphone shouting brand names, as he bundled watches, electronic gadgets and perfume boxes into a black plastic bag. All for a tenner.
I make my way to Rathbone Place, and come upon an empty stool by the counter.
As the barman picks a small bottle of orange juice for me, he uses his other hand to turn off the tap for some sort of wheat fermentation. His tattooed forearm sports an inscription in Arabic. “The spelling is correct,” I tell myself.
I am meant to meet three friends tonight; we’re celebrating something or other; we’re really just keen to get out of the work-home-work-home routine that seems to be the norm for the first few weeks of the year.
“Ok, let’s do this!” a distinguished-looking forty-something gentleman suggests to another orange-juice drinker sat nearby.
“You have to make a start!”
The orange juice scans the room and quickly finds a blonde young woman that oozes physical and mental appeal. She could be a PhD student in one of the universities nearby.
“Here goes!” and he attempts a leisurely approach to the other side of the bar, but ends up taking duck-out-of-water cartoonish steps.
“What can I get you?” the barman with the Arabic tattoo asks him.
“I just came to say hello to this young lady!” The girl giggles. The barman narrows his eyes.
He comes back to his friend who is now joined by another acquaintance.
“Attempt number 1; good on you for trying.”
My companions turn up, and interwoven into our conversation are snippets of information I overhear from the orange juice party.
It transpires that this is an attempt by work friends to pour orange juice out of the bottleneck of what is blatantly a single life.
“Well done; now, it’s five!”
I almost feel like asking orange juice to forewarn me, so I could witness the encounter that may be the one for all that he wishes for.
I see a young woman emerging out of the rest room, and orange juice’s friends alert him, enjoying their temporary return to “no-you-talk-to-her” teenage mode.
“Hello, where are you from?” orange juice stops her en route to her table.
“Oh, Spain!” she responds, not quite startled, but surprised that he has acted on the looks he’d been giving her as she walked past him.
“Legend has it that if I get kissed by a beautiful and intelligent Spanish woman, I would be turned into a prince!”
Along with the fair Spaniard, his friends and I are speechless. “Really! There are people who use this sort of a cliché in this day and age!”
But her face blossoms into a spring of laughter.
He tries to develop a storyline out of this inciting incident.
“You see, I am tired of my frog shape; you’d be doing me a huge favour…”
She smiles into his eyes, “but I already have a prince!”
On the night bus home, I see the construction site spilling over into the thoroughfare; a worker covered with protective goggles, a mask for his mouth and nose, a hard hat, and building site boots, methodically runs a huge flame-throwing gun over white road markings. As the fire hits the ground, it suffuses with the chemicals in the paint and produces a kaleidoscope of turquoise, blue, red, orange and green sparks.
The bus stops and four young ladies have a seat nearby. They rapidly get into conference mode. They are Italian.
I wish if orange juice could be here, not so much to get their phone numbers, but to end his night with such enchantingly melodic notes that come with their Italian accents.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

February15th 2015

Monday, February 16th, 2015

“Any plans?”

The day before Valentine’s Day is usually replete with men beginning to show signs of anxiety at the present that is yet to be bought – should one risk an unintentional Mr Bean impersonation by braving an awkward conversation with the sales lady at the lingerie store?

Obviously, similar concerns also afflict the ladies, for they too need to choose a present, not to mention worrying about the ill-fitting items of clothing that their partners have let a sales person choose for them.

On the tube home on Friday evening, next to me sat a young man who was blessed with a happy medium of benign energy, good looks and a dashing way of holding and reading a newspaper.

Clearly, no poorly-chosen garments were on his mind.

So laid back and lazily engaged with the newspaper article (a film review), that he was totally oblivious to the subtle and almost imperceptible notes of interest that the woman seated opposite was paying him.

Five minutes into flicking of the hair, attempting to hold his gaze, and even closing shut her book with a slight force, to attract his attention away from the paper, and probably wondering if the next stop might be his, desperate measures were called for: She produced her mobile phone.

“Hey, can’t talk for long; I am on the tube.”

Still the critic’s views were winning.

“Do you have any plans for tonight?”

The newspaper was now lowered a few millimetres from his eyeline.

“No, I was going to stay in, but wouldn’t mind going out!” she whispered into her phone, but looking him straight in the eyes.

“Hello, hello! Can you hear me!”

She giggled at the lost connection.

He laughed with her.

Unfortunately for both, and for us, dear readers, her stop was next, and she had no choice but to alight.

As the train moved, she turned and looked back. He waved and smiled to her.

“On Monday, I will check the ‘Rush Hour Crush’ column,” I thought to myself.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

February 8th 2015

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Filmwise: Reading and writing.

“No!”

Savouring the warmth of a hot steaming cup of coffee at my favourite Italian-style chain of cafes, and perusing an old issue of Sight and Sound, my eyes wandered away from the photo of a French actor to life unfolding before me on the street.

Amidst the usual a la carte menu of parents walking their kids home from school, with fathers and mothers awkwardly holding the rucksacks and lunchboxes of their offspring, office workers rushing for a quick errand at the post office or the bank nearby, and tourists comparing this building or another with the photo they have in their guidebooks,  my mind lazily stopped by what appeared at first to be a father and daughter waiting for a taxi.

In a dark suit, long beige Mackintosh overcoat, tie and silver rimmed glasses and grey hair, he seemed to be giving his young companion the benefit of his wisdom, in kindly and fatherly body language.

She seemed to struggle to keep still, pretending to be pushing her blond hair back from her forehead, but wiping her green eyes too.

It became obvious that this was no father daughter meeting, for as a black London taxi stopped and switched its orange light off, she cut off his speech with a hand that reached for his face.

She seemed to be pleading with him, all pretence of  combing her hair back now gone and her eyes were a stream of pain.

He brought her hand down to her waist, and gently pushed her away, making her expensive-looking brown leather bag hit the door of the taxi.

Standing there on her own, with the taxi carrying the man turning a corner, she rummaged nervously in her bag for tissues, for the sobs had had the better of her.

Catching the eye of the Spanish Barrista who had served me earlier, we both seemed to wonder whether we should go up to the young lady, to comfort her.

I felt like saying to her, “you’re young, intelligent and beautfiul; this moment will pass and life will bring a smile to your heart yet.”

But she had already crossed the road and melted into the crowd of parents, children, tourists and office workers.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

February 1st 2015

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

February 1st 2015
Film wise: Reading and writing.

“Are you mad?”

The 7:15 train home is usually a docile crowd, with the main rush hour already at an end, passengers enjoying the facility of seating for all.

At the top of the carriage, where the bank of side-by-side seats shrinks to two, a tall and overweight Ray Winston lookalike gentleman took off his long navy blue overcoat and loosened his tie, before turning to the chap next to him.

“The whole thing smacks of corporate profit-hungry-total-disregard-for-average-working-man ethos that’s taking over our public services!”

“And woman!” said his listener in a tiny voice that was in harmony with his small and thin figure beneath a decidedly well-worn grey overcoat, jumper and jeans.

“What?” the big man was practically suffocating him, bearing over him like a giant tree trunk.

“Average working man and woman!” he said, pushing his head back against the glass partition, so he could crane his neck up to look at the man.

“Yes, of course.”

A moment of silence; the giant was somewhat baffled by the intervention.

“And what are we doing about it? Huh? Nothing!” he continued, now getting red with the exhaustion of delivering a speech while peering down into the small space separating him from the other fellow.

“Well…” was all the wee chap could muster, before the bulldozer persisted with the charge forth.

“I mean what am I doing about it? No, what are you doing about it, huh, Barry!”

Barry was now even more pressed against the glass, and his oxygen intake was getting more and more rationed, what with all the carbon-dioxide his converser was expelling beneath his passionate and honest description of the world around him. I could see him pouring his heart out on wood-made-steam-drawn carriages in past times in places across Europe and beyond.

“We all complain about the dire state of our state services, about how these Thatcher-worshipping, public-school-rich boys…,” taking a beat, “and girls!”, allowing a smile to creep into his eyes, “are privatising our nation… and yet we do nothing!”

The train stopped at a desolate platform, and as the doors began to slide shut, Barry bolted out of his chair, crying, “oh, my stop; see you Ted!”

Ted did an almost full 360-degree-rotation of his neck, as he checked the station sign, line map and then glanced at  Barry.

“Are you mad, Barry? This isn’t your stop!”

But Barry couldn’t hear him; he was enjoying the abundance of space and air on the empty platform.

I felt for both gentlemen, and wished if I could take Barry’s place, letting Ted  share with me more of his prognosis of the state we’re in. Alas, I had to alight at the next station.

Peace and love,
Ja‘far