Archive for the ‘S’ Category

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

January 18th 2015

Sunday, January 18th, 2015
Filmwise: Reading and writing.
Holding a script conference at my place was not an option, so we headed to the local branch of a restaurant chain, where staff wouldn’t mind us hogging one of the least popular tables for hours on end.
“No Main Course!”
“Yes, no problem; you can have some snacks, instead of a main course,” the charming Hungarian waitress confirmed.
“This is nice!” said the thirty-something woman to the man, as he took off his heavy overcoat and scarf, and dropped them on the seat next to him. She draped her grey coat on the back of the chair. The other man sat next to her, and they began to talk with the ease and lazy pitch that comes with familiarity and a mutual sense of comfort in being in one another’s company.
We were well into scene ten, when my eyes wandered off the tablet screen to the bar counter nearby. There was a chap in a similar age to the three friends at the table; he was clearly on his own, but somehow enjoying his own company, not appearing to feel awkward flying solo at this decidedly groups-only congregation.
He, with combed back dark hair, intelligent eyes, and smart, yet inexpensive, clothes, seemed to be plugged into the convivial energy of the room, watching, without staring, this group of friends celebrating a birthday with cake and a fireworks-like candle, and that three-generations of an Asian family, with the grandparents doting over their granddaughter, and by the window, with eyes reflecting a small candle’s flame placed on their table, a couple deeply involved in a discourse of the heart,  and the two teenage girls too busy texting to talk to each other across the table.
At scene 20, another young lady joined the group nearest to me, and the attention of the two men seemed to be diverted from the topic of conversation – a new blockbuster from a Swedish author, I think.
Their new company was evidently more prepared for a night out, what with the figure-hugging black dress, blood-red lipstick and work-of-art-type shoes that looked spectacular, but would probably be sheer agony by the end of the night.
As the men and the new addition to the table became progressively more animated, the other woman became more and more quiet.
At scene 38, I could see the group stepping out into the January night, with the black dress lady subtly shifting her attention from the chap walking to her left to the other on her right. Through the glass, I could see the other woman walking a step or two behind the three, her figure as despondent as her features.
Moving my eyes back to the bar, the man was still there, nursing a solitary glass of beer.
If Cupid had somehow allowed the two that elusive eye contact in the middle of this  cacophony of messages, thoughts and feelings carried in gazes and smiles… would he and she have hit it off? I wonder.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

January 11th 2015

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

Filmwise: Mostly reading.

“May God Damn Thee,” the middle-aged woman, with a distinctly Caireen accent, quoted the Quran.
The bespectacled old man seated next to her nodded in agreement, and looked again at the photo of the two terrorists who’d attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices in the front page of the international edition of an Egyptian daily.
My long glass of steaming hot tea arrived. Attached to their stem, the mint leaves looked like a tree that had blossomed through the dark brown beverage.
A few minutes later, the couple were joined by two teenagers, who were related – the shape of their eyes and lips were identical.
The old man put the paper down and insisted that the two order something. “A piece of Baklawa with tea won’t make you fat,” he told the girl.
Clearing the plates, and placing a lamb kebab sandwich before the boy, the thirty-something handsome waiter in white shirt and black waistcoat appeared to linger, glancing down at the front-page of the newspaper.
“What monsters these people have become?” the old man said, putting into words his wife’s thoughts.
“Yes, sir; what annoys me is no one mentions how many Muslims are victims of these same terrorists!” he said, in a Syrian accent.
“My brother and his family are now refugees in Lebanon, because of this lot, and of course because of the thugs of the regime.”
“Indeed; no matter what you tell these people that this is not the real Islam, they don’t listen; by Allah, I tell you!” said the woman in agreement.
Three new customers arrived, letting in the piercing cold draft from the Edgware Road to cut right through my fingers as I had the last bite of the sweet Kanafa.
“May God Damn Thee,” repeated the woman, as she looked at the printed image of the terrorists a second before they shot the police officer Ahmad Merabet near the Charlie Hebdo building.*
Peace and love,
Ja‘far
*Short Story inspired by real events.

January 4th 2015

Sunday, January 4th, 2015
Filmwise: Writing.

“All they need to do is go past Japan, and they will be in the final stage!” said the man, smiling through a trimmed goatee.

His interlocutor was stopped short of declaring his doubts by the arrival of the plate of freshly fried falafel that the waitress placed next to the piping hot disks of Lebanese bread.
In between mouthfuls of seemingly delicious humous-dipped lamb shawarma pieces, the man in the elegant blazer was trying hard to make a case for his team’s chances in a tournament the name of which escaped me.
“They score one goal, and it’s…,” he wiped his palms against each other, as if dusting them off of any doubts the team may have along with the flour residue from the bread basket. “Khalas; it would be over!”
Perhaps noticing that his share of the Baba Ghanoush dish (baked aubergines with onions, tomatoes and various spices) was fast dwindling from the flat small dish, he looked like he delayed his prognosis for round two of the said tournament; he made a generously filled sandwich first.
“Yes, but the Japanese have a great defence; a tall order for you to score!” the man finally retorted, probably with an eye on the fast-receding supplies on the table.
“Well, let me tell you something,” he whispered, as if fearing that supporters of the other teams in the tournament may be within earshot.
As the mostly one-sided conversation continued, a couple were seated not five feet from the two.
On hearing the whispered predictions for the games, the woman looked at her husband  with a touch of mischief, and confided something to him.
Going by the man’s reaction – he wasn’t in agreement, I wondered whether she was also making a case for her team.
“Your take-away is ready, sir,” the waitress politely called for me.
Peace and love,
Ja’far