The morning is crisp like an unbitten apple, waxy sunshine not quite reaching down to the bones. Beneath my feet the artificially aged floorboards of a wannabe hipster cafe which is nonetheless occupied by non-hipster middle-aged spreads and mumsy mums with momma’s-boy/girl toddlers. Outside stands a stretch of what remains of the old city wall, a genuine feat of ancient tech which nobody gives more than a passing glance.
The clatter of plates and crockery takes me back more years than I care to count, to my first proper job in the kitchen of a busy town centre restaurant. For subsistence wages and a plate of sausage and chips I’d spend eight hours a day washing up and helping prep the veg. For months I never quite rid myself of the aroma of stale teabags no matter how often I washed my hands or threw my scuzzy clothes at the Hotpoint.
Strange how well I can remember that seventeen year old after so many intervening years. Perhaps because I am forever grateful to him for working out that menial jobs and pittance pay checks were not what he wanted from life; songs and guitars and making a spectacle of himself were all far more appealing.
I’m less interested in being spectacular now. I’m Wilfred Owen in reverse, wearied by age though I never served my country, only myself. Along the way I picked up enough education to know Owen did not even live to write such reflective words as Binyon’s: the Shropshire lad’s visceral poetry lived and died with him in the trenches; mine has grown stale and saggy.
Coffee revives me or, if not, it bullies my heart and veins into a rapidity that will one day finish me. Until it does I amble and I watch the world from the corner of one eye, the other kept half shut lest the sharper edges of too much reality slash at me.