Today we went to town

(This from about three years ago)

Today we went to town. We walked most of the way through the park, alongside the river. On the way saw a few interesting things. People were walking, some running or cycling. People had dogs, some had human companions. We saw jays hopping about and flittering into trees, (they might have been magpies), and we saw a squirrel. Some of the trees were budding with leaves and some with flowers – like the magnolias in Disney pink and white near the castle.

A black dog was in the river trying to catch a pair of ducks. A man on the bank shouted loudly at the dog: “Millie, Millie,” he shouted. “Come here, there’s a good girl.”

A few people stopped on the footbridge, as we did, and watched the tug between the dog, the man and the ducks, some may even have taken pictures – it was a lovely, sunny, spring day. Eventually the dog heeded the man and left the river to lots of cuddles and assurances that she was a good girl. Millie is a good girl.

Then there was the smart couple in their late seventies, sprawled out, eyes closed, on a bench in the sun. And the guy with the bull-terrier who ran around in the undergrowth like a truffle-hound (yes, it was the guy who ran around). The ice-cream van was quiet, though its engine was chugging along keeping the unsold stuff freezing – still a bit early in the year for that. It might have been sunny but it was cold in the shade or when the wind rose.

And then between the greening trees, the garish logo of the Moscow State Circus, I wondered if it was still sponsored by the state or whether the name was just another brand. I wondered how much the brand was worth.

Town itself was OK. Busy, seeing as it was a Saturday, but just about bearable, though we had to buy a cold drink in Marks and Spencer, then sit out the back for ten minutes. That’s when we saw a guy in a mac and glasses run past pursued by a store security guard. A skinny, scruffy old man with a thick grey beard stopped and watched the pursuit until it went out of sight behind a building. He looked at us and smiled. “He’ll have him,” he said. I laughed, he moved on and I got told off for encouraging a nutter.

A few minutes later the guy was marched back past us flanked by two uniformed security guards and a plain-clothes guy. He couldn’t have nicked much, he was only carrying a small carrier bag, unless he had other things under the mac. I tried not to look at him as he walked past but he caught my eye and my shoulder-blades trembled. I don’t know how they do it – those security guards, get paid minimum wage and have to deal with shit like that.

In the middle of the main shopping street we saw some teenagers clambering over a tank while nervous soldiers tried to keep them from doing any damage or hurting themselves.

Then we dodged a Big Issue Seller (I know – tut-tut)  and a charity chugger and wandered into an exhibition about the making of a city or something – anyway, it was a fantastic space, right in the heart of the city, but all it was, was like a blown-up brochure, just text and photos – they could have put it all on something the size of a takeaway menu, what a waste of space, and I bet it cost a fortune too.

We stopped in the market and bought some bread rolls and looked for a knitting pattern.

A few other things happened and we saw a lot of people, every one with a story, and I imagined some of their stories. An old woman in a wheelchair with a false leg and a middle-aged woman pushing her. I wondered what their relationship was. I had a little play worked up about the two of them, it involved a dog, a Big Issue Seller and a shoplifter. Turned out that the woman pushing the wheelchair was the mother of the bloke who nicked the stuff. At first they don’t know each other, then it emerges that she gave him up for adoption because her religious parents forced her to. Now he’s found someone to blame for his crap life and she’s found a reason to stop paying the penance for giving him up by looking after the infirm ageing mother she hates. In the end the dog pins the security guards in a shop doorway and the woman and her son walk off happily together abandoning the miserable old woman in the wheelchair, who is now at the mercy of the Big Issue Seller, who is imploring her to buy his last copy so he can go to the hostel for a bowl of soup and some stale bread.

And that in a moment of inspiration after a glimpse of the wheelchair woman and before popping into a health food store to buy a small plastic tub of hummus to use with the bread rolls to make a sandwich for lunch.

That image of the wheelchair woman is still there, it’s a bit fuzzy but she’s now gone past misery, she lives in a black universe of pain, hate and resentment. The wheelchair pusher is a bit of an enigma – there’s a blankness there, her reality is somewhere else.

So, it’s spring and people are revealing themselves a bit more and the light is better so you see more anyway, and your head is up from the dark floor of winter and it’s worth fighting again, and there’s something to fight for – life and love, love in the spiritual kind of way, where you see the light everywhere and realise that there is no need for hate and resentment or any other of those negative human feelings.

So, we go back and make a sandwich with the bread rolls and they’re huge and we put hummus and salad and half a pack of balsamic vinegar and sea salt crisps in each one and we eat them with a cup of Darjeeling and we loll around reading The Guardian and The Western Mail and doing crosswords but cheating by using the Internet until we’re rested enough to go and buy some organic onions from the wholefood shop and a couple of Lucky Dips for the Lottery from the newsagents round the corner and that’s at half-time during the Italy-Wales rugby match that we discovered was on the telly while flicking through the papers.

And it’s still Saturday afternoon and we loll around a bit more and finish off one of the crosswords by more cheating and by guessing and then start to make an evening meal that turns out of be waxy new potatoes and a concoction of organic passata, black-eyed beans, fresh green organic garlic, the onions, diced sweet potatoes and a big splash of tamari – nicely spiced with Cajun spice mix, fresh ginger and organic paprika – nice.

Now, late evening after some organic (and expensive) lager and that, it seems, is our Saturday.