Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

January 3rd 2016

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

After a whole year of short stories, inspired by my daily ecounters, I am momentarily back for a quick update.

Ever since my return from Cannes 2015, I have been working on a couple of new documentary projects.

The first of these has been in intermittent production since 2007. Over last summer, I began to work on the edit; there certainly is a story there. Hopefully, I will have a rough cut by the autumn.

The second factual project is one that I have been developing on paper for a few years. This past November, I began what I imagine to be a narrative that will unfold at a majstic pace; I am in no rush.

There are also a couple of screenplays that I am developing – who isn’t!

For the remainder of this new year, I will don my short-storytelling hat, letting the breeze touch my hair every now and then.

Wishing our world a peaceful and kindly year.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

April 19th 2015

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

A pitch on the escalators…

The rush hour human traffic moved along the escalators in rows of two, dipping and rising almost in unison, like the iron bar that turned steam engine wheels.

Not two steps ahead of me was a middle-aged chap that seemed to be halfway through a film pitch. His listener was an intelligent and attractive looking young woman that appeared genuinely interested in the story.

“And then they hop onto a bus, and at the moment when all seems average, he does something that makes her feel extraordinary.”

Asking him what I wanted to query too, “but what does he do?” she said in a sweet Spanish accent.

“Ah, well, you’ll see when you read the script.”

Fair enough, I thought.

“When will you send me the new draft?” She was certainly interested.

“Well, I think…”

I couldn’t hear the remainder of the conversation, as they’d reached the bottom of the escalator and were heading towards a platform, when on the opposite side , an elderly gentleman fell backward, and was about to take a tumble on the escalator, if it weren’t for the hand of a fellow passenger that grabbed his jacket and halted his fall.

The steam engine swung into action, and a few guys ran up the iron stairs to help, with someone even throwing his rucksack on the floor while rushing to the emergency shut down button to stop the escalator.

Shaken by the incident, and obviously fearing for the safety of the  other commuter, the young woman reached for the nearest wall to steady herself. Her companion assured her that the gentleman was fine.

He went to the bottom of the escalator to make sure that the gentleman was not injured.

“He’s OK. Don’t worry!” he attempted to calm her down.

As they got on the train, I could hear her whisper to him, “you’re my hero; you kept your cool and checked that I was OK, and made sure that the man was not injured!”

He was happy to take the compliment, though he did protest, not forcefully, it has to be said, that he hadn’t done anything.

Thinking of the commuters that came to the aid of the elderly gentleman, and the humanity and compassion they demonstrated, not to mention the storyteller and his young companion’s care for their fellow passenger’s well being, I felt proud to be a Londoner.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

March 15th 2015

Sunday, March 15th, 2015
“Maria”
An espresso, a simple wooden chair and a slightly wonky table – I can see myself as an extra in a cafe scene from a Jean Gabin film in pre-Nouvelle Vague Paris.
With my simple tablet and keyboard I have my complete setup for a few hours of writing at my local coffee shop.
Behind me is a young man, dirty blond hair, green eyes and ripped jeans, feverishly speed-typing into his Mac. “If he’s not texting or chatting, Jack Kerouac would be proud!”
The table to my left shakes with the giggles and laughter of a couple of spirited, but tired-looking, middle-aged ladies talking about someone, perhaps an adored family member. This appears to be a break from whatever it is that’s exhausting them.
The two baristas are negotiating the steam for heating the milk, the till’s beeps and  and the bashing sound of the ground coffee holder against the edge of the  bin, before a refill.
The constant tapping of the man with ripped jeans seems to go through a momentary pause – “a writer’s block?,” I think to myself.
But it turns out to be a possible inspiration that causes the incomplete sentence on the screen. A third barista emerges from the floor below, clutching a long cylinder of tightly packed paper cups, which she places on top of the coffee machine.
“Thank you!” her colleague says.
As she retraces her steps towards the stairs, her dark brown eyes hold his gaze for a nanosecond, and then she is reclaimed by the lower floor.
The tapping resumes, but this is clearly an effort to regain lost momentum.
Another hour passes, and it is time for me to head home.
As I gather my belongings, I notice the laptop of the one with green eyes left unattended, though a gentleman nearby appears to be tasked with looking after it.
I decide it would be great to go for a long walk, before calling it a day. A quick call to the rest room is, therefore, in order.
As I wash my hands, I hear the office door next to the bathroom open. There is the sound of light footsteps moving about.
“Aah, there you are!” a young male’s voice says.
“Hello, can I help you?” a woman replies, sounding formal, but not confrontational.
“I am sorry, I don’t mean to bother you. I saw you upstairs, and wondered what happened to you!”
“It’s OK; I work in the office down here,” her voice carries reassuring tones.
As he’s about to mumble something potentially about meeting her again, another female voice interrupts.
“Are you OK, Maria?”
“Yes, it’s fine,” Maria of the office replies.
I delay using the hand drier and, indeed, leaving the bathroom – I don’t wish to miss or cut short the conversation on the other side of the door.
“Well, I better go. It’s really nice to meet you!” he says, his thoughts and feelings clearly  fighting his vocal chords, and willing him to say what they really want.
“Nice to meet you too!” Maria responds, still formal, but with a distant echo of disappointment.
His shuffling footsteps reflect his own recognition of a missed opportunity to meet someone possibly special.
“He seemed to like you!” the other female voice ventures.
Maria doesn’t reply; the sound of her light footsteps continues.
Peace and love,
Ja’far
“Maria”
An espresso, a simple wooden chair and a slightly wonky table – I can see myself as an extra in a cafe scene from a Jean Gabin film in pre-Nouvelle Vague Paris.
With my simple tablet and keyboard I have my complete setup for a few hours of writing at my local coffee shop.
Behind me is a young man, dirty blond hair, green eyes and ripped jeans, feverishly speed-typing into his Mac. “If he’s not texting or chatting, Jack Kerouac would be proud!”
The table to my left shakes with the giggles and laughter of a couple of spirited, but tired-looking, middle-aged ladies talking about someone, perhaps an adored family member. This appears to be a break from whatever it is that’s exhausting them.
The two baristas are negotiating the steam for heating the milk, the till’s beeps and the bashing sound of the ground coffee holder against the edge of the  bin, before a refill.
The constant tapping of the man with ripped jeans seems to go through a momentary pause – “a writer’s block?,” I think to myself.
But it turns out to be a possible inspiration that causes the incomplete sentence on the screen. A third barista emerges from the floor below, clutching a long cylinder of tightly packed paper cups, which she places on top of the coffee machine.
“Thank you!” her colleague says.
As she retraces her steps towards the stairs, her dark brown eyes hold his gaze for a nanosecond, and then she is reclaimed by the lower floor.
The tapping resumes, but this is clearly an effort to regain lost momentum.
Another hour passes, and it is time for me to head home.
As I gather my belongings, I notice the laptop of the one with green eyes left unattended, though a gentleman nearby appears to be tasked with looking after it.
I decide it would be great to go for a long walk, before calling it a day. A quick call to the rest room is, therefore, in order.
As I wash my hands, I hear the office door next to the bathroom open. There is the sound of light footsteps moving about.
“Aah, there you are!” a young male’s voice says.
“Hello, can I help you?” a woman replies, sounding formal, but not confrontational.
“I am sorry, I don’t mean to bother you. I saw you upstairs, and wondered what happened to you!”
“It’s OK; I work in the office down here,” her voice carries reassuring tones.
As he’s about to mumble something potentially about meeting her again, another female voice interrupts.
“Are you OK, Maria?”
“Yes, it’s fine,” Maria of the office replies.
I delay using the hand drier and, indeed, leaving the bathroom – I don’t wish to miss or cut short the conversation on the other side of the door.
“Well, I better go. It’s really nice to meet you!” he says, his thoughts and feelings clearly fighting his vocal chords, which are begging him to say what they really want.
“Nice to meet you too!” Maria responds, still formal, but with a distant echo of disappointment.
His shuffling footsteps reflect his own recognition of a missed opportunity to meet someone possibly special.
“He seemed to like you!” the other female voice ventures.
Maria doesn’t reply; the sound of her light footsteps continues.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

March 8th 2015

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Dinosaur

The lobby of this cinema is free the smells and odours that are produced by old re-heated nachos, popcorn and the hotdog machine that feels more of a decoration rather than a heating apparatus for food suitable for human consumption.
No, this is an arthouse institute that prides itself on its very spartan offerings of coffee and discretely packaged nuts and chocolate bars.
The space soon fills with a mainly Italian-speaking crowd. They are attending a screening  of a feature from their homeland.
I have taken refuge here from the cold outside, to read a page turner of a book I’d bought many moons ago. It was only this morning that I finally had the opportunity to start reading it.
My meeting with a friend is in three hours.
In the comfy leather arm chair next to mine sits an elegant young woman, dressed head to toe in black, with her hair tied back in a ponytail. Slick is how I would describe her style.
“Are you here for the screening?” I venture, feeling awkward seated in such close proximity to someone and not saying hello.
“Yes, but my friend is late and the film is staring in a few minutes!”
The friend never quite turns up, and the slick one disappears behind the auditorium doors on her own.
The only group that hangs around by the doors consists of a couple of women, a little boy and a girl aged five, a charismatic-looking young man in his thirties and a photographer, with a professional SLR and a large flash unit hanging from his shoulder. His small bearded head, and expensive looking spectacles, balanced over a large overweight torso remind me of a certain Italian fashion designer from the 1980s.
The kids are the most entertaining of the group, as their seemingly infinite reservoir of energy sees them climbing stairs, running along the marble corridor, saying hello again and again to other members of the party and generally adding an infectious jovial note to the ambiance.
About an hour or so into the film, a gentleman turns up and starts talking with the charismatic young man. “I will introduce you, and you will leave it to you to talk about the film, and then I will try to fit in a couple of questions from the audience.”
He turns out to be the film’s director, and a discussion ensues about the Italian film industry.
Meanwhile, the little boy has stopped running around and he is clearly upset about something.
All the adults join a search that transpires to be for a little toy dinosaur. I am tempted to help out as well, so sad the five-year old is.
Soon, someone points to a marble pillar behind which the pre-historic creature is undoubtedly taking some rest from his playmate.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

March 1st 2015

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

“Pharmacy”

“I know, the one with Richard Gere,” the thirty-something woman said, as she showed a fleeting interest in the nail varnish selection.

I was at the pharmacy for some paracetamol, but the crowded isle nearest to me had me following the woman clad in dark gym leggings, trainers and a grey wool coat with the threads of the waist belt hanging by the side. Her shoulder-length blond hair tied in the back like a ponytail completed that blend of elegance and utility that only certain women can pull off.
“I think I watched that when it first came out… may even have been at this xyz Odeon!” she let out a subdued giggle, perhaps catching herself admitting to liking that genre of films, or perhaps a teenage crush.
We had reached the end of the isle, and I was about to turn into the hay fever, cold and flu section, when the spark in her voice suddenly went flat. She was reading a message that she’d just received.
A cloud seemed to linger over her whole being, as a mascara-coloured tear travelled down from her lower left eyelid to her chin.
“What, sorry… I have to go. I will call you back,” she whispered into the phone.
Trying to compose herself, “need to pay for these things!”
And then, by the hair-dye section and the smiling women with silk-like flowing hair in charcoal black, chestnut brown and sun-washed blond, she let her tears flow, allowing herself to whimper quietly.
A middle-aged woman tried to comfort her.
“Oh, it’s nothing. I just had some good news,” she said through the tears.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

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

January 25th 2015

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Filmwise: Watching, reading and writing.

A lesson..

At a Boris Bikes station en route to work, there were three teenagers, two boys and a girl.

“We only have enough for two bikes!” the older boy said, shaking his head at the prepaid card.

The younger boy, his slight frame hidden beneath a dark blue bomber jacket, was all too aware of the accusation in the eyes of his friend – “you didn’t recharge the card, knowing fully well that there will be three of us on this outing,” or something to that effect, I imagined.

With the recognition dawning on me for all sorts of misreadings of this middle-aged male watching three teenagers talk about bicycles, I added more steps to my speed and quickly turned a corner.

A few minutes later, two bikes peddled by. The girl and the older boy were cruising at a leisurely pace.

While the boy wore a face of satisfaction, perhaps deeming this to be good lesson for his young mate, the girl kept turning her head, searching for someone.

Glancing back, I found their third gang member walking on his own. Meeting her eyes, he waved to the girl on the bike. She smiled and turned, letting the wind run through her blond hair.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far