Monday, May 30, 2005

Did I mention they fry toast in this country? Damn straight. No breakfast is complete without a slice of fried bread on the side. You might scoff (I do), but it’s tasty. The full Scottish breakfast is competition for the big greasy southern breakfasts of my youth. I occasionally crave that sweet ill feeling of having the recommended daily dose of calories in one sitting. Yesterday was one of those days. By the local post office is a greasy spoon called ‘Up the Junction’1. They serve a full Scottish breakfast plus tea for four pounds. It really is a good deal especially since I stopped converting to dollars long ago. For four quid, they slap a dish in front of you covered in two eggs, two sausages, two pieces of bacon, two black puddings, a potato scone, and that gorgeous slice of fried bread. All this is covered in baked beans and a side dish of a buttered roll to boot. I was a quarter through the dish when the sweats started. I took a breather and looked around the room. It was completely filled with people dedicated to living a life of ill health. The half dozen of old ladies chain-smoked and gossiped. In between serving customers the waitresses would sit at a table at the back and smoke as well. When they spotted a customer who needed something, they would take huge drags. The cherries would shoot down the cigarette so fast the cigarette itself would momentarily ignite. The inch long ash would hang on and then fall onto the table when they returned it to the ashtray. Everyone was smoking. The young moms with the prams at their sides. The old men bespeckled and toothless reading the tits and murder newspapers. All with cigarettes at which when finished another would be lit. Everyone knew each other. When a person arrived or left. A patter of banter and a chorus of smokers’ cackles inevitably occurred. The only exception was the one young man beside me. His hair hung in greasy clumps. His eyes were nestled into puffy darkened eyelids. The dark circles of which made the fierceness of his blue eyes that more striking. When he left he moved slow and wearily.

All this did not diminish my appetite. Oh no. I had a purpose. I was going to finish this meal. It was only after I left and my clothes and hair were firmly steeped in cigarette aromas that I decided this culinary experience would certainly not be too regular.

1) They’re slogan is “You can get it all . . . Up the Junction!” Not really. But I can dream.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The bus driver was a hard looking man. He had a tautness about him but not as severe as the drug-ravaged wraiths that haunt this part of town. a face that meant business. serious furrowed brow. short cropped hair. He was friendly and helpful when tourists asked for directions or fumbled for correct change. It’s when he drove that his body radiated weariness. He didn’t hold the big round steering wheel as much as he was being supported by it. He mechanically dealt with the traffic, the lights, and the pedestrians. He made no reaction to the foolish manoeuvres of drivers that usually elicit oaths and curses from other bus drivers. I watched his eyes in his rear view mirror and tried to divine his thoughts.
I started thinking. This is why banks get robbed. If I were as tough as that, upon seeing the taxes taken from my meagre wage, I’d leave the house with a shotgun, a ski mask, and lots of anger.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

You know you are a foreigner when most people assume that when they hear you are moving they assume it is to somewhere thousands of miles away rather than just down the road.

By the way, I just moved. And no, I am just moving down the road. To apparently a rough(er) part of town. It's certainly a weird mix. There are council towers across the street but there are also yuppie flats just as close. The last place was near the university and the children of the middle class are much more of a bother than the poor single mothers and drunken tramps that populate this neighbourhood. The former has the capital and the leisure to be a constant nuisance. The latter seem to have their hands full dealing with whatever it is they are rushing between. All day these young mothers are always hurrying about pushing rickety prams stuffed with wide blue-eyed children. Drunks who in my experience are rarely in a rush, but in this part of town they jaunt forward leaning slightly with a can of export in their hand to lead the way. The nights are very quiet compared with the old place where one had to listen to hysterical drunk girls shouting or crying and clumsily clomping in front of the window. If it's not the silly girls, it's the boys shouting or singing. The morning after, the sidewalks are mined with these privileged little shit's vomit. I've had the front window smashed for probably a reason less serious than 'Johnny's Sally was seen chatting with Bobby at the pub' and Johnny could only vent his frustration on my front window. During the days, these same people clog the sidewalks like pedestrian cholesterol. The bits of conversations I overhear are of such a painfully inconsequential sort I grit my teeth for minutes afterward until their grating voices clear from my head. I amazed one of the doesn't suddenly have the epiphany, begin tearing at his upturned collar, and run away screaming, "Ahhhh! You shallow wastes! All of us! Ahhhh!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Today was ridiculously beautiful. Pink blossoms that had been shaken from trees by the strong gusts of wind littered the path through the park. Drifts accumulated at the edges of the path to create a border between the bright spring grass and the dull grey path. If that was not enough to create these purple passages, the wind continued to tussle the branches loosening a meandering rain of more blossoms. Looking down this fairy tale path through the park put me in a great mood. It also helped that the bus was full of the odd mix of 'bus people' that I enjoy so much. While I was riding the bus, I saw an apple thrown from a convenience store. A group of tourists had to hit the deck to avoid concussions. When the bus moved forward enough to look into the shop, I couldn't see any obvious culprit.
I also saw an old woman whose facial features had long disappeared in the topological map of wrinkles wearing a bright blonde bob wig. The juxtaposition was very odd, and at the very next bus stop a similarly wrinkled woman wore a similar wig. This time it was the brunette model. I have to say that I was slightly disappointed that the following stop did not hold a redhead.
That's the perfect day for me. Beautiful weather, a bizarre event, and strange looking people. Life is good.