It is strange how the apparently unconnected can suddenly link up to provide us with a glimpse of a dimension deeper than that in which we normally live. I suspect that, in the great scheme of things, humour does this, too.
It has been a reflective morning. I am mortally wounded – okay, I have a sprained ankle. This means I am ‘having’ to rest on the orders of my doctor – well, okay, my son, who is a doctor, albeit three hundred miles away in London. With the sort of selfless fortitude that so typifies the male of the species, I am carrying on, regardless, when needed.
For instance, this morning. Bernie had important business in Kendal, our local town on the edge of the Lake District. So ‘hopalong’ as, Dorothy of FaceBook has dubbed me, gallantly tapped out a very unequal footprint across the pavements of this ancient town as he supported his wife’s endeavours.
Had Kendal not been half demolished in the rush for modernisation that characterised the 1960s, it would now rank, according to many local historians, with the likes of York and Chester. Even as it stands it is a very pretty little town, full of steep and winding gradients, stone buildings, old and historic streets, snickets (local name for alleyways, often hidden, which defy space and distance to connect two places, much like ancient wormholes), and old-fashioned cafes. And all of this with not a straight line in sight – mainly because Kendal was predominantly shaped by the course of the river Kent, and rivers don’t flow in straight lines, either . . .
We had planned to begin the day with a coffee in the Artisan, which is the rather overstated name of a large cafe on the lower floor of the local Booths supermarket. We arrived a little late and Bernie had to leave on arrival to make her appointment in time. I would continue with the original plan and we were to meet up for breakfast, an hour later, in our favourite Kendal eatery – Baba Ganouche, which nestles at the lower end of one of the prettiest alleyways in the town.
The Artisan had only a few customers so I was served promptly. The young lady looking after me was pleasant and we had a short chat as she brought me my coffee. We had not met before and I could see her taking stock of this ‘new’ (to her) customer. Deep in the delights of the latté, I got out my laptop and began to type down some thoughts for the second ritual drama of the Silent Eye’s coming April workshop, having finished the first – and very dramatic one – the night before.
An hour and two coffees later, I left the Artisan and headed for our appointed meeting spot at Baba Ganouche. It was closed for refurbishment. . . I was now faced with a dilemma. There was no guarantee that Bernie had her phone with her; and if she had, it was unlikely she would hear it – she admits to being difficult to contact in this respect. So, I decided to locate myself in a place where she would practically fall over me on her way to the closed cafe.
The cover shot shows my location – another cafe in the main street whose outside seating (for smokers in winter and everyone in summertime) points to the alley containing Baba Ganouche. All very logical, except it was freezing cold and I didn’t dare move from the spot for fear of missing my wife, whose arrival time was uncertain. A steaming pot of tea was in order, I decided, and nipped into the warm interior to pay for one. It was duly brought out to the smoking area a minute later. I don’t smoke, so I was being regarded slightly strangely by the other occupants of the outside part of the cafe, but I didn’t mind, as I now had my hot tea and some comfort in the waiting process.
Twenty minutes later, I was getting desperate. The cold was gnawing at me, and the remains of my tea had long gone cold. Then two things happened. The young lady who had served me the original coffees in the Artisan swooped down the street at great speed to enter the cafe outside which I was shivering. As she approached I could see she had seen me and was trying to remember where she had last done so. As she got closer she stopped and stared at me intensely for a second. In that moment I could tell that she had concluded that I was a smoker and that I had left the warm and much more palatial Artisan to go and sit in the cold of the main street just to have a ciggie.
As I was registering this intelligent but entirely wrong conclusion, I look across the street to see the back of Bernie’s coat disappearing down the alleyway across, headed towards the closed Baba Ganouche. Too late to stop her, I had to wait until she reappeared and stood, gazing, confusedly, around the street, whereupon she finally spotted me.
“What are you doing there?” she asked.
“Fancy a ciggie?” I asked, feeling that it was appropriate to give in and join the general flow of madness and mayhem.
A moment later, and seeing that she was appropriately confused I abandoned the dregs of the cold tea and took her hand . . .